West Midlands-based Mellish Engineering Services Ltd is reaping the benefits of investing in three new Doosan machines supplied by Mills CNC, the exclusive distributor of Doosan machine tools in the UK and Ireland (www.millscnc.co.uk).
These machines — a Mynx 6500/50 large-capacity vertical machining centre, a Puma 2600SY Mk II multi-tasking lathe and a compact high-performance DNM 4000 vertical machining centre — have been purchased to meet the growing demand for Mellish’s products and solutions from offshore and sub-sea drilling, production and processing equipment customers.
Installed at the family-owned company’s 26,000ft2
facility in Aldridge during August and September last year, they are being used to machine a range of high-precision performance-critical components — including bolts, pins, clamps, studs, nuts and washers — for standard and non-standard fasteners that are used extensively (but not exclusively) in the oil and gas industry.
The components are made from hard and difficult-to-machine materials such as duplex and super duplex stainless steels, carbon steel, titanium, Inconel and Monel and are machined to tight dimensional tolerances and high-quality surface finishes.
They can be produced in small batches (including one-offs) or larger volumes to suit customer requirements.
Mellish-made fastener systems and solutions are in high demand, thanks in no small part to the company achieving API (American Petroleum Institute) certification in 2017.
Managing director Mark Rattenberry said: “The global oil and gas industry has always been volatile, and oil price fluctuations are nothing new.
“However, the spectacular and rapid fall in oil prices — from a peak of $115 a barrel in June 2014 to under $35 at the end of February 2016 — had a serious knock-on effect on our business resulting in reduced sales revenues and an unwelcome squeeze on the company’s profitability.”
Instead of ‘battening down the hatches’, cutting its overheads and trying to ‘ride out’ the downturn, the company made the strategic decision to invest in its future.
Mr Rattenberry said: “We took a long-term view and looked at ways to increase our share of a relatively flat — and sometimes declining — market.
“A key decision we made was to gain API certification, which would not only differentiate us from our competitors but also position us as an approved quality supplier in a highly regulated sector where environmental and health-and-safety concerns are paramount.”
In 2017, Mellish achieved its ambition of gaining API Q1, API 20E and API 20F certification (it is one of only a handful of companies in Europe to achieve these standards).
Mr Rattenberry said: “API accreditation is the ‘gold standard’ — an internationally recognised and accepted kite-mark that has had a positive impact on sales.”
Since 2017, Mellish has experienced a marked increase in the number of companies from around the world making contact, enquiring about its solutions and ultimately placing orders.
To meet the growing demand for its fastener systems and solutions — and as part of its company-wide continuous-improvement programme — Mellish makes regular investments in its people, plant, equipment, processes and systems.
Mr Rattenberry said: “We are always looking at ways to increase our productivity and improve our performance; we regularly audit our manufacturing processes to see how — and where — they can be improved.
“Our future depends on us maintaining quality standards, meeting customer lead times and controlling costs. To help us do this, we invest in the latest machine tool technologies.”
The acquisition of the three new Doosan machines is evidence of Mellish’s continuous-improvement programme in action.
The Mynx 6500/50 is a rigid large-capacity box-guideway vertical machining centre with a large work envelope (travels of 1,270 x 670 x 625mm in X, Y and Z), a large work table (1,400 x 670mm) and a high-torque BT50 spindle (15kW/6,000rev/min).
It was purchased following a successful cutting trial at Mills CNC’s Technology Campus to demonstrate the machine’s ability to reduce cycle times when machining titanium tie-rod components.
Mr Rattenberry said: “The Mynx 6500/50 is ideal for heavy-duty machining operations, and for machining the hard materials we use to manufacture our fasteners.
“In the machining trial and the subsequent machining process developed by Mills, the cycle time for machining each titanium component was reduced by 15min.
“This improvement in productivity and the machine’s large work envelope, which we knew we could exploit to machine multiple parts in a single set-up, were the principal reasons why we purchased this machine.”
Since the Mynx was installed, Mellish has focused its efforts on optimising the machining process.
It has invested in a ‘state of the art’ manual pallet change system (with two pallets) that is positioned in front of the machine, enabling virtually continuous production with minimal operator intervention.
Meanwhile, the 10in chuck/76mm bar diameter Puma 2600SY Mk II is a versatile multi-tasking lathe with a Y axis, a sub-spindle and driven tools.
With the integrated mill/drill capabilities available, Mellish can machine small turned parts, such as studs and nuts, to completion in a single set-up.
It was supplied with a bar feeder to ensure continuous production.
Mr Rattenberry said: “The Puma 2600SY Mk II is a high-productivity lathe that has helped us to reduce cycle times, improve part accuracies — as components no longer need to be transferred between machines — and avoid production bottlenecks.”
The DNM 4000 is a compact high-performance (48m/min rapids) VMC with a direct-drive spindle (18.5kW/12,000rev/min) and a 20-position ATC.
It was supplied with a 4th-axis unit and is currently being used to machine a ‘family’ of small fastener parts. Mr Rattenberry said: “Despite its compact footprint, the DNM 4000 has impressed us with its cutting capabilities and performance.
“To improve the productivity of the machine, we have designed special-purpose fixtures that enable multiple parts to be machined in a single set-up.”
Mr Rattenberry concluded: “Our decision to go for API accreditation has been vindicated, and business is booming.
“We are focused on maintaining our market-leader status in the oil and gas industry, and capital investments such as those made in Doosan machine tools from Mills CNC will enable us to do this.”