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Doosan machine tools helps leading subcontract maintain competitive edge
Doosan machine tools helps leading subcontract maintain competitive edge

Doosan machine tools helps leading subcontract maintain competitive edge

Added to MTDCNC by Mills CNC Ltd on 31 May 2013

Cwmbran-based leading precision subcontract specialist James Brown Industries Ltd started trading in 2004 with three Doosan machines (two lathes and one milling machine) supplied by Mills CNC.

Like all start-up companies the first 18 months’ operation presented a number of challenges that needed to be addressed and overcome. These included securing profitable work...meeting customer quality requirements and lead times...controlling costs...attracting and retaining highly-skilled staff and implementing efficient and effective management and manufacturing processes and systems.

However, unlike some new start-ups, James Brown Industries had a number of things going for it that not only helped the company get over any early teething issues but also, as it turned out, that have stood it in good stead for the future.

Now, a decade later the company has grown exponentially from essentially being a one man band to one employing 27 staff, having a formidable portfolio of 16 Doosan machines at its disposal and becoming well-established as a leading precision subcontractor supplying complex precision parts to the oil/gas, automotive, lighting, electrical and aerospace sectors.

A vision and mission

It’s not difficult creating a business plan – the hardest thing is sticking to it.

James Brown Industries didn’t have the type of business plan (like many subcontractors) which can loosely be described as ‘trying to be all things to all people.’ Instead the company had a clearer strategy and from the word ‘go’ focused its efforts and resources on a (small) number of specific high-growth manufacturing sectors (e.g. oil/gas).

The strategy went further as managing director Martin Brown explains:

'Our objective was (and still is) to develop preferred partner relationships with key customers - high-up in their respective supply chains...and to be recognised as a value-adding, total solutions provider as opposed to being a commodity supplier.'

Although the company derives a high percentage of its business from the oil/gas sector its focus is very much on the manufacture of high-precision, complex parts e.g. valves, manifold blocks etc., machined from difficult (and often new) materials including inconels, stainless and duplex steels, and most recently 6MO, with its high molybdenum-content.

To offset the cyclical nature of the oil/gas sector James Brown Industries has also continued to develop its automotive, lighting and aerospace business and, (in the lighting sector), secured a contract to manufacture 5000 LED (light) housings for one of the largest LED installations in the world – located at the high-profile and iconic Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi (UAE).

Investing in advanced manufacturing technologies

Integral to James Brown Industries’ growth and success is the company’s new technology investment strategy and in particular its progressive and disciplined approach to acquiring the latest, most advanced machine tools.

Says Martin Brown:

'We invest regularly in new, sophisticated machine tools and aim to replace our machines every 5 years (at the latest), so that we are not relying on old, potentially out-of-date, technology.'

This has proved to be a prudent policy in more ways than one as machine tools 5 years old or less maintain their residual value and can be used to facilitate more favourable part-exchange deals on new machines as long as, Martin Brown explains, 'they have been well looked after and maintained.'

Doosan through and through

From the outset James Brown Industries has invested in Doosan machines from Mills CNC.

Continues Martin Brown:

'We made a conscious decision to place our machine tool business with Mills.

'Doosan machines provide excellent machining performance...are reliable...and represent good value, and over the last 10 years we have developed a good working relationship with Mills CNC and know that if we have a problem with any of our machines– they’ll respond quickly to minimise any impact on our production.'

The company now has 16 Doosan machines installed at its facility, the most recent of these being two new 10' chuck/76 mm bar capacity Puma 2600M lathes equipped with 22kW/3,500prm main spindles, 5.5kW/5,500rpm driven tooling capability and 12-station (24 indexing) turrets which were installed in April 2013.

James Brown Industries invests in sophisticated Doosan machines.

Lathes have driven tools (full mill/drill capability) and some have sub-spindles and Y-axes, which enables the company to complete turned parts in single or fewer set-ups...maintain better part accuracies (owing to reduced work-handling and set-ups)...and reduce the cost-per-part.

The same investment strategy is evident in its acquisition of milling machines with the company purchasing a number of high-productivity Doosan twin-pallet vertical machines (VC 510 machines) in recent years.

Lean manufacturing and best practice

It’s one thing having access to the latest machine tools and quite another getting the most from them.

No doubt stemming back to managing director Martin Brown’s automotive experience at Lucas Girling where he was responsible for Quality and Supply Chain Assurance, James Brown Industries has fully embraced Lean Manufacturing and adopted Best Practice Principles.

The company’s manufacturing operations (i.e. creation of manufacturing cells; organisation of shift patterns – 24/5 to 24/7 depending on demand; investment in multi-tasking machines etc.), combined with the introduction of Kanban (JIT) systems and processes and Continuous Improvement Programmes ensure the company operates effectively and efficiently, and maintains its competitive edge.

Open to new ways of working

Nobody has the monopoly over good ideas and James Brown Industries believes in the power of collaboration.

This philosophy isn’t just something the company pursues (successfully) with its customers but is evident in its dealings with suppliers too.

Explains Martin Brown:

'We welcome new ideas and encourage new ways of working. We use the expertise of Mills CNC’s applications engineers for challenging projects, and have the same working relationships with tooling and work-holding suppliers

'Our ability to machine materials like 6MO, Incoloy 625 and 825 and Stainless 316 better and faster than before is a direct result of our discussions with our tooling partners.'

James Brown Industries is a progressive, forward-thinking company.

Its strategic investment in new, advanced machine tools and determination (across all of its operations) to be the best it can possibly be, explain its growth and success over the last 10 years and point to an equally impressive future.

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