Although the oil and gas industry has always been volatile, there always used to be a familiar predictability to the boom and bust cycles. However, the landscape is now a lot more challenging with dramatic and erratic commodity price fluctuations, ambiguities concerning the future of fossil fuels and contentious global trade negotiations - let alone the impact and effects of the pandemic
The situation has resulted in many component manufacturers diversifying their operations to remain competitive. One such company is Tyne and Wear-based Washington Components Ltd
, a CNC machining, welding, fabrication and project management specialist, which has recently invested in two new, high-performance Doosan machine tools supplied by Leamington Spa-based Mills CNC
These machines, purchased in 2020 and installed at the company’s 1,400m2
facility, along with a Doosan Puma 700 purchased in 2019, have dramatically increased Washington Components’ machining capacity and capability.
The latest machine acquisition consists of a Doosan Puma TT 2100 SYY, a twin-turret, twin-spindle turning centre with dual Y-axis capabilities (pictured above) and a Doosan Mynx 7500/50, which is a powerful, large-capacity box guideway vertical machining centre. Both machines are equipped with advanced Fanuc controls and are backed by Mills CNC’s after-sales service and support.
Washington Components is focused on the machining and manufacture of high-quality, high-precision performance critical components and assemblies for a range of UK-based customers operating in the subsea and offshore markets and has achieved Tier One supplier status with a number of subsea hardware suppliers.
In addition to its CNC machining capabilities, the company provides customers with in-house coded welding (approved to ISO 3834) and project management services, as well as a range of integrated secondary services that the company sub-contracts out to its preferred supplier base, including non-destructive testing (NDT), positive material identification (PMI), painting, plating and load testing.Advanced, high-performance machine tools
The company has also built a reputation as a specialist in the machining of hard and difficult-to-machine materials including Inconels, Super Duplex, stainless 316L and S355J2+N (high tensile steel). Parts are machined by Washington Components to tight geometric tolerances and high surface finishes using a wide range of advanced, high-performance machine tools — a majority of which are Doosan machines supplied by Mills CNC.
Unusually for a company with fewer than 50 employees, Washington Components can also provide its customers with comprehensive coded welding services headed up by a welding coordinator, trained to CSWIP 3.2 (Level 3). The addition and integration of coded welding services has given the company another ‘string to its bow’.
Tony Sutherland, Washington Components’ managing director, said: “In order to maintain our competitive edge we have focused our efforts and resources on differentiation and on gaining share in a depressed market by ‘being the best we can possibly be’.
“This has meant developing and refining the range of services we provide — making them more flexible, more effective and better able to meet our customers’ quality requirements, stringent lead times and reducing budgets.”
To ensure the company was future-proofed, a comprehensive five-year business plan was drawn up, and implementation began in 2020. It aims to put the company on track to achieve 100% growth over the five-year period (2020-2025), and includes a strategic capital equipment investment programme, part of which, is focused on the acquisition of advanced machine tool technologies.
Mr Sutherland said: “The plan is important. It directs all of our efforts and makes sure everyone at the company is pulling in the same direction. Running through it is our commitment to continuous improvement and the ways that, through investing in our people, our plant and equipment, and our processes and systems, we can become leaner, more agile and achieve our business growth targets.”
Part of the plan focused on Washington Components’ existing machining capabilities and identified where additional expenditure and resources would be required to increase capacity and strengthen performance as a route to winning new business and improving competitiveness.
Specific areas highlighted for immediate attention involved the company’s small turned parts and its large milling capabilities.
Mr Sutherland continued: “Our bar feed section, comprising eight lathes, needed an overhaul. Some of the machines, although still performing satisfactorily and running efficiently, were not effective at producing parts at the lower costs expected from customers.
“We believed that investing in a new multi-tasking turning centre equipped with Y-axis and driven tooling would significantly increase the performance of the whole section.”
“We also needed to increase our milling capabilities. We knew that an investment in a new, large-capacity, heavy-duty machining centre would not only help us improve our ability to fulfill machining contracts with our existing customers but could also be used to win new work.”
The company spent time researching the market and drawing up detailed specifications for a new multi-tasking turning centre and a new large-capacity vertical machining centre. Washington Components is no stranger to Mills CNC or to Doosan machine tool technologies.
Over the years the company has invested in a number of Doosan lathes and milling machines — 13 of its fourteen CNC machines are Doosans supplied by Mills CNC.
Mr Sutherland said: “We naturally investigated the market to identify the best machine tool package and deals available and in both instances Mills CNC came out on top.
“We have a great relationship with Mills and believe that the Doosan machines they sell and support are, from our perspective, difficult to beat on performance and price. The fact that Doosan machines are backed by Mills’ after-sales service is a real positive too.”
The TT 2100SYY is an 8in chuck/65mm bar diameter twin-turret/twin spindle turning centre with dual Y-axis capabilities on its upper and lower turrets. The machine is fast, powerful, highly-productive and versatile and enables small precision parts to be machined to completion in a single set-up.
The machine was installed with an integrated bar feed to optimise production and since installation it has been used to machine, in relatively high volumes, a range of small, complex precision parts up to 30mm in diameter. It is now located in the company’s revamped bar feed section, where it is located adjacent to two additional manufacturing cells, each comprising a Doosan Lynx 220 lathe and a Doosan Puma 2600 lathe — supplied by Mills CNC.
Mr Sutherland added: “The new TT 2100SYY is now the centrepiece of the bar feed section and, such is its speed, reliability and flexibility, that it has enabled us reduce the number of machines in the section - from eight down to five.
“Since installation the machine, which I believe was one of the first dual Y-axis turning centres to be installed in the UK, has performed well — exceeding our own very high expectations.”
Meanwhile, the Mynx 7500/50 (pictured left) is a powerful, large-capacity vertical machining centre that has a rigid box guideway construction and a high-torque spindle with a BT50 (Big Plus) spindle/tooling interface. The machine is designed for heavy-duty machining applications and is renowned for its high-material removal rates and for its ability to machine tough and difficult materials.
It is being used to machine large offshore components in small volumes and batches. These parts are characterised by their tight tolerances, superior surface finish requirements and intricate and complex features. Many of these parts are machined on the Mynx 7500/50 after welding operations have been completed.
Mr Sutherland explained: “We were initially looking at a smaller Doosan DNM vertical machine to improve our milling capabilities but on closer inspection, and from talking over our requirements with Mills engineers, decided to go for the larger and more powerful Mynx machine.
“The Mynx 7500/50 is a true workhorse that delivers consistent, high material removal rates day in day out. It has proven to be a great acquisition.”
Mills CNC holds many machines in stock at its Campus facility in Leamington Spa - ready for immediate delivery. Even with non-stocked machines the average waiting time for machine delivery is short - typically between two to six weeks.
On a final note, installing new machines can be a real headache for manufacturers and can cause significant disruption to their production schedules — the delivery and installation of Washington Components’ new machines involved the movement of 12 machines. The whole exercise was completed in just three days.