When turning long-chipping malleable materials, Citizen’s low frequency vibration (LFV) software fragments swarf into manageable chip sizes, whereas normally it would become a stringy bird’s nest entangled around the tool and component. The latest sliding-head bar auto on which the technology has been made available is the new Cincom A20-VIILFV, while it can also be found on one of the company’s Miyano fixed-head models.
All machines have been fundamentally redesigned with uprated ballscrews, lubrication system, guarding and other elements to provide additional strength for withstanding the oscillation caused by very short periods of intermittent air cutting that produce the chipbreaking action. Productivity is maximised by avoiding having to stop the machine repeatedly to remove clogged swarf, facilitating minimally attended operation and enabling lights-out running.
A further advantage is the avoidance of the need to fit a high pressure coolant system to encourage swarf breakage, which involves high capital investment and increased running costs.
Embedded in the operating system of the control system, the chipbreaking software synchronises axis servo drive motion with the spindle speed. The software version on the A20 is suitable for longitudinal and face turning as well as drilling and involves multiple oscillations per revolution of the main spindle. The function is highly controllable and can be programmed using G-codes to switch on and off during a cycle, as required.
This is distinct from the functionality being part of the program itself, as is the case with alternative CNC pecking macros, which have the disadvantage of rubbing the tool. It raises the temperature, causing workpiece distortion as well as built-up edge on the tool, shortening its life.
In contrast, LFV oscillation of the tool by tens of microns allows coolant to penetrate the cut more efficiently for the brief periods when the tip lifts clear of the component surface, reducing heat and actually prolonging cutter life, in some instances by as much as five-fold. For the same reason, depth of cut may be increased substantially even when processing tough materials, often eliminating the need for a roughing pass and significantly shortening cycle times.
The Cincom A20-VIILFV can be used with a guide bush as a conventional Swiss-type automatic for machining shaft-type workpieces, or without a guide bush for producing shorter parts from less expensive stock with minimal bar remnant wastage. The guide bush can quickly and simply be mounted and removed. In sliding-head mode, machining length per chucking is a generous 200 mm to reduce cycle times when producing long, slender components.
The 7-axis A20 machine platform, which is capable of 2-axis simultaneous cutting, offers a high performance-to-price ratio for the production of parts from 20 mm diameter bar, optionally extendable to 25 mm (1 inch). The main spindle is rated at 3.7 kW / 10,000 rpm for optimal machining of smaller diameter stock and has an opposed 1.5 kW / 8,000 rpm sub-spindle with an X2-axis enabling simultaneous machining on the front and reverse ends of components. Both spindles have one-degree indexing and a 0.001-degree C axis.
Tool capacity is 21, with four driven stations for cross machining having a maximum speed of 6,000 rpm. The four back tool post stations may optionally be live. Positioning speed is fast at 32 m/min for short non-cutting times. Idle times can be reduced further using the pre-processing function in the Fanuc-based Cincom control dedicated to this machine model. It analyses the machining program before it is run to minimise processing and calculation times.
Subcontractor Unicut Precision, Welwyn Garden City, is no stranger to producing large quantities of components, one million items being shipped to customers in the UK and overseas in a typical month. The company operates 22 Cincom sliding-head lathes and eight Miyano fixed-head turning centres from one supplier, Citizen Machinery UK, in addition to other metalcutting plant.
Three-quarters of this capacity was changed over in early April 2020 to manufacture medical components for the government’s Ventilator Challenge UK following a call from a member of the supply chain management team, McLaren, to Unicut’s owner Jason Nicholson.
He said, “Drawings started coming in on a Thursday and we quoted straight away. The first orders for a dozen different part numbers were received on the Friday and Saturday and we started producing them immediately. Within a week the workload had increased to 780,000 components across 31 varieties, which we are currently producing 24/7.”
Less than 20 per cent of this throughput is being machined in Welwyn Garden City using multi-pallet 5-axis machining centres and lathes not supplied by Citizen, with the remainder allocated to the latter machines, mainly sliders but also fixed-head lathes. The supplier’s applications engineers helped by providing optimised cycles for producing a couple of the medical components but the remainder of the new parts were programmed on-site by Unicut’s experienced CAD/CAM team.
