When Warren Gray took over the day-to-day running of his father’s sub-contract machining company — Redditch-based Machined Component Systems (MCS) — he instigated a Quality First regime.
This action paid off with the recent renewal of a long-term contract to supply 22 different water-pump components, which will help take the turnover of the 36-people business from £2.5 to £3 million. This contract also initiated the purchase of a new turn-mill centre.
Mr Gray said: “It is our view that quality should never be an issue for debate in production; we ensure that our suppliers also embrace our quality ethos.”
He says a prime example of MCS’s Quality First regime is the recent installation of a Miyano BNE-51MSY turn-mill centre from Bushey-based Citizen Machinery UK Ltd (www.citizenmachinery.co.uk
Here, the extensive selection procedure — involving a turn-key application-based proposal followed by full acceptance trials — has resulted in a highly successful installation that has maintained consistent production through both day and unmanned night shifts.
Production manager Andrew Lambert was heavily involved in this project, drawing on his previous ‘plant-purchase procedure’ experience (gained at an automotive supplier group).
Although nine Miyano fixed-head and one Citizen CNC sliding-head turn-mill centres are installed alongside many other CNC machines at MCS, Mr Lambert made initial enquiries for turn-mill bar machines with a bar capacity up to 50mm and capable of undertaking combined operations on the family of brass water-pump components.
Mr Lambert said: “With the benefit of a long-term contract, machine price becomes secondary to productivity, so we based our decision on ‘efficiency to perform’, reliability and the application engineering involved to give us the required level of consistency in production.
“Each potential supplier was given four parts that together covered all the key features of the 22 parts that required machining. Each was also told they were starting with a ‘clean sheet’, with no ties to the methods or tooling we were using at the time to produce these parts.
“The solution offered by Citizen’s application team was impressive and a major factor in the company winning the order, as was the quality of the Miyano’s machine build and its application flexibility.
“Even finer points were considered, such as: rationalising tooling; using an IEMCA Master 80Up 3m bar feed capable of holding enough bars for a full 12hr unmanned run; calculating the number of parts achievable per bar, as brass-bar ends can work out expensive; and the application of coolant and filtration.
“Although cycle time was important, the key points for us were the consistency of the operation and the number of parts in the box at the end of the 22hr production day.
“Moreover, Citizen’s engineers were able to produce the four demonstration parts using 80% common tooling, all of which are held on the machine to speed change-over and optimise spindle utilisation.”
With the machine selected, Citizen had to undertake a series of process capability trials over a four-week period, attended at different times by setters, operators, and MCS’s quality engineer.
Mr Gray says: “This was not overkill. We are a small company, not a jobbing shop, but we incorporate large-business practices, because we produced over 4 million components last year. These were primarily for the automotive industry, but also for the marine, environmental and white-goods sectors — and they all enforce strict contract standards.”
Once the machine had been accepted and installed at Redditch, further trials were run under normal production conditions — a full uninterrupted shift for each of three most complex components.
Mr Lambert said: “We are achieving exceptional performance, and the machine is maintaining a consistent standard, even when running unmanned through the night producing a variety of parts with cycle times varying between 90 and 220sec.”
Allowing the eight-tonne BNE-51MSY to meet MCS’s consistency of production is a single and substantial slant-bed casting with hand-scraped square slideways — features that maximise rigidity, minimise vibration and aid repeatable surface finish and tolerances.
The flexibility of the Miyano is ensured by its two 12-station all-driven turrets (one with three axes of travel, the other with two), which allow it to cut with three tools simultaneously.
The fixed main spindle has a 15kW drive, while the secondary spindle has a 7.5kW drive; both have a maximum speed of 5,000rev/min. Each turret can carry multiple tools and access both spindles; driven tools are powered by 2.2kW motors (25Nm of torque) to a maximum speed of 6,000rev/min.
MCS was set up in 1986 by Mr Gray’s father Jim (who is now chairman) as a conventional machine shop with single-spindle and multi-spindle autos. Today, the company has mainly CNC machines, although it still runs six Wickman multi-spindle machines on extended day shifts, producing up to 50,000 parts a week.
The first CNC sliding-head machine was installed in the early 1990s; and since early 2000, MCS has ploughed back some 15% of its turnover into the business. In 2016, over £450,000 was invested in machines and a new quality centre.
In-house training is part of the Quality First strategy, and the company currently has three apprentices. Meanwhile, Courtney Picken, who recently celebrated his 21st birthday after four years of training, has been appointed trainee setter for the new Miyano.
In conclusion, Mr Gray said: “With our experience and on-going investment in equipment, systems and people, everything is now in place to take us to a new level and develop the business by providing greater levels of account management.
“This will allow us to be a key supplier on larger contracts with existing customers, as well as new ones.”