R&M Assembly, part of the R&M Electrical Group, has over 20-years’ experience in the assembly, modification and distribution of specialist power distribution and control systems for use in hazardous (explosive) environments, supplying a diverse range of customers across the oil & gas, nuclear, rail and marine sectors to name a few. A major advantage of R&M Assembly is its ability to provide bespoke systems in the shortest possible lead times. This brings its own challenges as it must overcome production bottlenecks caused by some manufacturing processes. Investment in new machining capacity has not only overcome these bottlenecks, but also enabled R&M Assembly to generate new business from existing and new customers.
“Our business model is a reactive one in which we have to respond quickly to demand from our suppliers and customers,” says R&M Assembly Division Manager Martin Goodall. “One of our main tasks is therefore to iron out peaks and troughs in production to deliver a managed service and where possible avoid any unexpected issues. The limited machining that we have to do is one of those areas as on a major project we may have over 2000 holes to drill and tap and we can only do that at a certain speed with our existing equipment. The option to outsource this work was considered, but the loss of control over deliveries and quality saw us look to expand our in-house capability.”
In order to justify the investment in new machining capacity, Martin Goodall had to identify efficiencies through in-depth time and motion studies and with limited machining experience he called on XYZ for assistance, in the form of Area Sales Manager Keith Ellis. The initial thought for Martin was to double up on an existing XYZ SMX 2500 bed mill as the control was familiar and easy to use. However, talking through the needs of R&M Assembly it became clear that to achieve the versatility and productivity a machine with a toolchanger and fourth-axis unit would bring greater benefits. “If we had gone with another SMX we wouldn’t have required any training and so would have made our life easier initially, but in conversation with Keith it became obvious that a step-up was required and the new XYZ 500 LR vertical machining centre would have a significant impact on how we do business.” R&M Assembly’s projections, based on a major customer project valued at £1 million suggested that the addition of the XYZ 500 LR would generate savings of up to six weeks in labour or £64,000 based on which the machine would have a payback period of just 16 weeks! “Our projections also indicated that the addition of the toolchanger would allow much greater unmanned operation freeing up operator time every day by as much as 6.5 hours, during which they could be doing other tasks,” says Martin Goodall.
These projected savings were enough to justify the investment in the machine, they then must be delivered upon. By maximising the capability and capacity of the XYZ 500 LR, with its 18hp/13kW, 8000 revs/min spindle, 12 position tool carousel and 510 x 400 x 450 mm of axis travel, combined with the agility of the linear rail technology on all axes, an immediate positive impact on efficiency was seen. Typically, a batch of 200 electrical junction boxes would take between two to three weeks to produce, with drilling and tapping multiple holes being the bottleneck. Now, by utilising the XYZ 500 LR the machining is completed in two days and the batch fully processed within a week. Machining efficiency has seen an 8-10 fold gain by re-inventing the processes to match the machine’s capabilities.
The benefits of investing in new machining capacity for the R&M Electrical Group go beyond simple cycle time savings and efficiencies though. The machine is being used as a sales tool to drive new business for the group and typical of this is its partnership with Hawke International, a major manufacturer of cable glands and electrical enclosures. “With the investment in the XYZ machine, Hawke has recognised our commitment and is supporting us as an extension to their manufacturing capability, allowing us to gain EAC certification, which will differentiate us from our competitors, all from buying an XYZ machine tool. The investment in the machine along with our relocation to new premises has allowed us to review many processes and techniques, this is seen as a sign of confidence, especially for customers servicing the oil & gas sector, which is coming out of its downturn, with those that are left being stronger and more efficient, and like us they have taken on challenges and diversified.”
The XYZ 500 LR is part of the recently introduced range of linear rail equipped machining centres from XYZ Machine Tools. The machines make use of the latest developments in linear rail technology that blends machine agility with machining capability, while providing a cost-effective entry into the world of vertical machining centres. These machines provide a natural progression or complementary solution for customers moving from manual or XYZ ProtoTRAK controlled machines. The LR range is in addition and complimentary to XYZ’s newly extend HD range of vertical machining centres, which continue to make use of the box slideway construction, offering greater capability and capacity when required.