Mr Nicholson continued, “It is testament to the flexibility of modern CNC plant that it can be converted so quickly to produce entirely different components. Only around two per cent of a typical year’s output from here goes to the medical sector, whereas at the moment it is the vast majority.”
Unicut’s employees were keen to meet the ventilator challenge and it has not been necessary to furlough any staff, although a few are self-isolating due to underlying health conditions or through having a vulnerable family member at home. Employees willingly worked throughout the whole of the Easter long weekend and discussion is being postponed to a quieter time as to whether the overtime will be paid or added to an individual’s annual holiday entitlement.
Social distancing on the shop floor and in the offices is working well, staggered arrival times help to minimise the number of people in any given working area at one time, and the ubiquitous hand sanitising gel can be found hanging from every operator’s belt.
Mr Nicholson concluded, “It has been a surreal time, but everyone here is helping out, as they are in machine shops all around the country, to make much-needed ventilator components.
“We have already produced big quantities of the smaller diameter parts, so we have now been able to reallocate many of the Cincom sliders.
“The latest L12 model with Citizen’s LFV chipbreaking software has been useful when machining plastics and certain grades of aluminium for medical parts by breaking the stringy swarf into smaller chips, so we do not keep having to stop the machine to clear it.
“Overall I estimate that around half of our capacity across the lathes and machining centres is still running around the clock on work for Ventilator Challenge UK and will be for some time to come.”
Like most turned parts subcontractors, Sub CNC Precision uses its 14 twin-spindle, multi-axis bar autos, in this case all from Citizen Machinery UK, to turn-mill parts in one hit from a wide variety of metals, from mild and stainless steels through copper and aluminium alloys to exotics such as Monel, Inconel and titanium. Likewise it produces components from many types of plastic including nylon, PEEK and Delrin.
The list of industries served is also long, encompassing aerospace and defence, telecommunications, motorsport, automotive, marine, agricultural and medical, the latter accounting for 20 per cent of turnover in an average year.
So when Rolls-Royce was trying to find a suitable firm to produce a particularly difficult pair of plastic components for the Ventilator Challenge UK, it is unsurprising that its email list included ISO 9001:2008-accredited Sub CNC, whose name had been passed to the government’s consortium by Citizen, which had been identified as a critical supplier.
Joint owners and managing directors of the contract machining operation, Yian Stavrou and George Dingley, received an email request from Rolls-Royce late in the evening on the last Wednesday in March. Drawings came in the following morning, quotes were issued quickly and by the afternoon provisional orders had been issued. The shaft-type nature of the components meant that they were destined for production on the subcontractor’s sliding-head lathes.
Mr Stavrou recalled, “Everything happened at breakneck speed. We prepared the two programs, bought in cutting tools and ordered plastic bar that had to be ground so it would feed through the guide bushes on the sliders. Citizen loaned us a number of milling toolholders that we did not have and we were in production around the clock by the Friday morning.
“Process capability studies were completed, the paper trail put in place and the 9,000 plastic parts were machined, inspected and delivered on the following Monday to meet the contract conditions.”
One of the reasons for Sub CNC winning this plastic turn-milling work, as well as subsequent urgent medical contracts, is the option to use on four of its 12 Citizen sliding-head lathes the manufacturer’s patented LFV chipbreaking software. Plastic materials as well as many metals, when machined, result in stringy swarf wrapping itself around the tool and component, forcing the operator to stop the machine frequently to remove it, compromising productivity. LFV avoids this by oscillating the tool by a few tens of microns to break the swarf into small, manageable pieces, the length of which can actually be programmed.
The two components for Rolls-Royce required the use of sliders capable of turning 32 mm diameter bar. The only machine of this capacity at Sub CNC equipped with LFV is an L32-VIII, which was deployed for producing the most difficult part with drilled and milled features. The other, less challenging component was put on a Cincom M32, with the long swarf broken traditionally using high pressure coolant to prevent machine stoppage.
The three other LFV Cincoms on the shop floor are for turning bar of either 12 mm or 20 mm maximum diameter. These are being extensively used to fulfil other ongoing medical work in a various plastics and long-chipping metals for which component quantities are ramping up. New contracts are also coming in, including one for the production of 70,000 medical parts in a six-week period to mid-May.
