The company originally started as a service-based organisation, repairing and upgrading a broad range of profile cutting machinery. It was the experiences gained working on such a varied range of equipment that formed the basis of the current machine range. Dan Taylor, Managing Director, explains the transition to machine building, “We have a considerable amount of experience in the industry and we could see which machine configurations gave the best and most reliable performance. The machines that we build here in the workshop in Rochdale have been designed by our team of engineers which, with Kerf being completely independent, means that we can select best in class products for our turnkey solutions from leading global partners such as Lincoln Electric and Burny.”
In addition to offering a standard range of profile cutting machines, Kerf works with its customers to specify a bespoke machine that matches their own individual application. They design and build machines up to 4m wide with a combination of plasma and oxy-fuel heads and of any length. The smallest machine the company have supplied has a working area of 2.5mx 1.25m. The largest has a huge working area of 40m x 4m with multiple bridges.
A choice of plasma systems can be supplied with the machines ranging in cut capability from 1mm right the way through to 90mm. For oxy-fuel applications machines can cut up to 150mm thick as standard or considerably more if the application requires it.
As part of their continued development, Kerf needed to evaluate the capabilities of various CADCAM and nesting systems as this was becoming an ever-increasing requirement from its customers. Following evaluation of several of the leading systems the one that came out on top for the engineering team at Kerf was the Lantek Expert system.
As a world leader in software for the sheet metal and fabrication sector Lantek now has over 24,800 customers in over 100 countries and 20 offices in 14 countries. Its Expert software is supported by a team of engineers in the UK and is developed at the company’s Technological Excellence Centre in Bilbao, Spain. For Kerf Developments, Lantek has trained Kerf’s engineers so that they can provide training and first line support. Dan Taylor says, “All our field service engineers have a copy of Lantek Expert software as part of their toolbox so that they can provide an instant response to any queries. Lantek provides regular and valuable updates to the software and are always on hand to provide online support to fine tune systems to work in line with our customers’ needs.”
For offline programming of the cutting machines, CAD data can be imported directly into Lantek Expert, parts nested on the material to optimise usage and the cutting path automatically created, providing a very fast and simple way of keeping the machine running, achieving high productivity levels and short delivery times.
As part of the collaboration, Lantek has worked closely with the engineering team at Kerf to perfect its UltraSharp technology which delivers high quality parts with a square edge, better quality edges and 1:1 hole sizes, for example, a 5mm hole in 5mm material, a capability which would previously have been impossible on a plasma machine. For the user, this capability makes it possible to use much lower cost plasma technology rather than laser technology to manufacture parts and is especially effective for thicker components. Dan Taylor adds, “The UltraSharp technology involves internally enhanced software protocols, accelerating and decelerating the torch dynamics on tight contours and holes, controlling the power, gas pressure and flow, amongst other things, and also automatically selecting special lead in and lead out configurations. The result is a constant and true arc with no lag between the top and bottom of the material being cut. All the parameters required to achieve this are built into our technology tables making it easy to achieve high quality components direct from the CAD data.”
One of Kerf Developments’ customers, Pressed Flights based in Littleborough, manufactures screw conveyors. The shape of the screw in its flat state is complex and, in many cases, varies along the length of the screw depending on the material being transported.
Previously, these parts were subcontracted for laser and waterjet cutting. Now, the company has a Kerf RUR2500p machine with UltraSharp cutting technology and Lantek’s software and carries out all the cutting in house achieving ± 0.25mm general tolerance. Mark Cryer, Managing Director at Pressed Flights says, “It is one of the best investments we have made. We transfer CAD data directly into Lantek, nest the parts for best yield, easily and quickly generating the CNC program. The Kerf UltraSharp plasma is very reliable producing augers which are spot on in size, it is a vital part of our operation. After sales service is excellent from both companies.”
Dan Taylor concludes, “The 14-year collaboration with Lantek has enabled us to deliver industry leading technology to our customers as part of our turnkey machine packages configured to meet the demands of each client’s business. Our focus is on providing excellent service, as it has been from the start. Lantek has the same mindset making it a valuable partner for the delivery of a full process offering.”
To learn more about Lantek follow this link: www.lanteksms.com
18th September 2020The past four decades has seen considerable development in the metal cutting process with a range of oxy-fuel, plasma, waterjet and laser cutting machines able to cut materials from 1mm galvanised sheet through to 300mm thick mild steel. Each process has its role to play in the cost-effective manufacture of a wide range of products.
