Redruth-based precision subcontractor DP Engineering has invested in multi-tasking Nakamura mill-turning centres and a 5-axis Hardinge Bridgeport machining centre that allow it to produce complex components more quickly in one operation. The new machines also extend DP’s capacity envelope to produce larger components.
At the same time, DP is implementing the FactoryWiz production monitoring tool to allow it to further improve its manufacturing efficiency.
Established in 1952, DP Engineering supplies precision turned and machined parts to customers across a variety of industry sectors. The company is AS9100 rev C accredited and in recent months has been expanding its work in the aerospace sector. It is also particularly strong in the oil & gas industry. Major customers include Eaton Corporation and Agusta Westland.
Its commitment to lean manufacturing allows it to offer fast turnarounds and gives it the capability to manufacture cost-effectively in small to large batches, which can be scheduled on call-off, made to order or supplied on Kanban.
This latest round of capital investment totals around £650,000. The new machines include a Nakamura-Tome NTY3 twin-spindle, triple-turret, mill-turning machine with Y-axis on all three turrets and a Nakamura-Tome WT100 twin-spindle, twin-turret, mill-turning machine with Y-axis on the top turret. Both machines are fitted with 70 bar high-pressure coolant.
The third machine is a Hardinge Bridgeport XR600-5AX 5-axis vertical machining centre with 885mm X-axis, 800mm Y-axis and 600mm swing diameter.
The machines were supplied by Turning Technologies and ETG Bridgeport, both members of the Engineering Technology Group (ETG).
Chief Executive David Proctor says: 'Our current investment has been geared around making complex, high-tolerance parts, the type of components that our competitors shy away from.
'A lot of the work we do now is based on us having AS9100 accreditation and calls for tight tolerances and difficult processes that really require machining in one operation – purely because of the various datums that need to be tied up. So we need complex machines to be able to minimise any quality issues that you get from multiple operations.'
He adds that a further argument for cutting out second operations is the difficulty of finding skilled staff to do them.
DP was already able to make parts in one on its sliding head lathes, but the new Nakamura machines extend its capacity from 32mm bar on the sliding head lathes to 42mm on the WT100 and 65mm on the NTY3.
It is a similar story with the machining centre. DP already had a smaller 3+2 Bridgeport machining centre, and the new XR600-5AX will allow it to produce more complex parts in one operation and also increases the size of machined components it can offer.
Mr Proctor says that, as a subcontractor, the company never knows what it might be called on to produce, so the machines have to be capable of doing the most difficult work they might expect to get in the future.
He says: 'You have a lot in your arsenal with a triple-turret NTY3 machine. It allows you to do much more complicated machining without the need for second operations and, with three turrets working together, it is very fast.
'We complemented this with the twin-turret WT100 to pick up some of the less complicated components and to provide a back-up to the NTY3.'
Accurate operating data
DP Engineering currently has 13 machines linked to FactoryWiz, which acts as a ‘black box recorder’ for CNC machine tools. It can log exactly what the machine is doing at any time and this information can then be used to accurately understand overall operating efficiency, identify and eliminate bottlenecks and optimise production cycles.
Managing Director Richard Trevail, says: 'We have worked hard over the past 10 years implementing and sustaining lean manufacturing techniques, in particular cellular manufacture in the business. Because we have been doing lean for quite some time a lot of the easy wins have already been made. FactoryWiz will identify where we can look to try and make some more gains and improve our overall equipment effectiveness.
'It is a new step for us and still in its infancy. The main point is that you are getting actual information on what the machines are doing. We can then attack the reasons for downtime and increase our uptime.'
David Proctor adds: 'It also has a sales value by allowing us to compare estimated and actual production times. We may have underquoted on a job or over-quoted. It is important to establish what margins you are making on a product.'
Sales Director Colin Goldsworthy says the link between Hardinge Bridgeport and ETG was an important factor when it came to make the investment decision.
He says: 'We have had an excellent relationship with Hardinge for over 25 years and have invested substantially in Hardinge Bridgeport machining centres over the last five or six years. Now with ETG taking on the Hardinge turning and milling business, we are still dealing with the same people and familiar faces. That continuity was very important for us.
'It was also important that we could get the Nakamura machines from the same source and with the same service. So we have a single source-supplier and we are not dealing with an unknown quantity.'
The ETG link was also useful when it came to financing the machines, with DP arranging to buy the two Nakamuras on hire purchase through the Group’s in-house provider, ETG Finance.
'We usually fund our capital investments from our own resources,' says David Proctor. 'But by doing it this way we still have the flexibility to respond quickly if we need to make further capital investments. By spreading the cost over three years it means we could still invest again if we needed to, and buying the machines on HP means we still get a capital allowance against their cost.
'There are a lot of opportunities around at the moment and we didn’t want to be unable to explore them.'