Overall, about half of the subcontractor’s lathes have been made over to producing parts for ventilators and other medical products, including its two Citizen Miyano fixed-head lathes, which produce parts from bigger diameter bar up to 42 mm and 51 mm diameter respectively. The latter was devoted for 20 days to producing 10,000 actuators for ventilators and is currently producing 4,000 of the more complex valves, while the former is turn-milling 316 stainless steel medical parts. The remaining half of the turning capacity serves manufacturers in other industries that are continuing to operate during the Covid-19 crisis.
Co-director Mr Dingley added, “We are fortunate that our activities are split across two sites in Dunstable and one in Luton, so machines are fairly spread out and our operators can socially distance easily. It is a credit to our staff the way they have stepped up to tackle this urgent medical work, which involves coming in at nights and weekends, including over the whole of Easter. Day to day it is more or less business as usual for Sub CNC, except that the workload is unusually high.
“The only real difference is that we are not allowing external people to visit. We did however make an exception by asking a Citizen engineer to realign a Cincom L20 so that we could guarantee to produce a high accuracy medical component requiring a 10-micron total tolerance on cross holes and a slot. The alignment was completed within 24 hours of issuing the request – and our email was sent out on a Sunday. Everyone is pulling together at this difficult time.”
In the opinion of Citizen Machinery UK’s managing director Edward James, the Covid-19 pandemic has united the whole of the manufacturing sector to an extent never seen before in terms of the levels of selfless application by huge numbers of people to boost production of much-needed medical equipment. In this article he describes how the company he runs, a turning solution provider, is contributing in the battle to deliver more ventilators to the front line in hospitals.
Citizen became involved early on when it was contacted by the UK government’s consortium for ventilator production, which became known as Ventilator Challenge UK. The committee included representatives from the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) and Renishaw, who identified Citizen as the largest supplier of bar automatics in the UK and Ireland. This type of machine tool, especially the sliding-head variety with turn-milling capability, is critical to the rapid, efficient manufacture of components in very high volumes for making the extra ventilators needed by the NHS, 30,000 being the current target.
Accordingly, Citizen was given critical supplier status for the medical as well as the aerospace and defence sectors, although priority is being given to medical applications and is the only one being serviced at the moment.
Mr James commented, “At the outset, the government was considering building a factory to make ventilators parts and assemble them. However, we and others advising them suggested that the best route would be to enlist the help of the existing pool of first-class manufacturers and their supply chains already using our lathes and production equipment from other leading machine tool suppliers.
“I gave them a list of about 50 companies that use Citizen turning centres, choosing firms that operate sufficient numbers of machines, hold ISO accreditation and have the right level of expertise and metrology capability. We knew many of them already make ventilator parts as well as similar types of medical and non-medical parts out of both normal materials and special alloys.
“We had told all of our customers via social media that Citizen Machinery UK was still open for business and continuing to operate under government guidelines to support customers and prioritise any request for help in producing medical components.”
Nearly all of the recommended contacts were approached by multinational firms, including Rolls-Royce, GKN and BAe, appointed by Ventilator Challenge UK to oversee supply chain management from purchasing through to ventilator assembly. The manufacturers were asked to change over their production to machining medical components and they immediately agreed to do so. As many of the firms recognised that additional capacity would be needed, it triggered multiple orders for new Citizen bar automatics from several companies and from additional manufacturers that became involved in the initiative through word-of-mouth recommendation.
In just over three weeks to mid-April 2020, 17 machines were prepared and delivered from stock, all of which are devoted to the production of medical parts. Transport is provided by Citizen’s dedicated team, J Parrish & Son, and for the rest of April sliding-head lathe deliveries are running at one per day. Extraordinarily, each is commissioned and operating on a customer’s shop floor in approximately 36 hours from receipt of the order, such is the urgency. Overlaid on this already hectic workload is a significant amount of re-purposing of existing turn-mill centres in the field to manufacture medical equipment.
There are examples of Citizen lathes having been reconfigured for making metal parts that are normally produced from stampings, forgings and castings. By far the largest proportion of resetting, however, has involved writing programs and providing tooling packages for turn-milling large quantities of plastic components from bar that are normally injection moulded, such as tubing connectors for ventilators. Often they are supplied from overseas, including China, but deliveries may have either stopped or the numbers available are insufficient.
