Forward-looking investment programme

11 Feb 2019

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

Coventry-based aerospace subcontractor Arrowsmith Engineering has installed four new Doosan Lynx lathes and a Doosan DNM machining centre and is examining future automation using collaborative robots.

The new machines were installed at Arrowsmith’s 20,000 square foot facility in the latter half of 2018.

They are being used to machine a range of complex, high-precision parts for the aerospace sector - specifically aero-engine and aircraft braking system components. The parts are made from a variety of metals, including titanium, Nimonics, nickel-based alloys and magnesium to a high level of accuracy and surface finish requirements.

This significant machine tool investment was made following the completion of an extensive internal and external research programme, undertaken by Arrowsmith in partnership with an NCML (National Manufacturing Competitiveness Levels) Assessor, and separately with Cambridge Judge Business School, to review current performance and help direct future business growth.

Arrowsmith Engineering was established in 1967 and offers CNC turning, milling and grinding services to its customers. As well as producing and supplying machined parts in large and small batches, the company also offers NDT and pressure testing services. In addition to aerospace Arrowsmith also operates in the energy, nuclear and motorsport sectors.

The company experienced 46% growth last year which included a dramatic growth in export sales. By making significant and sustained investment in its plant, equipment, processes, systems and people Arrowsmith expects to achieve a further 20% growth in 2018.

Explains Jason Aldridge, Managing Director at Arrowsmith Engineering: “If you’re not investing in the future - you are moving backwards.

“We are part of the global aerospace supply chain and, as such, are competing every day with the very best manufacturing companies in the world. Everything we do is built around supplying our customers with high-quality machined parts…delivered on time and in budget.

“We assess and review our performance continually. If and where improvements can be made - we make them.”

This commitment to continuous improvement has seen the company make significant improvements and modifications to its facility that have included the creation of completely revamped and discrete production sections dedicated to turning, mill-turning and milling (including 5-axis) machining.

As part of its improvement programme Arrowsmith, in 2018, was selected to pilot the NCML programme and worked with a NCML assessor.

Says Jason Aldridge: “We worked with NCML to help improve our competitiveness and to ensure, in the future, that we were achieving the highest levels of customer satisfaction possible.

“Part of the process involved the NCML Assessor talking directly with our customers and to ascertain, from them, our strengths as well as areas that could be improved.”

Integral to working with NCML was Arrowsmith’s determination to retain its SC21 accreditation (which has been achieved), and to secure new business opportunities within the aerospace supply chain.

At the time the company was primarily involved in developing secure processes for machining standard aero-engine parts (M: Issue) but wanted to secure production contracts (F: Issue) to machine production parts.

“The NCML process was invaluable and identified a number of areas where improvements could (and should) be made,” says Mr Adridge.

“It’s one thing getting feedback - but another acting upon it. We were able to ascertain, from these discussions with customers, the type of machine tool technologies (including their manufacturer) that were favoured and endorsed. Doosan machine tools were mentioned (positively) a number of times.”

In addition to continued strategic investment in advanced machine tools Arrowsmith, as a route to further improve its productivity and operational efficiencies, is investigating how and where automation can be incorporated and integrated into its production processes.

The company is now in advanced discussions with Mills CNC and, in a partnership agreement between both companies, will soon be using Doosan Robotic collaborative robots (cobots) for machine tending operations, in its milling production area.