Founded over 30 years ago in a small ‘shed’, CLH Trailers has grown into one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of trailers for the agricultural, fishing, marine, sport, leisure and farming industries.
As the product range has grown, so has the factory, staff levels and investment in technology – with the latest addition to the plant list being a plasma cutting machine from Rochdale manufacturer Kerf Developments.
Located in the picturesque village of Saint Clears, between Camarthen and West Wales holiday hotspot Tenby, the 15 employee business manufactures hundreds of trailers every year; and with anything from 50 to 200+ components in each trailer, productivity and precision are critical for CLH Trailers.
With a burning desire to keep moving the business forward, Managing Director Mr Chris Hussell and shop floor foreman of over 20 years, Mark Reynolds started looking at available options for cost savings and productivity enhancements. Taking up the story, Mr Reynolds says: “First and foremost, we wanted to buy British. We looked for a viable option and we realised that laser cutting wasn’t suited to our business whereas plasma was a perfect fit. We found several vendors and we then spoke with customers for their testimonials.
First and foremost, we wanted to buy British. We looked for a viable option and we realised that laser cutting wasn’t suited to our business whereas plasma was a perfect fit
Out of the UK manufacturers, it was Kerf that had a reputation above all others. This reputation was backed by their customer approach and of course, the quality and productivity of their demonstrations. We were about to purchase a RUR 2500p plasma machine with a 4 by 2m bed – and then the pandemic hit.
We initially put the order on hold, but as the lockdown continued and we retained a steady level of business, we realised that the potential benefits of the Kerf plasma would send our business on a forward trajectory, so we finalised the order during the pandemic and the machine was delivered in July.”
I wanted a machine with a robust build quality that is capable of running all day, every day
Primarily cutting black steel and aluminium in thicknesses from 1.5mm to 25mm, CLH Trailers specified the RUR2500p machine with the user friendly Burny 10 LCD CNC controller, the powerful 275amp Lincoln Spirit II 275 plasma unit and Lantek software to drive the high-definition UltraSharp cutting technology.
Building a new factory unit specifically for the new Kerf machine, Managing Director, Chris Hussell says: “I wanted a machine with a robust build quality that is capable of running all day, every day. The Kerf machine certainly gives us that. The plasma unit can cut steel beyond 60mm thick, which is more than we need and the precision, repeatability and edge finishes are exceptional. We predict that the machine will pay for itself in less than 2 years.”
"The Kerf plasma will profile and cut the holes in less than 10 minutes with far superior precision"
Looking closer at how the new Kerf plasma will create such significant savings, Mr Reynolds continues: “As a business, we typically have 6 staff manufacturing parts to complete an average throughput of two trailers each day. The majority of parts require guillotining, notching, drilling, grinding, corner rounding, bending and welding before galvanising".
"Each of these processes can be slow and labour intensive; and with each subsequent operation, there is an increased opportunity for error and potential scrappage. With the Kerf machine, we can do many of these operations in a single set-up. Going forward, this will free-up at least two employees for other tasks. A labour saving of at least £40k is great; but equally important for a company in a rural area is that the plasma allows us to grow the business whilst re-distributing the highly skilled staff we have.”
Providing a practical example of savings, the mudguards on each trailer are processed in quantities of 6 to 8 from an 8 by 4ft sheet of 1.5mm thick black steel.
“The batch of mudguards would take 10 minutes to cut on a guillotine, then another 10 minutes on our variable angle notching machine followed by another 10 minutes for marking and subsequent drilling with the final process before bending being the grinding and rounding of the corners, which takes another 5 minutes. If you add to this total of 35 minutes additional time to move the mudguards from machine to machine and position the parts in jigs, you’re looking at over 40 minutes".
"The Kerf plasma will profile and cut the holes in less than 10 minutes with far superior precision. Not only does the Kerf machine reduce our cycle times by more than 75%, but it also removes the opportunity for operator error, improves quality and consistency, eliminates hand finishing and frees-up capacity from existing machines.”
“We’ve only had the Kerf machine a matter of weeks and it has already lightened the workload of our staff and our machines, streamlining our production. Our guillotine was working for over 4 hours a day, now it's only used for an hour a day.”