Mr James added, “The six-week lead-time to produce a new injection mould tool is too long – the parts are needed much faster than that. Our multi-axis sliding-head bar autos are ideal for turning such components at both ends and milling and drilling them in the same cycle so they come off complete, without the need for special fixturing and with minimal material wastage.
“It is actually a lot of work to identify parts that can be re-engineered in this way and then re-purpose a lathe to make them. A significant amount of CAD effort is required, plus complex CAM programming and post-processing.
“Our applications department has been doing a lot of this in-house and at our customers’ factories, outsourcing what it cannot handle. One of our applications engineers has been working pro bono at a customer’s site for three weeks to help out with re-engineering medical components due to staff shortage.”
There are several reasons for Citizen fortunately finding itself in a good position to ship such a large number of lathes at short notice. One was the opening last year of a new turning centre of excellence in Brierley Hill with a showroom containing many demonstration machines. These together with those on show at the Bushey headquarters are available on short delivery.
The company in any case has a policy of supplying its machines and accessories from UK stock and more were available than usual, as extra had been brought in due to the possibility of a hard Brexit. Additional machines were in the UK, including some of the very latest models, ready to be shown at the now-postponed MACH exhibition.
Moreover, a bull run of sales had led to a backorder book of about eight weeks, with turning centres that were nearly ready for delivery able to be re-purposed at short notice and diverted urgently to medical component manufacturers. The original machine packages are being replaced from stock.
Naturally, these activities are only possible with healthy Citizen staff to implement them. Seeing the speed with which Covid-19 was spreading, Mr James had pre-empted government advice by putting on hold in February all overseas travel, isolating the Bushey and Brierley Hill centres to avoid movement between them, and instigating working from home where feasible. The result is that of the 56 members of staff, 20 are furloughed but the other 36 are able to work, including all of the applications engineers, half of the service staff and many back office support personnel.
Mr James concluded, “I am told that most of the turned parts have already been manufactured for the 30,000 extra ventilators, which is testament to the effort put in by us, other lathe suppliers and an army of willing and capable manufacturers in Britain and Ireland.
“I would like to offer a big thank you to all our staff and suppliers who are helping to make this happen. Everyone is volunteering to work tirelessly around the clock, at weekends and even through their holidays.”
He added that when the country finally comes through the pandemic, Citizen Machinery UK will find itself in a stronger position than previously as he predicts that demand for new machines will grow. It will be due to companies that are acquiring modern sliding-head turn-mill centres now, where in normal circumstances they would not have done so for several years, recognising earlier the benefits of the tighter tolerances and better surface finishes achievable compared with using their older lathes.
Additionally, most of the new turning centres currently being supplied have Citizen’s proprietary LFV programmable chipbreaking software built into the control’s operating system. Manufacturers are seeing the productivity benefits of this technology when machining traditionally long-chipping materials such as plastics, stainless steel and titanium.
Edward James, Managing Director of sliding- and fixed-head lathe supplier Citizen Machinery UK, posted on social media on 16th March 2020 that the company is continuing to operate under the UK Government’s recommended health guidelines and was available to support firms in the production of ventilator parts. He regards this as a priority following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s appeal the same day for the manufacturing community to help urgently to make 20,000 extra ventilators.
One of Citizen’s nearly 4,000 followers on LinkedIn, an existing user in the West Country with five Cincom sliding-head bar autos in operation dating back to 1999, responded at lunchtime the following day. A medical equipment OEM was asking it to increase fourfold its capacity to produce critical ventilator components.
The subcontractor ordered two additional Cincom machines for urgent delivery. The first, a 32 mm capacity L32-XLFV, was installed two days later on Thursday 19th March. Citizen’s engineers worked around the clock to commission the machine so it could start making the ventilator parts. The second machine, a 20 mm bar capacity Cincom L20-VIIILFV, was installed the following Friday, 27th March and was similarly fast-tracked into production.
By then, in the space of a fortnight, Citizen had received further orders from another four customers for five more machines to be delivered at short notice for ventilator parts manufacture and there is no sign of the demand slowing.
