Investment ‘future-proofs’ Yorkshire firm

Posted on 30 Apr 2018 and read 792 times
Investment ‘future-proofs’ Yorkshire firmFor over 30 years, JAW Engineering has provided local industry with a low-volume sub-contract machining capacity — and emergency breakdown support — from its facilities in Magdale, near Huddersfield.

Until recently, all the company’s machining had been carried out on manual machines, which meant it was reliant on highly skilled operators — including company founder John White.

When John’s son Stuart took over managing the family business, the time was right for a move to CNC. Stuart White said: “The work that we take on is often short-notice breakdown support or the production of small batches — say 50-off — for a range of customers involved in anything from servicing agricultural equipment to manufacturing electric motors and pharmaceutical products.

“Because of the nature of the work, we thought that our range of manual machines — combined with the experience and skills we have available — was ideal.

“However, I became aware that we were losing some business to competitors with CNC machines; and while it had been 20 years since I last operated a CNC machine, I knew we had to invest in this technology.”

With no recent experience of CNC machines, Stuart White sought the advice of a longstanding customer; he was invited in to see its XYZ ProtoTrak-controlled machines and talk with the operators.

“The opportunity to chat with guys on the shopfloor was certainly worthwhile. Although none of them had a vested interest in promoting the machines, no one had a bad word to say about XYZ; and seeing the ProtoTrak control in action convinced me that it was the best solution to take us from manual to CNC machining.”

Sheffield showroom

Encouraged by what he saw and heard, Stuart White paid a visit to the XYZ Machine Tools showroom in Sheffield (

Following a demonstration, he decided to buy an SLX 425 ProTurn lathe. With its 480mm swing over the bed (700mm in the gap), between centres distance of 1,250mm (2,000mm is an option), 80mm spindle bore, and 7.5kW spindle with speeds up to 2,500rev/min (in three speed ranges), the SLX is capable of taking on a lot of the work currently undertaken by JAW Engineering.

Stuart White says that by introducing CNC in the form of the ProtoTrak control, he is looking to future-proof the business, as finding skilled manual-machine operators is not easy.

“The ProtoTrak’s conversational interface makes the job of programming complex parts straightforward.

After just one day of training, I was happy to come back and start producing parts.

“The addition of CNC is allowing us to undertake more-complex work than we could previously; we are also more efficient, as the control speeds up operations that manually would take much longer, such as screw cutting.

“Moreover, repeatability is taken for granted; and by storing the programs, we can quickly repeat parts as and when they are required.”

Stuart White has also seen a change in the type of work that he is being offered by customers, now that he has a CNC capability; and while there will always be a place for manual machines in JAW Engineering’s repair-service work, the business is finding that new doors are opening in terms of production-type work.

“I don’t think we will ever completely move away from manual machines, but the experience with the XYZ ProTurn lathe has opened our eyes to the possibilities of CNC for a business like ours, as I am confident that anyone can operate these machines with a minimum of training.

There is now scope to expand our customer base and develop our sub-contract production capability further. We now have the confidence to expand further and bring in additional XYZ machines, whether with the ProtoTrak control or Siemens control.”

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