Excavating productivity gains at BSK Engineering

Irish sub-contractor sees rapid expansion with three plasma cutting machines

Posted on 29 Apr 2019 and read 327 times
Excavating productivity gains at BSK EngineeringWhen County Tyrone-based BSK Engineering opened its doors for business in 2001, the family-owned sub-contract manufacturer was primarily serving the architectural steel industry with the design and production of gates, railings, staircases and other similar items.

However, a change of direction in 2012 propelled the company onto a path of rapid growth, supported by investments in plasma cutting machines from Rochdale-based Kerf Developments Ltd (www.kerfdevelopments.com).

County Tyrone has relatively few quarries, but it is home to around 70% of the world’s largest manufacturers of quarry plant.

BSK Engineering realised that these businesses were absorbing all the skilled staff, making it difficult to recruit people, so the company invested in its first Kerf plasma cutting machine in 2012 —a 3 x 1.5m RUR2000P.

Managing director Barry Kerr said: “When buying our first machine, we looked at three suppliers. We then looked at what other local companies were buying, and they were all investing in Kerf machines.

“One element that stood out was that Kerf Developments was the only supplier with locally based engineering support that could be on-site in a matter of hours to resolve any maintenance or service needs. That gave us the confidence to invest.”

The RUR2000P was the only machine that would fit into the three-employee company’s 2,000ft2 factory. Purchased to cut small components for the quarry plant industry as well as structural-steel parts for existing customers, it was initially the perfect fit.

The machine was 75% committed to structural-steel work, cutting small nested parts in quantities up to 150 out of a single sheet of 3 x 1m steel. However, it was soon operating at capacity — 24hr a day.

From 2012 to 2016, BSK Engineering was repeatedly turning away larger-scale work for the quarrying industry; in 2017, the company made a strategic decision to expand its facility to 13,000ft2 and invest in a second plasma cutting machine.

It opted for a Kerf RUR3000P with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II 275A UltraSharp plasma cutting system.

Its 8 x 2.5m bed provided the much-needed capacity for cutting components such as 7x 2m screen slides that are produced in significant quantities. It also gave added capacity to take the company away from 24hr production.

However, this proved short-lived, as the company almost doubled its turnover from £600,000 in 2015 to £1.1 million in 2017.

With two machines running 24hr a day and operating at weekends, it soon needed to invest in a third machine.

In August 2018, the third Kerf machine arrived — another 8 x 2.5m RUR3000P with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II 275A UltraSharp plasma cutting system.

Turnover quadrupled


Mr Kerr said: “We bought the third Kerf machine to alleviate the capacity issue and once again move from 24hr production to single-shift manufacture.

Excavating productivity gains at BSK Engineering“We have grown our staff from three to 15, and our turnover has almost quadrupled to £2 million in just three years.

“It is the reliability and service of Kerf that has given us the confidence to grow, while ensuring that we can still meet the short lead times of our customers.

“When we order parts or consumables from Kerf, we are guaranteed next-day delivery; likewise, an engineer can be with us very quickly, as Kerf appreciates how essential the machines are to meeting the needs of our customers.

“Most of our competitors offer a three- to four-week lead time on parts, but we deliver within seven days.

“This is why we are winning more and more business from our rivals.

Furthermore, the Kerf machines ensure that we maintain a lower cost overhead than our competitors.

“All the work we cut on the Kerf machines is steel plate from 2mm to 40mm thick with 70% of sheets over 10mm thick.

“Competitors with high-cost laser machines will be faster cutting plates up to 8mm, but anything above that and the Kerf machine is considerably faster than a laser.

“Added to this, the purchase price and Kerf consumables prices are considerably less than a laser, enabling us to be more price-competitive.

“When cutting plates above 10mm thick, many of our customers find that our edge finish is as good as — or sometimes better than — that of laser, so we can offer the same quality of finish as laser cutting but with reduced costs, improved lead times and a significantly better service.

“This means that customers previously buying parts from laser sub-contract suppliers are now moving over to us and our Kerf UltraSharp plasma solution.”

“We now have a very competitive business, largely built around the quality of our staff and the three Kerf machines.

“Some 60% of our work is relatively small, and with the large-bed machines, we can cut one 4m plate while another is being loaded.

“This pendulum loading method reduces our cycle times by 50%, and we still have the facility for cutting large parts.

“This capacity helps us to maintain industry-leading lead times while the service and support from Kerf ensures that we are always running.”

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