Manufacturing ATV, livestock, flatbed, beavertail, container, motorbike, boat, tipper, tilt-bed, signage, car transporter and camping trailers to name a few, each design can have beyond 200 components.
At present, the Kerf high-definition plasma is only cutting 15-20 different components, something that will rapidly change, as Mark states: “Our designs and aesthetics were limited by our machine capabilities and also a limited appetite for innovative designs from the ‘function-first’ approach of the agricultural sector.
The Kerf machine opens up a world of opportunity to re-design trailers for improved aesthetics, functionality, light-weighting and even the potential for reduced components and shorter assembly times. The mudguards are one component that we have already re-designed to improve the aesthetics, reduce material usage and weight, and also offer a wider range of shapes and sizes.
This is the first demonstration of how we can move our designs forward to create a greater appeal among the consumer market.”
Another example of design for manufacture and aesthetics is the winch post for boat trailers. Previously manufactured from three pieces of 5mm thick steel that are each cut to size, punched, notched and then jigged for welding; each winch post takes 30 minutes to produce – a time only achieved when efficiently processing in batches of 20+.
“The capabilities of the Kerf machine have allowed us to redesign the winch posts and these are now profiled with holes in less than 2 minutes with an additional minute for second-op bending,” continues Mark.
“We have also re-designed the hinge assemblies for loading gates on agricultural trailers. We produce over 40 of these thin long parts every month and they were cut and punched before welding two gudgeon pins to each hinge. The gudgeon pins were made externally, so by re-designing the hinge assemblies we have eliminated the requirement, cost and lead time of the gudgeon pins".
"Most importantly, the cycle time has been cut from six minutes per part to 30 seconds. The hinges are a perfect example of how the capabilities and precision of the Kerf machine has enabled us to redesign an existing part to eliminate subcontract costs, reduce cycle times, reduce material requirements and reduce the weight of the part. Additionally, I can set the RUR2500p to cut 40 hinges and leave the machine running to do other tasks. Essentially, the Kerf machine is giving me more time to be productive elsewhere and even look at other opportunities for the business.”
The Kerf machine has only been here a short while and we are already doing decorative wrought iron fencing, cutting letters and signage and much more."
Looking to the future, CLH Trailers Managing Director, Chris says: “We have always undertaken an element of subcontract metalworking and fabrication, but now we can extend this significantly. The Kerf machine has only been here a short while and we are already doing decorative wrought iron fencing, cutting letters and signage and much more".
"The potential of the Kerf machine is huge. Equally significant are the savings. On top of the labour and cycle time savings, the reduced waste and added capacity throughout our facility has been hugely noticeable in a short period. But, one of the biggest savings for us will be on the material. We order 6 tonnes of sheet steel every month and an additional 4-5 tonnes of box section, up to 30% of this is wasted in off-cuts that are sent back for recycling.”
“With the Kerf plasma we have already taken our material utilisation from 70% to 85% and the more familiar we become with the machine, the more material and costs we will save. This is a credit to the Lantek software and UltraSharp cutting technology that nests the parts in very close proximity to minimise waste".
"Furthermore, we can use off-cuts from larger parts to nest and produce small batches of smaller parts such as brackets, making sure we waste minimal amounts of material. With thanks to Kerf, we are very excited about the future of our business. It is great to see two UK manufacturers supporting each other, developing relationships and successfully rising to the challenge of the current economic climate,” concludes Chris.
Like many small start-ups, P.P. Profiles Ltd was a business conceived in a remarkably small building. In this case, a basement of a cotton mill in Walkden, Greater Manchester.
43 years and the profile and processing company has bought a plasma and flame cutting machine from Kerf Developments that, at 39 m in length, wouldn't fit in most factories, let alone the basement of a cotton mill.
Almost as soon as the business started, it generated immediate success that brought the formation of P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd in 1978, a company that has moved twice down the years before settling in its current 70,000 sq/ft site in Batley. Over the last four decades, the subcontract manufacturer has built a reputation for providing cutting solutions for carbon steel, stainless steel and a range of additional materials in the nuclear, oil and gas, construction, rail, bulk handling, food, water and waste, storage tank and yellow goods industries.
The 40-employee business produces anything from one-offs to small and large batch runs that range from small components to the extremely large.
