04 May 2012
Reducing lead times
Investing in the latest mill-turn technology sees delivery times cut from months to weeks
Nick Iacobucci, managing director of family-owned DKW Engineering, sees investment in his precision sub-contract machining business as key to maximising its credibility with customers, as well as achieving price, quality and delivery targets while ensuring the levels of profit required to secure the company’s future.
He says: “It’s having parts ready for shipment at the end of the day — and produced as effectively as possible — that matters in our business. We have found of late that the ability to minimise lead time is becoming an increasingly important element in winning and maintaining orders.” He says the company has been able to reduce work-in-progress by 20% over the last two years, helped — in part — by the installation of a Miyano BNJ-51SY3 twin-spindle dual-turret turn-mill centre from Bushey-based Citizen Machinery UK Ltd (www.citizen-miyano.co.uk). “Installed last May, this machine will out-perform any other twin-spindle machine we have ever bought.”
Nick Iacobucci’s son Karl, who is the company’s business development manager, says this machine was one of the first of the Series 3 BNJs (launched by Citizen Machinery UK in early 2011) to be installed in the UK. He says: “Our policy of continuous investment means we have to compare the Miyano with our other twin-spindle lathes, which are high-quality and still regarded as being very productive — and they are far from being old.
“That said, for one application, the Miyano was able to produce what had been six months of normal scheduled work in just seven weeks! With regard to another component, the best our existing machines could produce in an 18hr shift was 140 parts; the BNJ-51SY3 will complete 300 parts — finished and ready for despatch — in the same time-scale.”
Another regulator valve component would previously have been turned, milled and drilled in three separate operations for a total machining time of 6min; the Miyano’s one-hit strategy halved the machining time, while also slashing lead times and the demands on machine setters. Other benefits highlighted by the production of some 20 different parts from stainless steel, aluminium and steel on the new machine show that tool life is significantly better.
“The Miyano’s records show improvements up to 30%; we attribute this to the overall rigidity of the machine, which was developed to be suitable for hard-turning operations,” said Karl Iacobucci, who also highlights the tool-monitoring system. “We mainly use this for roughing cycles, and we know how many parts can be made ‘on limit’, allowing us to effectively pre-set change points. If there are any problems, the machine will stop, which is very comforting to know.”
DKW Engineering employs 38 people and two apprentices at its 20,000ft2
facility in Portsmouth, including four of the Iacobucci family (Nick’s wife Donna is financial director, and Karl’s brother Daniel is account manager). The company was formed as a tool-making business in 1986 with eight people; in 1989, when looking for new premises, it acquired Cammatic Suisse, a sub-contractor with 60 cam-driven single-spindle machines.
The first CNC machines were installed by 1994, and the whole operation had become CNC-based by 2006. Investment has continued; last year alone, it amounted to more than £1 million, while sales were £2.5 million — and they are still growing, via business from the aerospace, defence, environmental, nuclear and petrochemical sectors. Customers are based in the UK, the USA, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia and China.
Nick Iacobucci says: “The business has really progressed over the last four years, helped by being acknowledged as a ‘preferred supplier’ to a defence contractor for which we initially machined components but have now added bought-in parts so that we can assemble a complete unit — including the electronic elements.”
Machining prototype parts
The materials machined by DKW Engineering include titanium, nickel alloys, Nimonic, Hastelloy, beryllium copper, plastics, PEEK (polyether ether ketone), ceramics and castings. Turned parts are produced in the diameter
range 1-450mm, the maximum turned length is 3m, and batches are typically between 10 and 10,000. Prototype parts are often required, and prismatic components tend to be run in batches up to 1,000. The BNJ-51SY3 accepts bar up to 51mm in diameter, has an 11kW 6,000rev/min main spindle and a 5.5kW 5,000rev/min secondary spindle. Its main turret has a ±40mm Y-axis cross-travel (it comes from the well-proven but larger Miyano ABX machine series) and 12 positions rated at 2.5 kW and 6,000rev/min, along with 20Nm of torque.
Machine selection was not undertaken in haste. Initial market assessments began at MACH 2010, followed by visits to a number of machine suppliers. Nick and Karl Iacobucci also talked to other sub-contractors belonging to the BTMA about their experiences; and when the final short-list was drawn up, three parts were put forward for time studies. Prior to the order being placed with Citizen Machinery UK, DKW’s setters were sent to Citizen’s showroom to check out the machine.
Above the Miyano is a sign that clearly outlines the Iacobucci’s family philosophy: “When we do it right, no one remembers. When we do it wrong, no one forgets!”