With a history dating back to 1927, Delapena Honing Equipment has witnessed many ups and downs along the way. Now, with a new management team and fresh impetus, it is looking forward to a strong future as one of the UK's only indigenous machine tool builders.
Probably the darkest hour for Delapena was in May 2006 when it was faced with liquidation by its then owners. The intervention of current Managing Director, David Arthur, saw the beginning of a remarkable turnaround, one that is continuing with investment in new manufacturing technology, people, and processes.
This process gained fresh motivation in January 2010 when Delapena recruited Martin Elliott as Operations Manager, who took up the baton on a long-term plan of change that has already resulted in ten new engineering recruits joining the business and modern manufacturing disciplines being put in place.
One of the key areas addressed by Martin was the manufacture of components for the range of honing machines produced by Delapena in Cheltenham. When I arrived some 70 per cent of machined components were sub-contracted. A review of the cost involved fully justified investment in three XYZ machines, the latest of which has fourth axis capability. We now manufacture 95 per cent in-house.'
This purchase of the XYZ machines brought Delapena into contact with WNT (UK), a partnership that has realised further productivity gains through cycle time reduction. The first component that WNT and Delapena looked at had a cycle time of 1 hour 30 minutes. By applying modern tooling technology, and re-engineering the part this was reduced to 30 minutes.
Delapena's partnership with WNT is enhanced by the synergies between the two companies, especially in the area of staff recruitment, with both businesses targeting people who have the correct skills sets to drive the business forward. &ldquoWith WNT employing technical people rather than sales people we are seeing massive opportunities to improve the cycle times of components through application of the latest in cutting tool technology and the re-engineering of parts,' says Martin Elliott. This work we are doing is also having a direct impact on improving the overall quality of the honing equipment we are manufacturing. And, with 17,000 parts on our database, there is a lot of work still to be done.'
The technical support from WNT is backed up by its ability to respond quickly to both technical requests and to ensure tools are delivered as and when they are needed. This is enabling Delapena to take full advantage of the latest tooling developments and ensure that its own customer support is enhanced as the manufacture and availability of parts, particularly its consumable items, is secure. The volume of individual parts that we may be called on to supply is such that it simply isn't possible to stock cutting tools to produce them all, so knowing that we can get anything from the WNT range delivered overnight is extremely reassuring, and crucial to provide us with the flexibility we need,' says Martin Elliott.