To get a scale of the workload at the heavy engineering business, it is processing an average of 400 to 500 tonnes of steel every month, almost 40 percent of this material is run through the new Kerf RUR4500. It is this reliance on the Kerf Plasma and Flame cutting machine that justified its acquisition. The level of investment at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd now stands at more than £2m in the last two years.
The reason behind the investment in the colossal Kerf RUR4500 was due to two older 12 m by 2.5 m flame cutting machines and a 6 m plasma machine proving unreliable, creating an inefficient workflow.
Commenting upon the acquisition of the Kerf RUR4500 machine, P.P. Profiles(West Yorkshire) Ltd commercial director, Daniel Morley says: “We specified the Kerf RUR4500 with a single high definition 400 A plasma cutting, head on a 12 m by 4 m bed and a two-machine 24 m by 4 m bed that consists of both a 6-head and a 4-head flame cutting gantry, all in a single 39 m by 4 m cell. This allows us to load much larger jobs and it has opened us up to new markets, as parts over 12 m long parts are not uncommon."
The arrival of the Kerf RUR4500 machine made the previous two flame and one plasma machine surplus to requirements, reducing the required floor area and drastically improving efficiency and workflow.
Referring to the savings, Daniel Morley says: "Anybody wishing to not only survive but thrive in the UK manufacturing sector must have efficiency at the forefront of their minds and prior to the arrival of the Kerf RUR4500, we had to run a late shift and a night shift. The Kerf machine cell instantly eradicated the need for extra shifts and we now only work a day shift.
This is because each of the three previous machines required loading, material processing, unloading the steel sheets that could be up to 12 m long and then cutting the sheet remnants into smaller sized quantities for scrap disposal. This would be very labour intensive and alI happening when the machine was not cutting. Our crane operator would be feeding three machines with material instead of just one.”
"Now, we have four people running the three machines within the Kerf RUR4500 cell. There are operators running each of the two flame cutting gantries and another operator on the plasma machine. Feeding the Kerf machine is a crane operator that organises and sorts material flow as well as ensuring the three machines are always loaded with material, he also removes the plate remnants. This workflow configuration has reduced our processing times by at least 50 percent.”
"The 50 percent time saving is credit to having the ability to pendulum load and process our workflow. This means we can cut steel plates on the extremely large bed and whilst this process is ongoing, the crane operator can load the next plate. So, as soon as the machine has cut one plate, it can move on to the next. This eliminates non-cutting times and slashes setup times. During cutting times. the crane operator is constantly loading and unloading plates to ensure all three stations are constantly running. As the new Kerf plasma head is running on a 12 m bed compared to the previous 6m bed, the benefits of pendulum loading, and unloading are particularly pertinent on this station.”
The typical lead times at P.P. Profiles (West Yorkshire) Ltd are three to five days. However, the Kerf installation has eliminated bottlenecks, improved workflow and scheduling and given the company the facility to react much faster to customer demands. On top of this, the ability to service sectors where rush jobs and breakdowns are frequent is crucial to PP Profiles, so having machinery that hinders this is not an option.
Daniel Morley continues: "Machine uptime and service are critical to our business. We bought a Kerf water-jet machine over 10 years ago and the support has been outstanding. We have machines from several suppliers and the service from Kerf is something that any company could learn from. If we ever have an issue, Kerf will get an engineer out straight away and the problem is always resolved in less than 24 hours. What is equally impressive is the customer care, Kerf will regularly call us or pop-in to check everything is running smoothly. It is just excellent service and customer care."
As well as previously experiencing frequent breakdowns, the other reason for investing in the Kerf machine was quality and consistency. "We found with our old flame cutting machines that dimensions were susceptible to drifting during cutting and this could lead to re-working and scrap parts. While the Kerf flame machines can cut beyond 300 mm thick material, we are generally cutting up to 150 mm plate and at these dimensions, drift was possible in all axes. The Kerf RUR4500 has eliminated this issue," Daniel Morley explains.
He concludes: "The Kerf RUR4500 has delivered everything we wanted and more. It has streamlined our workflow, reduced labour requirements, improved machine utilisation and uptime by 50 percent and it has improved productivity by over 20 percent. Additionally, we have a reliable, well supported machine that is very accurate with the UltraSharp cutting technology and that gives us the confidence to take on any future challenges."
