Following the acquisition of a failing small turned parts contractor where the deal included 10 aging CNC sliding head machines, these were very soon replaced with just four new machines from Citizen Machinery UK. Able to provide the advantage of running unmanned around-the-clock, such was the level of technology development in the new machines to increase output that they even provided additional spindle capacity.
Quality Turnings based in Knowsley now has 17 machines installed of which 13 are Citizen CNC sliding head turn-mill centres and two Miyano fixed head turning centres in its modern 16,500 ft² freehold machine shop that generated sales last year of well over £1 million. Owned by Sue and John Stephens they are both firm believers in keeping up with technology to reap savings for future investment which has been rewarded with increased turnover while maintaining similar labour costs to produce batches of work between 100 and 100,000 components.
Said Mr Stephens: “Labour costs are forever increasing but if you invest in the right equipment to suit the type of work you want to produce you can still maintain your competitiveness. With a close working team on the shop floor, everyone communicates and knows their responsibilities so my time to manage has become less demanding. And with modern machines such as the Citizen and Miyano you can set them, push the start of cycle and walk away to the next task.”
Most work is generated from a growing customer base in the hydraulics, white goods, electronic and maintenance component sectors and to help maximise the focus on machine setting for new work, a high ratio of production is already well-proven through repeat orders. Around five per cent of orders are exports destined for Denmark and Germany.
Said Mrs Stephens: “We have seen an upsurge in customers’ work returning from the Far East and have recently taken a large cable gland contract from the Chinese because we can react to delivery, especially on ‘time sensitive’ parts required for assembly. There is also a growing demand from customers requiring traceability records which overseas suppliers cannot, or do not want to accurately provide.”
Quality Turnings was set up in 1993 as a cam auto shop but the two directors were gradually becoming disheartened over the returns generated in the business. Also, facing the growing lack of setting skills available this was causing concern and so a visit to the MACH exhibition in Birmingham in 1998 led to a discussion with the Citizen sales team that made them realise what they could be achieving for the effort they put in.
That discussion resulted in their first CNC sliding head machine, a Citizen L20, being installed the following year and indeed, since that MACH visit, 18 Citizen and two Miyano machines have passed through the workshop doors. Accounting for an average of almost one machine purchase a year, some were replacement upgrades, while others created additional capacity. However, the company really broke the machine buying trend when the Stephens added four Citizen supplied machines in 2013. And, in the near future two existing sliding head machines are scheduled to be replaced in order to maintain the progression of technology on their productivity.
Said Mrs Stephens: “We bought a newly launched Citizen K16-VII off the stand at MACH 2004 and even before it was delivered, we quoted a job and won the order. So within a week of installation we knew exactly where the company had to go for the future. And it was from those discussions at the MACH shows and the ability of Citizen to provide a complete package of support that has taken us back so many can you buy cymbalta online times to the doors of Citizen Machinery.”
Today, the Stephen’s plant list spans a Citizen A32-Vll, three recently installed L20E-IXs, two K16-VIIs, one K-16 VI, five A20-VIIPLs and one C32-VI. From the Miyano stable a BNE-51 SY5 and BNA-42 DHY provide the fixed head capability with single operation cycle times varying between 10 secs and 3.5 mins. Materials machined in addition to steels and brass include plastics and copper.
Batches of 1,000 plastic safety plugs to lock electrical connection boxes are produced every three months on one of the recently installed trio of Citizen L20E-IXs. With a cycle time now of 80 seconds Mr Stephens describes the benefit of upgrading machines. Previously the parts were produced on a Citizen L20 using the same speeds, feeds and tooling. However, such has been the development of the L-Series in reducing non-cutting times that the new machine is 10 secs faster. The component is turned and has a milled ‘barrel cam’ profile on the main diameter which is used to secure the door of the electrical cabinet. Using the sub spindle an 8 mm long slot is milled for a screwdriver slot. Full deburring is also carried out in cycle giving a complete finished component direct form the machine.
The three latest installations of the 7-axis Citizen L20E-IXs were developed by the machine builder to provide an all-round level of versatility on components up to 20 mm diameter by 200 mm in length. The machines are capable of providing extended overlapping of operations through two independent toolposts that enable one to start work on the next part of the process before the other has fully retracted.
The L20E machine has a 3.7 kW main 10,000 revs/min spindle and 1.5 kW, 8,000 revs/min sub spindle. A vertical toolholder carries six turning tool positions and seven 1 kW, 5,000 revs/min driven spindles. Of these, three have the added flexibility of being swivelled 90 deg between cross and end face machining. A Y-axis is standard. There are also seven fixed endworking tool positions, three for front and four for back machining. Rapid traverse rates are fast at 32 m/min.
In similar circumstances to the plastic safety plugs, due to the number of features, a complex C101 copper component is regularly produced in batches of 200. Here the cycle time has also benefitted from being produced on a recently installed 7-axis Citizen A32-VII which is rated as the world’s fastest 32 mm sliding head machine. It has 45 m/min rapid traverses, higher power and rigidity than the previous Citizen L32 that was used by Quality Turnings.
One of the components machined from copper, which is intrinsically difficult to cut and control the swarf generated, involves a single cycle of turning, the milling of two flats which are cross-drilled and tapped, several diameters turned, grooved and threaded and a further two large flats require milling and cross-drilling. Special 8 mm and 4 mm radii are also milled and a 10 mm diameter hole drilled through the part. Said Mr Stephens: “By switching production from the L32 to the new A32 we have been able to improve our competitive edge and especially against so-called low cost overseas suppliers.”
With return on investment a focal point of the business Mrs Stephens points skywards to the recent installation of solar panels across the roof of their machine shop and offices. “Bear in mind our machines are mostly running 24/7 and at current energy prices we have been able to reduce our bills by 30 per cent. This is straight onto our bottom line and will help fund our next machine upgrades from Citizen,” she said.