Mr James commented, “I would like to offer a big thank you to our staff and suppliers who helped to make this happen. Let’s all work together to come up with solutions to this terrible COVID-19 pandemic.
“If any of our customers make ventilators, respirators, personal protective equipment or other medical items that are in high demand, we may be able to help them as a matter of urgency to manufacture the necessary components, as we have a number of fixed- and sliding-head turn-mill centres in stock ready for immediate dispatch and installation.
“We are also able to put OEMs and their supply chains in touch with a large number of our customers who can make ventilator and other medical parts using their existing plant.
“In particular, if a manufacturer traditionally relies on plastic extrusions or other bespoke raw materials that are becoming scarce, we are able to re-engineer items so that they can be made from solid bar and would prioritise this kind of requirement.”
In response to feedback from users, Citizen’s M32 sliding-headstock lathe, a popular model in the Japanese manufacturer’s range capable of economical machining of components in small or large batches, has undergone a fundamental makeover in its fifth design iteration to the extent that half of its constituent parts are new. It is also considerably more robust, with a bed 500 kg heavier than that of its predecessor, bringing the installed weight to 4.3 tonnes. Availability of the 10-axis Cincom M32-VIII in the UK and Ireland is through Citizen Machinery UK.
The 10-station turret, which runs on hardened box ways, incorporates a new tooling system employing a single, heavier duty, 2.2 kW drive to the live cutters. Only the selected tool rotates – a world first for Citizen. The effect is to suppress heat generation and vibration, enhancing machining accuracy and surface finish. Power consumption is reduced and there is less the wear on gears and bearings. The latter have been strengthened, providing extra rigidity to withstand torques twice as high as on the previous machine model, leading to greater productivity.
The gang tool post has been equipped with 1.5 times faster live tools powered by a 2.2 kW motor, as well as a programmable, 50 rpm B-axis to enable simultaneous machining in five CNC axes rather than four; while the back tool post with Y-axis now has adjustable-angle tooling. Both features enable production of more complex parts. Three tools may be in cut at the same time, supported by the Mitsubishi M850W control with 15-inch touch-screen, shortening cycle times and raising productivity.
The 8,000 rpm main spindle has been upgraded to 5.5 / 7.5 kW and the counter spindle is of the same power, representing a 2.5-fold increase. It improves the flexibility with which front-working and rear-working cycles can be shared between the two spindles. The Z-axis feed drive has been uprated to 1.5 kW for more powerful cutting performance, the 32 m/min rapid traverse rate remaining the same. New also is the optional possibility to swap over in half an hour to use the machine in guide bush-less mode to reduce remnant length when turning shorter components up to 2.5 times their diameter and to enable the use of cold drawn bar up to 38 mm diameter.
To improve operability and visibility and reduce set-up times, the machine door and its window have been enlarged by 65 per cent. Other enhancements include reduced overhang of the counter spindle headstock on its slideway to provide more robust support, larger and more rigid ballscrews, and 30 per cent lower air consumption.
The lathe’s ecological credentials, as with other Citizen machines, are impeccable. The M32 is an environmentally friendly product that has undergone stringent assessment by the manufacturer. The use of easily recyclable materials and avoidance of hazardous substances are combined with Eco Function hybrid technology that automatically saves energy through the intelligent use of power during non-cutting periods. Its effectiveness can be monitored on a control screen window that shows graphically the present, maximum, cumulative and historical power consumption values.
A total of 12 CNC Cincom sliding-head and Miyano fixed-head turn-milling centres will be demonstrated under power on the Citizen Machinery UK stand at MACH 2020, including automated production cells with integrated loading and unloading. Accent will also be placed on high technology software and mechanical enhancements that extend the scope and efficiency of machining on these Japanese-built lathes.
On show for the first time will be Citizen’s flagship series-five Cincom M32-VIII and a Miyano BNE‐65MSB, both of revised design with more power and flexibility plus the latest Mitsubishi M800 5-axis touch-screen control. Consequently, the latter machine is the first 65 mm capacity Miyano lathe to offer superimposed machining, which allows three tools to be in cut together under simultaneous 5-axis control for elevated levels of productivity.