Kerf Developments Ltd
Tel: 01706 757 670
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.kerf.flywheelstaging.com
To realise its ambitions of being the UK’s leading independent profiling and processing company, the P.P. Group has consolidated its business interests by bringing its three manufacturing facilities in Salford, Gorton and St Helens, under one roof - a brand new 110,000sq/ft 6-acre site in Oldham. Moving to its new factory in 2017, the £9m investment included a 36m oxy-fuel and plasma cutting cell from Kerf Developments.
The significant investment is a testament to the success of a business that has a 5% 'book debt' limit on its client base. By limiting and spreading the risk ratio of its client base, the company has continually evolved to a position that it is now profiling, processing, fabricating and welding beyond 12,000 tonnes of steel every year. To emphasise how central the Kerf RUM4500g oxy-fuel and RUM4500p high-definition plasma cutting machine has become the strategy for continued growth; the machine is processing over 400 tonnes of steel each month. This equates to almost 40% of the material that passes through the doors of the 100 employee company.
Discussing the installation of the Kerf RUM4500 cell, P.P. Group Managing Director, Mr Peter McCabesays: " In our previous factories we had 9 by 4m plasma cutting machine for processing steel up to 40mm thick and a 22 by 5m flame cutting machine for materials up to 200mm thick. The machines were more than 10 years old, they were unreliable and this was compounded by poor service and support. Additionally, the machines were expensive to run, not particularly user-friendly and the machine configuration didn't suit pendulum loading. We made the business decision not to bring the machines to the new factory. We looked at replacing them with a more efficient, productive, cost-effective and user-friendly solution. Kerf Developments had exactly what we were looking for."
With plasma and flame cutting being central to business activities, getting the most suitable machine was critical. The bespoke production cell configuration selected by the P.P. Group was a 12m by 3.5m bed with a RUM4500p single gantry 400amp Lincoln Electric high definition plasma cutting head with UltraSharp cut technology and a 24m by 3.5m table with two RUM4500g gantries, each with four oxy-fuel flame cutting heads – all on a single platform. This single bed configuration has streamlined workflow and improved throughput whilst the 8 oxy-fuel heads have improved productivity by more than 35%.
"Since we installed the Kerf RUM4500 system, the cell has been operating 24 hours a day and 6 days a week, it is a major contributor to our growth. If it's not burning, it's not earning. Prior to the Kerf installation, we didn't have the confidence to sell our capacity as the old machines were inefficient, unreliable and the machine beds were too high. Our business has grown by 10% in the year since we moved to the new factory and the Kerf cutting cell is a major contributor to this growth."
The Kerf RUM system has a larger bed than the previous two machines combined and it is positioned at an ergonomically suitable height that makes loading and unloading convenient for operators. The large bed also allows the company to conduct pendulum cutting, this enables staff to load one plate or unload parts while the machine is cutting another plate. This immediately reduces processing times by 50%. The 12m bed section of the Kerf plasma cuttiing machine was designed purely for pendulum cutting, as carbon steel plates are supplied in 6m lengths as standard.
"The Kerf system has reduced cycle times by 50% due to the facility for pendulum cutting. The Burny 10 LCD CNC control unit is very easy to use and it makes programming profiles fast and efficient. The kinematics of the Kerf machine combined with the Burny 10 control and the Ultrasharp cutting technology enables us to nest our parts with precision and proximity that wasn't previously feasible. This is reducing our waste material and allowing us to cut more parts from each plate."
"The Ultrasharp technology has also improved surface finishes on cut profiles and this has drastically reduced hand finishing operations. One operator would previously be spending 4-5 hours a day hand finishing parts and this is no longer necessary. Added to this saving, the efficiency of the Kerf machine has reduced our consumable consumption by at least 30%. We cannot praise Kerf highly enough. The service has been exceptional and we have the confidence in the machine and the Kerf support to build our profiling capacity around this machine. The Kerf RUM4500 cell has delivered productivity gains, throughput efficiency, labour and consumable savings and cost reductions. We couldn't ask for anything more from an equipment supplier."
When engineer and innovator Alun Hobbs identified an opportunity to revolutionise butterfly valves over 12 years ago, his previous employer was reluctant to follow the opportunity. With a steely determination and belief in his design, Alun set-up Hobbs Valve to serve the demands of the offshore, power generation and general industrial application sectors.
Engineered to perform, the patented triple offset butterfly valves from Hobbs Valve provide a more efficient, innovative, safe and cost effective solution that reduces downtimes and maintenance times and eliminates leaks for the end user.
