JAW Engineering has invested in CNC machining from XYZ to enhance its low volume sub-contract capacity and emergency breakdown support service.
Up until now, all the machining at the 30-year-old company had been carried out on manual machines, reliant on highly skilled operators, including company founder John White. Now, with John’s son Stuart taking on management of the family business, the time was right to look to the future and move to CNC.
“The work that we take on is often short notice breakdown support or the production of small batches, say 50-off, for a range of customers involved in anything from servicing agricultural equipment, to manufacturing electric motors and pharmaceutical products. Because of the nature of the work we thought that our range of manual machines combined with the experience and skills we have available was ideal. However, I became aware that we were losing some business to competitors with CNC machines and, while it had been 20 years since I last operated a CNC machine, I knew we had to invest,” says Stuart White, Director, JAW Engineering Limited.
With Stuart’s lack of recent experience in CNC he turned to a longstanding customer for advice, and was invited in to see first-hand, and talk with operators about their XYZ ProtoTRAK controlled machines. “The opportunity to chat with guys on the shopfloor, who had no axes to grind was fascinating as not one of them had a bad word to say about XYZ and seeing the ProtoTRAK control in action convinced me that it was the best solution to take us from manual to CNC machinery.” Encouraged by what he saw and heard, Stuart paid a visit to XYZ Machine Tools showroom in Sheffield for a demonstration and made the decision to purchase an SLX 425 ProTURN lathe. With its 480 mm swing over the bed (700 in the gap), between centre distance of 1250 mm (2000 mm option), 80 mm spindle bore, and a 7.5 kW spindle motor with speeds up to 2500 revs/min in three ranges, the SLX is capable of taking on a lot of the work currently undertaken by JAW Engineering.
By introducing CNC in the form of the ProtoTRAK control, Stuart White is looking to future-proof the business as finding skilled manual machine operators is not easy, but the ProtoTRAK’s conversational interface makes the job of programming complex parts straightforward. “After just one day’s training I was happy to come back and start producing parts,” says Stuart. “The addition of CNC is allowing us to do more complex work than we could previously, we are more efficient as the control speeds up operations that manually would take much longer, such as screwcutting. Repeatability is taken for granted and by storing the programs we can quickly repeat parts as and when they are required.”
Stuart has also seen a change in the type of work that he is being offered by customers now that he has CNC capability. And, while there will always be a place for manual machines in JAW Engineering’s role in providing a repair service for some customers, the business is finding that new doors are opening in terms of production-type work. “I don’t think we will ever completely move away from manual machines, but the experience with the XYZ ProTURN lathe has opened our eyes to the possibilities of CNC for a business like ours, which will future-proof JAW Engineering, as I am confident that anyone can operate these machines with minimal training. There is now scope to expand our customer base and develop our sub-contract production capability further. We now have the confidence to expand further and bring in additional XYZ machines, whether with the ProtoTRAK control or, with the Siemens control.”