Success — a racing certainty

The Wrights have long had an involvement in motor-sport; they now focus on sub-contract machining

Posted on 09 Aug 2017 and read 767 times
Success — a racing certaintyIn 1981, Paul Wright established Paul Wright Engineering Developments. He rented a double garage behind a commercial-vehicle factors in Cambridge with the intention of making garden gates and lightweight fabrications, but the business quickly developed when Paul’s brother Simon — of Simon Wright Racing Developments (SWRD) — commissioned a batch of 25 racing-kart chassis for homologation.

The next 12 months saw a name change to Wright Karts, a move of premises to a dedicated industrial unit — and the first employee.

The company soon established a reputation for the manufacture of competition kart chassis and chassis components, mostly commissioned by SWRD.

In fact, Wright Karts and SWRD helped launch the careers of some world-famous drivers — including Jenson Button and David Coulthard.

Paul’s son Adam inherited his father’s passion for both engineering and racing; and while his first jobs (when still a schoolboy) were sweeping floors and cleaning down machines in the workshop, he soon traded in his dustpan and brush for a manual mill and lathe. Before he was 16, Adam added MIG and TIG welding to his capabilities.

Come 1998, the family business hit a period of decline, prompting Adam to apply for an apprenticeship at a local sub-contract machine shop. He got the placement and started 11 days after his 16th birthday.

Within six months, he was offered a position in the company’s CNC turning depart, where he worked until the end of his apprenticeship.

At the weekends, Adam competed in karts bearing the family name — an arrangement that culminated in him winning a British championship in the 2000 season.

However, he cut short his promising race career in 2003, when he decided he was too tall and ‘too old’ for this branch of motor-sport.

With his apprenticeship finished, and being keen to broaden his horizons, Adam moved to Cumbria to build engines for Malcolm Wilson’s world rally car operation — M-Sport.

Although this work provided plenty of interest and challenges, Adam felt that he had not quite found his calling; in 2006, he returned home and joined a composites company that was establishing a machine shop.

After just six months, he decided to join the family business, even though it had been in decline since 2002.

Wright Engineering had downsized to modified outbuildings at the family home, while the Wright Karts name and machinery relating to the manufacture of karts had moved to SWRD.

Paul Wright had also diversified and was supplying precision components to a variety of industries. When Adam joined the firm, he brought an in-depth CNC capability and a ‘racing mentality’ to machining that saw him continually looking to cut cycle times, improve quality, reduce tolerances and achieve competitive prices.

He said: “In November 2008, we bought our first CNC machine — an old single-tool milling machine. While it was far more capable than our manual turret mill with digital read-out, we quite soon felt that it too was holding us back.”

Though not perfect, this CNC machine boosted productivity; and encouraged by a growing order book, the father-and-son team were soon looking to increase their capacity.

Following a research of various brands and machines, the Wrights purchased their first Haas in 2009 — an SL-20 lathe with a tailstock and a bolt-on turret from Norwich-based Haas Automation (www.haas.co.uk).

Adam said: “This machine, along with the support and service we have received from Haas, took us to a whole new level of machining capability.”

Adam said that when the time came to upgrade their milling capability, it was an obvious choice to replace it with a Haas Super Mini Mill 2, along with a OneCNC XR4 CAD/CAM system to optimise programming.

Paul Wright said: “By adding high-quality CNC machinery and the latest CAD/CAM software, we have been able to maintain our rigorous approach and attention to detail, while at the same time increasing our production capacity.

“As a family business, we take great pride in the quality of our workmanship, and we can produce a wide variety of high-precision complex components in batches from just one to several thousand.”

With an increasing number of machines and staff — plus a growing order book — the company had soon outgrown its original premises at Paul’s home, but a suitable location was found ‘down the road’ in Soham.

The paint on the freshly renovated space was barely dry before it was being filled with new Haas machines — the latest being a VF-4SS machining centre installed in February 2017 (this has a 15,000rev/min spindle, high-speed-machining capability and through spindle coolant; it is also wired to accept a fourth axis).

The company now undertakes the high-volume production of bespoke turned and milled components for a wide range of industry sectors. These include automotive, electronics, power generation and medical; it also manufactures parts for musical instruments.

In conclusion, Adam said: “Our new CNC machinery complements the combined 50 years of experience we can offer in turning, milling, welding, fabricating and tube forming.

“Looking ahead, we intend to keep the machinery modern and maintain an environment for each of our employees that we would like to work in ourselves. We are optimistic about the future.”

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