New will be a Cincom L32‐X with Citizen’s 2-axis LFV programmable chipbreaking software built into the operating system of the control as well as integrated, high-speed laser cutting capability, a technology that was originally developed for efficient production of apertures in thin-wall stents on smaller Citizen sliding-head lathes.
A further highlight will be a Cincom A20‐VII LFV, the first Citizen lathe to be equipped with patented Fanuc-based, multi-axis LFV software for breaking into manageable pieces the stringy swarf often generated when turning and drilling stainless steel, copper and plastics.
The exhibition will also mark the first UK showing of the 12 mm bar capacity Cincom L12-X LFV with five rear-facing static and driven endworking tool positions and the addition of a Y-axis on the counter spindle to mirror the main spindle’s three degrees of freedom. The machine is intended primarily for production of dental abutments and implants as well as other complex components.
Rounding off the exhibits on the stand will be an educational area, explaining the latest Citizen software. It includes Eco Function hybrid technology that automatically saves energy through the intelligent use of power during non-cutting periods, underpinned by clear, on-screen graphical information; the next iteration of Alkart Wizard for off-line programming; and Citizen’s Industry 4.0 capabilities encompassing the latest machine networking and monitoring functionality.
After ending my 2018 season early due to a 10-cm stress response in my femur, I thought it was time for a change, and I needed to rethink my next season. After a couple of weeks, I decided it was time to move home and find a training schedule that could prevent the repeat of injuries that had been holding me back on and off for the past two and a half years. It was tricky coming away from Loughborough, I knew I would miss the facilities, the coaches, and available training partners, but for my health and wellbeing, it was the best option at the time. My 2019 winter training started well, and I ran my fastest 5 miles at the Ryton Pools Country Park 5 mile race running 30.38. After a promising start, I was hoping for a good season.
The plan was to complete two Xterra races at the start of the year, the first one being Cyprus. It was all booked, and I was ready to race, but unfortunately, I dislocated my shoulder just a week before. It was my fault, and I had no one else to blame but myself. I love mountain biking, and something in my head told me it was ok to do jumps a week before racing. After having my shoulder put back into place there was still something not quite right, I had limited motion in my arm, and I couldn’t lift it, there wasn’t any pain there, so I knew something wasn’t working.
With the Xterra World’s only a month away I went to see a specialist and unfortunately, I had nerve damage which meant my deltoid wasn’t working. He wasn’t sure how long it was going to take to heal, but he gave me some exercises, and I made sure I did everything possible to try and wake the nerve back up. I’ve never had such a weird feeling when I went swimming, I wanted to swim and wanted to lift my arm out the water, but I just couldn’t. The positive was every time I went swimming it got a little bit easier and a week before Xterra World’s the specialist told me I could go, but there was a high chance of dislocation again, and also my nerves weren’t fully working.
Racing world’s cross triathlon was one of my main goals this year, but unfortunately, I couldn’t race the way I wanted to, although I couldn’t compete at my full potential I was just happy to be on the start line and be back in GB suit. I have to thank Dr Salas for all the work he did with me and my shoulder, I have now fully recovered, and we have decided that he will not operate on the joint due to the strength coming back. World’s cross triathlon was a fantastic experience I hope one day I can improve on the result I had and be back on the cross-triathlon scene, but for the rest of the season, the focus was on sprint Triathlon.
After coming back from Worlds, I missed the first two races of the British Super Series because my shoulder was still repairing from the nerve damage and my swim performance wouldn’t be what it needed to be. My first race back was Blenheim Palace, and I ended up coming out the water around 90 seconds down and lucky for me I could work hard on the bike with a few of the girls to catch the front group. I entered into the transition in firth place, and my run was a lot stronger, and I finished off Blenheim Palace in 4th place. I was happy with the final result, as I could see some progress.
The Cardiff Triathlon was next on the list, and I knew I had to up my swim, but I had no idea it was a diving start – I hadn’t dived since before I the accident, and it was probably the most scared I was on the start line! My swim had improved from Blenheim Palace. However, I was still a minute down on the leaders, so I had to work hard on the bike to catch the group of girls in front. But there was still one competitor out in front who’s very strong. Unfortunately, the 8 of us went into transition together, and it finished with a running race, I finished off the competition in seventh but looking at the results from the year before my run has improved significantly in the past year, and I’m happy with the progress.
