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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Subcontractor plans customer partnerships to expand FMS on two fronts
Article Type: Aerospace technology From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 21, Issue 6
Lancashire contract machinist, Clitheroe Light Engineering, is planning a further major extension to its FMS, which it has operated its since 2006, to increase capacity for general engineering contracts. It is also considering an additional FMS specifically to fulfil aerospace work.
Chris Wilkinson, a director of the company, commented, “Using a Fastems multi-level pallet store to interconnect one of our pre-existing Daewoo machining centres with two similar Mori Seiki machines has transformed our efficiency, delivery times and competitiveness when quoting for new contracts.”
“Due to our ability to use 24/7 unmanned running to keep production costs down while maintaining high quality, we are now regularly winning work back from the Czech Republic that we lost a few years ago.”
“Going down the FMS route has made the difference between having to accept low-margin work and establishing our company as one of the pre-eminent subcontractors in the North West of England.”
To substantiate its claims, Clitheroe Light Engineering points to considerable investment over the last few years, amounting to several million pounds. The factory has been extended and renovated and the Fastems FMS has been doubled in size to 34 m in length, holding 72 pallets that can be routed to any machine. A further Mori Seiki with 240 tools is on order and is due for delivery later this year.
All four machining centres in the FMS will be four-axis models and there will remain a space for one further machine. The beauty of the open architecture of the Fastems FMS design is that any make of horizontal-spindle, half-metre-cube machine of three-, four- or five-axis configuration could be added to the system.
Mr Wilkinson said that the fifth machine space is on offer to any potential company that is able to commit to providing ongoing work, whatever the industry sector. The subcontractor is prepared to invest in any type of machine that the potential customer specifies, if they have a preference.
For example, a manufacturer may have a particular type of machining centre on its own shop floor. To have an identical machine at Clitheroe Light Engineering to accommodate overflow work would facilitate swapping programs and production between the two facilities.
Specifically with aerospace manufacturers and their tier one suppliers in mind, which like to keep production of their components separate from parts machined by subcontractors for other industries, Mr Wilkinson points out that there is space at one end of the extended Clitheroe factory to house a stand-alone, two-machine FMS.
The subcontractor has already had meetings with a number of aerospace companies, including two original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), about installing two 630 mm-cube machining centres linked by a 36-pallet Fastems store. The manufacture of both structural and engine components is under discussion.
Mr Wilkinson concluded, “We are able to offer customers high availability of our FMS because the capital equipment suppliers guarantee impressive levels of uptime – typically 96 per cent in the case of the machine tools and 99 per cent for the Fastems equipment.”
“Once the fifth machine has been added to our existing FMS, it is our intention to upgrade the system further with the addition of an external tool store for 900 cutters. They will then be freely available via a gantry exchange system to any machine within the system.”
“This will increase flexibility further and reduce tooling costs, as we will need fewer cutters specific to particular machines and a reduced number of sister tools for unattended operation.” (Figures 11 and 12).
Details are available from: Clitheroe Light Engineering, Tel.: +44 (0)1200 422707. Fax: +44 (0)1200 425517.