Sliding-Head Lathe Reliability And Back-Up Are Paramount
News Release from:
Star Micronics GB Limited
25 January 2011
In a profitable turned parts manufacturing business, the most important thing is to keep the spindles running. This in turn means that lathes must have a high level of reliability and when a problem does occur, the machine supplier's response must be rapid and effective. Martin Lane, Managing Director of Wilco Manufacturing, Birmingham, says that this is exactly what he gets from Star GB.
Wilco was established in 1940 as a subcontractor serving the automotive industry, principally the Rover Group, and by the mid-1990s over 90 per cent of the company's turnover was in the automotive sector. Partly thanks to the versatility of Star sliding-headstock lathes, this proportion has dropped to 30 per cent following diversification mainly into hardware, yellow goods, hydraulics and leisure.
The subcontractor's current tally of Star sliding-head CNC lathes is 14 and the reliability of all of them, even the early models installed in 2003, has been exemplary. The worst that has happened has been the odd spindle belt replacement and worn power tool motor and in every case the situation was resolved quickly. The result has been very low repair bills over the years, coupled with high machine uptime, 24/7.
We have considerable confidence in Star's after-sales service, which was especially important at the outset when we were new to sliding-head lathes, said Mr Lane.
The depth of knowledge of their engineers is impressive and the assistance we received on the applications side in the early days was crucial to our successful entry into this technology. Telephone back-up was, and continues to be, particularly good.
Wilco's policy is to offer customers a diverse service in three areas: (i) complexity of component produced, from a simple dowel to a complicated turn-milled part; (ii) the batch sizes it is prepared to undertake, which range from less than 500 to 500,000 off; and (iii) quick delivery, either kan-ban, to schedule or discrete orders.
It was with this in mind that in 2003 the company started supplementing its 100 or so single- and multi-spindle cam automatics and fixed-head CNC lathes with sliding-headstock, multi-axis turning centres of various capacities up to 32 mm diameter.
In addition to broadening the scope of its manufacture, the other driving force behind the acquisitions was to eliminate costly secondary operations performed on conventional drilling and milling machines and capstan lathes in order to reduce manufacturing costs and improve product quality.
So, when evaluating the available sliding-headstock lathes on the market, particular attention was paid to the power and speed of the driven tool stations and of the sub-spindle for reverse end-working. It was this that led to the selection of Wilco’s three original Star SR-20RII lathes, which at the time offered 25 per cent more power on the five driven cross-working tools than other machines on the market.
Mr Lane confirmed that between the first Star machine arriving and the installation of the next two, in excess of £100,000 of new work was won as a direct result of having sliding-headstock turn-milling capability. Securing new business has continued unabated ever since.