My 2019 split into two halves due to the opportunity to go to Japan with my family and walk up Mount Fuji; this was unfortunately arranged before the European qualifiers were announced. Still, I couldn’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk up Mount Fuji, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world as it was a fantastic achievement. I thank my dad and his work for the opportunity.
The week after we returned from Japan I attended my cousin’s wedding. Then it was back to reality and training ready for the national relay championships. I was racing for team Nottingham as a guest, and it was a great event and also to come away with the gold was even better! Well done to all the team for their great effort. Following that, I raced another British super series competition, where I was competing in the elite race at Mallory Park. It’s a great course and a great event seeing as you see all the younger up-and-coming athletes race as well as just the elite. My swimming was struggling, and I came out in the second pack. The bike pack didn’t work together, and it was all a little over the place, so I made sure I positioned myself well into the transition. I tried my hardest to catch as many girls as I could but unfortunately just missed out on a podium coming forth, but to my surprise, I came third in the British super series.
My final race of the season was Sandman Triathlon part of the Welsh Super Series, earlier in the year I’d raced at Bala Triathlon and took the win, so I was hoping to do it again. The sea was choppy, and the bike was non-drafting which paid to my strengths. However, a lot of athletes were on time trial bikes, so I had some extra work to do, but I was able to hold onto second. With a quick transition, I was off out in first and keep the lead to finish off the season with a win. I was also on TV, which was a nice change.
Looking back at the year, 2019 wasn’t the season I planned but the progress I have made over the period has been significant. I hope next season I can improve on this and I aim to race the British Welsh Super Series and some Spanish and French team races. Also, if it fits in with my schedule, you may see me on the start line of maybe some extras and cross triathlon, but for now, it’s long miles and wet training!
Citizen Machinery UK’s open house on 1st and 2nd October 2019 focused on machine price and purchasing options. This article highlights some of the points of discussion with potential customers regarding flexible machine finance.
The head of Citizen Finance, John Lane, who has experience in accountancy, banking and selling capital equipment, is evangelical on the subject of establishing a business case before purchasing new machinery and asking if the potential investment is financially viable. He observes that the subject of money is often one of the last items to be discussed when it should be one of the first.
Mr Lane says, “Financial aspects should be discussed right from the outset. As soon as the Citizen sales engineer or technical department confirms that a component can be made on a particular Cincom CNC sliding-head lathe or Miyano fixed-head turning centre, I recommend that the conversation about money starts.”
The key questions are: how much do you sell the components for; how many do you have to make; and how long will it take to make them on the proposed new machine? From this information it is possible to calculate quickly and easily whether the profit to be made in manufacturing the parts on the machine will justify the investment. Once the numbers show that the customer is predicted to make money, Citizen Finance can provide a wealth of options that may not be available in high street banks. Mr Lane says finance companies that understand the manufacturing industry are best placed to offer specific solutions. Banks have a vital role to play but cannot be masters of all financing; one size does not fit all.
Underpinning offers of finance is the statistic that, after providing a 100 per cent loan, Citizen Finance’s fund providers (selected banks, finance houses, etc), due to the high residual value of Cincom and Miyano lathes, carry a risk significantly lower than it would otherwise be. Even after five years, a typical Citizen lathe still has a sales value of almost two-thirds of its price when new. It has been known for a 10-year-old machine to sell for 45 per cent of its original value.
So what funding mechanisms are available for machine acquisition, bearing in mind that nine out of 10 lathes purchased from Citizen Machinery UK are financed? Mr Lane advises that there are four main options: hire purchase, finance lease, operating lease, and loan-and-charge.
Hire purchase means the user receives the capital allowance, makes fixed monthly payments normally over five years and owns the machine. A finance lease requires similar payments but machine ownership remains with the financier, the user obtaining tax relief on the rentals. An operating lease is essentially rental, can be over any period, may be matched to a contract and a longer agreement can offer lower monthly repayments than ownership. The machine is returned to Citizen or the financier at the end of the agreement, an option that is becoming increasingly popular. Loan-and-charge is rather like taking out a mortgage on the machine, which the customer owns from the first day.