Over a decade after the founding of the business, the seal designs that incorporate patented seat and seal technology to enhance reliability are the bedrock of Hobbs Valve success.
This success has seen the Caerphilly entrepreneur expand the original business concept with Hobbs Valve now being part of the Great British Valve Group, which also encompasses Hobbs Precision Engineering, Cambrian Valves Ltd and HVG Techno.
Founded as a subcontract machining business to primarily serve the production of valve components for Hobbs Valve, Hobbs Precision Engineering has recently invested in a high precision Optima 320 twin head waterjet cutting machine from Kerf Developments.
The founding of the Hobbs Precision Engineering division was borne out of the necessity to reduce substantial subcontract machining costs for Hobbs Valves, creating an opportunity to manufacture valve components in-house.
The South Wales Group has built upon its newly formed subcontract facility, adding abrasive waterjets to its machining capability with the arrival of the 3m by 2m Optima waterjet cutter.
With three variants in the valve range that include lugged valves, double block & bleed valves and Cryo valves, Hobbs Valve manufactures, assembles and supplies more than 3000 triple offset butterfly valves every year.
With more than 40 machined parts per valve and hundreds of variants, the machine shop cut process has reduced average lead-times from 12 weeks to just 4 since it was founded. The Optima 320 twin head waterjet machine has further reduced these lead times since its recent introduction
Identifying why the company opted for a water jet cutting machine, Hobbs Precision Engineering Machine Shop Manager, Mr Craig Llywellyn says:
“We identified that we could produce over 1500 clamp ring parts in-house every year, something that would reduce our subcontract reliance, valve unit costs and improve overall production scheduling and lead-times - and the intrinsic properties of the high pressure water jet was the only feasible option for our components.
Laser cutting or plasma cutting would introduce heat to our components and with complete certification, traceability and standardised conformity of all constituent valve parts from the steel mill through manufacturing to delivery; heat introduction would impact the properties and conformity of our parts. We investigated the options and the Kerf Optima 320 had the best build quality, software, productivity performance and value for our business.”
The clamp ring components are manufactured from aluminium bronze and a range of stainless steels that vary from 316 to super duplex with dimensions from 50 to 1200mm diameter in thicknesses from 4 to 12mm. “By brining production of clamp ring parts in-house, we have reduced our subcontracting costs by over £30,000 per year.
Furthermore, we have gained greater control over our processes and quality whilst reducing our lead-time for these parts from 4 weeks to just 1 day. Triple offset butterfly valves are bespoke products are not volume manufactured. The ability to stock material and produce high-quality clamp rings when required gives us the flexibility, cutting speed and reaction time required for components that are produced in volumes from 1 to 10-off.”
Already identifying £30,000 subcontract cost reductions through the Kerf Optima 320, Hobbs Precision Engineering has now applied the machine to the production of end plates for the butterfly valves
We are achieving all this and the machine still has a long way to go before reaching capacity. We are now looking at other Hobbs Valve components that can be cut on the waterjet to contribute to further savings. Beyond that, we are also selling the waterjet capacity to create an additional profit centre for our business.
The Optima 320 is an extremely flexible machine that is capable of cutting materials up to 125mm thick whilst the 3m by 2m bed capacity offers a cutting envelope of 3m by 2m, which is perfect for our 1.2m diameter clamp rings.
This capacity and flexibility, in the inherent structure of the Optima cutting head, not only reduces internal costs and lead-times, but it has also become a self-sufficient cost-centre. We are selling the capacity to fabrication and plating companies that require precision cutting and profiling of sheet materials.”
“The beauty of the Kerf Optima is that it is not limited to the steel and aluminium bronze that we’ve been cutting. It is capable of cutting just about any material within its dimensional capacity. We have even used the machine to produce 40mm thick foam in-lay cards for insertion in toolboxes to protect the tools in the respective boxes.”
As a machine shop manager with technology from a plethora of manufacturers, the service and support from Kerf has been exemplary. As Mr Llewellyn concludes: “The service from Kerf has been exceptional. The Optima machine has been extremely reliable and we’ve never had any major issues with it.
We did have an issue one morning that required an engineer visit, Kerf sent an engineer to us on the same day and by the end of the same day, the machine was up and running again. Out of all the machines we have and the manufacturers we deal with, the Kerf service is far better than the service from anybody else.”
