Brand loyalty in the sliding head market

Five sub-contract machinists have installed more than 100 sliding-head machines of the same make

Posted on 29 Jan 2015 and read 2797 times
brand loyaltyEstablishing brand loyalty with customers is the ambition of every business, and it is one that Citizen Machinery UK Ltd has been able to achieve thanks to continuous improvement in its machine tool development programme. High levels of customer support, service and technical back-up have also played an important part.

UK companies that are benefitting from sliding-head machines from Bushey-based Citizen ( include Unicut Precision, Tenable Screw, Quality Turnings, FT Gearing and Quality Couplings; these firms have collectively installed more than 100 Citizen CNC sliding-head machines.

Moreover, they are reaping the benefits of machining complex and highly accurate multi-feature components in single-cycle operations and not limiting their machines to traditional sliding-head work — producing long and slender shaft-type work.

A prime example of a multiple Citizen user is Welwyn Garden City-based Unicut Precision, whose managing director Jason Nicholson has installed 35 Citizens since buying his first some 13 years ago.

He said: “We identified Citizen as the market leader in sliding-head technology, and this resulted in us buying our first machine from this manufacturer — an F12. Today, we still feel that Citizen leads in user-friendliness across its machine range, with notable advances in control technology and software. Also important is the machines’ high residual value, which supports our on-going investment; we routinely replace machines to benefit from the latest developments.”

Unicut has changed in the last four years. Before 2010, 85% of its business was based on responding to customers’ varied demands for sub 32mm-diameter work. Now, the company has a ‘partner-based operation’, which means that 70% of orders can be progressed against known criteria, and throughput can be planned effectively.

Machine diversity

Simon Schlaefli, managing director of £7.5 million-turnover Tenable Screw, claims to have the largest UK installed base of CNC sliding-head machines in the highly competitive sub-contract sector — no fewer than 54. Of these, 40 are Citizens; and with up to eight machines requiring re-setting each day, ease of use is essential.

“We have five high-specification, top-of-the-range Citizen M32s, and we have found this model to be the most versatile machine of its type currently available due to the combination of tool arrangement, programming flexibility, production capability and reliability.”

Mr Schlaefli has followed Citizen’s machine development programme closely since 1998, when he ordered his first machine. Since then, he has bought an array of models from the smallest capacity 07 micro-turning slider to the 32mm 80-tool 13-axis M Series.

The company’s most recent installation was the ‘first in the UK’ Citizen L12-Vl, which allows Tenable to quickly reset between guide bush configuration for longer parts and non-guide bush for shorter components. Furthermore, this machine’s ability to minimise the non-cutting time in a cycle enabled Tenable Screw to win a major European security contract for 300,000 short-length parts a year.

“This L12-Vll gave us a totally new level of competitiveness due its reduced idle times, enabling us to produce the part 15% faster than was previously possible.”


brand loyaltyCommon reasons given for maintaining brand loyalty are service and support, but frequently highlighted by Citizen users is the level of ‘future-proofing’ that allows work to be easily switched between different Citizen models.

Graham Fitzgerald, managing director of Aldershot-based FT Gearing, says this is an important capability and one of the reasons he selected Citizen as his firm’s machine partner for sub 32mm-diameter bar production.

To date, Mr Fitzgerald has installed nine Citizen machines to produce mostly high-value and complex aerospace components in difficult-to-machine materials. “We have a team of nine dedicated sliding-head engineers in our Citizen Group Technology and Skill Centre (GTSC); because of their total familiarity with the machines, they can quickly and easily program and tool up the different models in the range, using common holders and cutting tools.”

On certain jobs, FT Gearing can easily switch machines to run an urgent customer request. “With the implementation of GTSC, we have increased the collective output of our CNC sliding-head machines by 20%.”

Quality Turnings of Knowsley, owned by Sue and John Stephens, also has a ‘keep up with technology’ philosophy for its 16,000ft2 machine shop. The company has bought 18 Citizens since 1998, and 13 of its current total of 17 machines are Citizens — each fine-tuned to run round-the-clock. Moreover, with access to the latest machine developments, it can respond to the increasing trend of customers to re-shore work from the Far East to the UK.

Meanwhile, High Wycombe-based Quality Couplings — owned and managed by 90-year-old John Elliot — has five Citizens. He started with a pair of Citizen C-32s in 2005 to replace his ageing cam-driven machines. He said: “We were facing the spectre of a lack of setting skills, so we decided to go CNC and have never looked back.”

Mr Elliot eventually disposed of 11 cam machines, replacing them with two L20s at the end of 2013 and then adding the latest B16 for small-part turning. This machine helped him to win a contract for 3,000 valves from a UK customer that was also seeking to re-shore work — this time from America.

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