Subcontractor Takes-Off with 17th Nakamura
Located on the North coast of Devon, West End Precision Ltd has recently taken delivery of its seventeenth Nakamura-Tome turning centre from the Engineering Technology Group (ETG) – a machine that has landed only months after its sixteenth Nakamura.
The Bideford subcontract manufacturing company has endured challenges over the last couple of years like all businesses in the automotive, aerospace and general subcontract manufacturing supply chain, but business is certainly booming with the company taking delivery of a Nakamura-Tome NTY3-150 just over 12 months ago and a WT150II this summer. With 15 sliding head turning centres, multi-spindle autos, centreless grinding and 17 Nakamura machines, the Bideford company is no run-of-the-mill manufacturing business.
As Alex Dziurzynski from West End Precision says: “We are predominantly a high volume manufacturer and we will typically set the machine and run it for an awfully long time. We do all the programming at the console, we don’t do any off-line programming and the onus is that once the machine has been set – it will keep running and running. This also helps us from an operator perspective as we can have one operator running a couple of machines – and as long as the machines are running and the spindles are turning, you are making money. The Nakamura machines give us that ability.”
“We are working a double shift just to keep up with demand. Of course, our customers went a little quieter a couple of years ago, but over the last 18 months, things have just gotten bigger and bigger. Our biggest customer has probably doubled in size and their demand has gone up massively – and we just have to keep up. Hence the level of investment we are putting into the business at the moment. We can’t continue with the equipment that we have got, so now is the time to invest as the opportunities are there.”
Discussing why the company has gone for the Nakamura-Tome NTY3-150 three correct twin-spindle turning centre, Alec adds: “Originally, we completely gambled on this machine. It was a step into the unknown for us and with three turrets, it was a dream of our engineers – so we thought we’d give it a go. We initially bought the machine to set up five very similar jobs of the same material. This meant we could tool the machine for the five jobs and run a batch of each job every week, so we could keep the machine running five different products in the family of parts. These are highly complex jobs which are against the grain of what we do, as we typically machine easier components and set the machine for high-volume parts.”
“It has always been the changeovers that have caused us the problem. However, in the last six months, our volumes have gone through the roof, so the machine that was bought with the older technology in it, was only ever making one component and this made it somewhat of a wasted resource. Since that time, we’ve had a very complicated job come on and that has gone onto the three turret machine. To go from a two turret to a three turret machine, we are getting the parts completed around 50% faster. This makes the production rate increase on the shop floor massive. This suddenly gives you an understanding of what the NTY3-150 machine is all about.”
“The guys on the shop floor are already asking ‘can we have another one please?’ It is a fantastic machine that is working perfectly well.”
Looking at the work on the shop floor, Mark Hamley from West End Precision adds: “When I first came here to start work on a twin-spindle machine, it was great to work on a machine where you can finish a part ‘complete’ on the machine without any secondary operations. Now, we are doing more and more complex work as the years go by – and we’re doing it faster and faster.”
Looking at the technology improvements built into the Nakamura NTY3-150 machine, Mark continues: “With the new Nakamura NTY3-150, we have load monitoring which is something we don’t have on the older machines. This detects any drill breakages and other issues and immediately stops the machine. It also detects when the cutting tool tips are getting worn and provide a warning. This prevents you from inadvertently creating any tool damage as it stops the machine and prompts the operator to inspect and change the inserts.”
Looking at one particular job that was previously done on an older Nakamura machine and has since been transferred to the Nakamura NTY3-150, Mark says: “We have one job machined from a billet on an old Nakamura machine that was too big for the spindle, we had to gantry load it into the machine. We can now put this job directly on the Nakamura NTY3-150. This has reduced cycle times from 5 minutes 40 seconds to 3 minutes 35 seconds. It has also cut out the second operation. This job now comes off the Nakamura NTY3-150 machine complete and ready to go to the customer.”
The ETG service is the difference
Looking at the quality of the Nakamura machines from ETG and the service and support, Alex Dziurzynski says: “Purchasing decisions often come down to the reliability of the machines and Nakamura consistently gives us very good reliability. Even with the old machines, the maintenance and performance are so good that they have sold themselves throughout history, which has paved the path for new machines as we go forward.”
With another WT150II machine just landing at West End Precision and ETG forward ordering machines to guarantee availability for its customers, Alex says: “It’s fantastic actually. There’s lots of noise about machines not being delivered and you cannot get machines. Whilst I don’t expect to get a machine tomorrow, I ordered a machine in February that has just been delivered and ETG were very honest and told us that delivery would be in May – true to their word it arrived in May. This has given us the ability to plan and they have done everything they said they were going to do. ETG has been fantastic.”
“There is absolute confidence in ETG to be able to deliver what they say they are going to do. They also recognise the number of machines we have on-site, and they have taken another step forward and said – ‘do you think you will need another machine?’ without any prior commitment. We recognise we will need more machines and we have committed to another machine that is planned to be delivered before the end of the year – but we will review this in Q3 and decide whether we need to take the machine or not.”
Taking a look at the Nakamura-Tome brand, in particular, Alex adds: “the technology continues to move on and this is evident with the Nakamura NTY3-150 triple turret and what it can do. What this machine can do is what dreams were made of years ago – and now it is the norm with Nakamura. So, they are stepping forward, they are not standing still, we are not standing still and neither is ETG. We are certainly on this journey together.”