Citizen Finance aims to keep customers’ cash flow under control. Its deposit-finding scheme underpins the order with no impact on the customer’s cash resources and secures the transaction. On delivery of the machine, customers enter a pre-arranged finance agreement and therefore have a revenue stream from the investment whilst paying for it.
A rule of thumb for budgeting over five years is a monthly payment of two per cent of the capital sum per month. The date of sale can be timed to optimise the customer’s VAT position or Citizen Finance can support a VAT deferral. The current enhanced first year tax allowance means the first £1 million of money invested is fully tax deductible, a limit that will reduce to £250,000 from January 2021. Citizen Finance considers the customer’s tax position to calculate the most tax-efficient funding solution.
Mr Lane advises, “Some customers prefer to pay a deposit using their own money to reduce the monthly repayments. However, the more cash invested before one starts to earn can reduce the return on a company’s capital. Similarly, increasing the instalments to reduce the loan term may not lead to a better fiscal outcome.
“We have options. A Citizen Finance package can be tailored to a customer’s needs and there is considerable flexibility. We need to talk to every customer to understand what they require. Then we try to match our offer to those needs, long- or short-term, on or off balance sheet.”
Emphasising how successful this approach is, Mr Lane points to manufacturing companies that buy one turning centre, particularly of the sliding-head variety, run it many hours per day, reducing labour costs and increasing profitability, then often invest quickly in a second, third and more machines. Some continue the process, resulting in a low level of attended production, increasing the profit ratio and levelling the playing field between British and Irish manufacturers and those operating in low-wage economies.
A major part of Citizen Finance’s role is discussing the return a customer seeks to achieve from an investment. Different methods of funding will yield various returns on investment and payback periods. The impact on a company and the potential results are evaluated to try to make sure the returns are what the shareholders, directors or proprietors want.
To make this happen, Citizen’s cost per part software shows whether an investment will make financial sense. The following aspects are calculated, indicating the exhaustiveness of the analyses: machine cost per month, total manufacturing cost per component, hourly and monthly margin, months until cash positive, and return on investment percentage.
If a machine is fitted with Citizen’s patented LFV (low frequency vibration) function, which has the effect of breaking stringy swarf into manageable chips when turning stainless steel, copper and plastics, lathe uptime can be increased dramatically. It is a result of not having to repeatedly stop the spindle to clear swarf that has become entangled around the tool or workpiece. In such cases, the enhanced financial benefits can easily be calculated.
One Citizen Machinery customer advised, “The move into sliding-head technology was a large investment for us. We knew we were turning away business or subbing work out that we could have done in-house. However, the prices we needed to quote to machine some components led us to think we might not make money, as our experience was in conventional CNC turning.
“When we analysed the sale price of the components against the Citizen cycle time studies, things began to get a lot clearer. Citizen’s business analysis helped us calculate our investment justification and we proceeded on the basis that this would yield us a good return. The reality met the expectation. Within a year we had a second machine and over the following years we bought eight in total.
“We felt it was important to review our business investments and in so doing, we found that the Citizen machines accounted for 40 per cent of our capital investment budget, 60 per cent of our turnover and 80 per cent of our profit!”
To satisfy the needs of its expanding customer base, Citizen Machinery UK has employed nine extra staff since the beginning of 2019, bringing the total number of employees to 58. Located at the company’s headquarters in Bushey and in the new turning centre of excellence in Brierley Hill, the new recruits have been selected to cover core functions within the operation, including applications engineering, machine service, software development and European sales.
Darren Wilkins, deputy managing director pointed out, “Sales of our Cincom sliding-head lathes and Miyano fixed-head turning centres in the UK and Ireland were at a record high last year at 164 machines. It made us the foremost supplier of CNC bar autos into those markets, while in the first quarter of 2019 we became the leading supplier of sliding-head lathes into the UK and the whole of Europe.
“It is essential we keep our headcount commensurate with the level of business, bearing in mind the UK is also the distribution hub for Citizen machines going into France, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, the Middle East and Africa, which accounts for three-quarters of unit sales.”
He added that the increased number of personnel, as well as the opening of the new Brierley Hill premises and the retention of another nearby building that was the former headquarters of Miyano, is a reflection of the emerging significance of Industry 4.0 and the greater number of turnkey installations Citizen is being asked to supply, complete with programs, tooling, accessories and frequently automation.