Read another of our case studies: Kerf Enables Recycling Company To ‘Design For Manufacture’
When BSK Engineering opened its doors for business in 2001, the family owned subcontract manufacturer was primarily serving the architectural steel industry with the design and production of gates, railings, staircases and other innovative design structures.
However, a change of direction in 2012 propelled the Dungannon Company onto a path of exponential growth; something that has been supported by plasma cutting machines from Rochdale based Kerf Developments Limited.
For an area with relatively few quarries, the County Tyrone area in Ireland is home to around 70% of the world’s largest quarry plant manufacturing businesses. In the local area, BSK Engineering was realising the quarry industry was absorbing all the skilled staff, making it difficult for BSK to employ skilled staff. Something that was restricting company growth.
For an area with relatively few quarries, the County Tyrone area in Ireland is home to around 70% of the world's largest quarry plant manufacturing businesses. In the local area, BSK Engineering realised that the quarry industry was absorbing all the skilled staff, causing issues for BSK and restricting it's growth.
With a huge quarry industry on the doorstep and a pool of suitably talented engineers, the company changed it's business model to generate growth. To implement it's strategy to serve the quarry industry, it was essential that BSK Engineering invested in cutting technology.
Commenting upon the 2012 arrival of its first Kerf CNC plasma cutter, a 3m by 1.5m RUR2000P, BSK Engineering Managing Director, Mr Barry Kerr says: “When buying our first plasma jet machine, we looked at three suppliers. We looked at what other local companies were buying, and they were all investing in Kerf.
The feedback we had from local businesses regarding Kerf was extremely positive. One element that stood out was that Kerf Developments were the only supplier with locally based engineering support that could be on-site in a matter of hours to resolve any maintenance or service needs. This gave us the confidence to buy our first Kerf machine.”
With a 2000sq/ft factory area, the 3m by 1.5m Kerf RUR2000P was the only machine that would fit into the small three-employee company. Purchased to undertake small component cutting for the quarry industry as well as structural steel parts for existing customers, the Kerf CNC plasma cutting machine was initially the perfect fit.
The first Kerf high definition plasma cutting machine was 75% committed to structural steelwork, cutting small parts through the nesting technique in quantities up to 150 out of a single sheet of 3m by 1m steel. However, the machine was soon at capacity – running 24 hours a day. Then came the growth!
From 2012 to 2016, BSK Engineering was repeatedly turning away larger scale quarry work. The company opted to take the plunge and invest – expanding the facility from 2000sq/ft to 13,000sq/ft and installing its second Kerf machine in August 2017, the RUR3000P plasma cutting machine with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II 275amp UltraSharp plasma cutting system.
The 8m by 2.5m bed machine provided the much-needed capacity for cutting quarry parts such as 7m by 2m screen slides that are commonly produced. It also gave added capacity to take the company away from 24-hour shift production. However, this proved a short-lived reality, as the company almost doubled turnover from £600,000 in 2015 to £1.1m in 2017. With two machines running 24 hours a day and operating at weekends, the company needed a third CNC plasma cutting table – and Kerf duly obliged.
In August 2018 the third Kerf machine arrived, another 8m by 2.5m RUR3000P plasma cutting machine with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II 275amp UltraSharp plasma cutting system. “We bought the third Kerf machine to alleviate the capacity issue and once again move from 24-hour production to single shift manufacture.
We have grown our staff from 3 to 15 and our turnover has almost quadrupled to £2m in just three years. It is the reliability and service of Kerf that has given us the confidence to grow whilst ensuring we can still meet the short lead-times of our customers.
We can order parts or consumables from Kerf and we are guaranteed next day delivery; likewise, an engineer can be with us very quickly – as Kerf appreciates how essential the machines are to meeting the needs of our customers.”
Identifying the competition in the area and why BSK Engineering has grown so rapidly, Mr Kerr says: “Most of our competitors have a 3 to 4 week lead time on parts, we deliver within 7 days. This is why we are winning more and more business from our rivals. Furthermore, the Kerf machines ensure we maintain a lower cost overhead when compared to our competitors.”
We can offer the same quality finish as laser-cutting but with reduced costs, improved lead-time and a significantly better service.
Referring specifically to this point, Mr Kerr continues: “All the work we cut on the Kerf machines is steel plate between 2mm to 40mm thick with 70% of sheets over 10mm thick. This is where we win out over our competitors. Competitors with expensive laser machines will be faster cutting plates up to 8mm, but anything above that and the Kerf CNC Plasma table, with its plasma torch, is considerably faster than laser.
Added to this, the purchase price and consumable price of the Kerf is considerably less than a laser, enabling us to be more price-competitive. When cutting plates above 10mm thick, many of our customers are finding our edge finish is equally as good as or sometimes better than that of laser. So, we can offer the same quality finish as laser cutting but with reduced costs, improved lead-times and significantly better service. This means that customers previously buying parts from laser subcontract suppliers are now moving over to us and our Kerf UltraSharp plasma gas solution.”
We have grown our staff from 3-15 and our turnover has quadrupled to almost 2million in just three years
In conclusion, Mr Kerr says: “We now have a very competitive business and this is largely built around the quality of our staff and the three Kerf machines. 60% of our work is relatively small and with the large bed machines, we can cut one 4m plate whilst another is being loaded. This pendulum loading method reduces our cycle times by 50% whilst we still have the facility for cutting large parts.
This capacity helps us to maintain industry-leading lead-times whilst the service and support from Kerf ensures we are always running. Kerf has been so reliable – the machines will run all day, every day. We couldn’t be happier with our machine supplier.”
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Read another case study: Success is Made With Kerf When Made Profiles first opened its doors for business in March 2014...
As a UK manufacturer that exports globally, Ken Mills Engineering (KME) Ltd has come under increasing pressure from low cost foreign economies that are manufacturing cheaper and often inferior quality products. The pressure from foreign shores was alleviated when the manufacturer of material reclamation systems, haylage packing systems, straw shredding and processing systems, balers and conveyors invested in an RUR2500p plasma cutting machine from Kerf Developments and an Amada 220 tonne press brake.
Prior to the installation of both machines, the Littleborough Company would buy steel box section and laser cut parts from external suppliers that would be internally fabricated, drilled and formed to complete standard and bespoke product lines. However, the high subcontract cutting costs, unreliable lead-times, inability to control the complete process and subsequent quality were key factors to the 50 employee business investing in the new machinery.
The two machines transformed the business, as KME Director, Mr Andy Mills recalls:“Our standard product lines were facing intense competition from Asian manufacturers, whilst our bespoke solutions were increasingly complicated to manufacture. The new machines instantly slashed our subcontract costs, labour requirements, streamlined our production and reduced our lead times as well as giving us the opportunity to design our products for manufacture. Essentially, the investment has given us a huge competitive edge over low cost foreign economies and customers will always see UK manufactured products as a premium brand.”
The Kerf RUR2500p plasma cutting machine was supplied with a 4 by 2m bed and a Lincoln ElectricSpirit 150amp plasma unit. Capable of cutting material up to 20mm thick, the machine at the company on the Southern foothills of the Pennines was predominantly cutting stainless steel and mild steel sheets from 1 to 3mm thick. Recalling the arrival of the Kerf RUR2500p, Mr Mills continues: “We recognised a need for the machine and prior to installation we estimated 2-3 days use per week usage.
Within a matter of weeks, we truly realised the potential of theKerf machine and in no-time it was running up to 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, plus during weekends. The ability to cut, chamfer and generate holes made many manual tasks obsolete. In the last few years, we have lost five staff through retirement and the productivity of the Kerf means that we didn’t need to replace these employees. In fact, we have become more productive than ever. TheKerf and Amada machines have improved our overall output as a business by at least 20%”
The Kerf RUR2500 proved a real game changer for KME, so the company recently upgraded by replacing the original machine with a new and larger RUR2500p. Replacing its predecessor, the new RUR2500p has an 8 by 2m bed and a more powerful and precise Lincoln Electric Spirit II plasma unit with the very latest Ultra sharp cutting technology.
Alluding to why the company replaced a machine that has delivered exceptional performance levels,Mr Mills continues: “Our components are primarily small to medium batches that are cut from single sheets, which rarely exceed the 4m bed length of the previous machine. We recognised that by increasing the bed length we could load one side of the machine whilst parts are being cut on the other end of the bed.This pendulum loading has effectively eliminated non-productive set-up times and reduced overall production times by an additional 50%.”
With customers ranging from small one-man businesses to large blue chip companies like Veolia, Sita, Biffa, Viridor, PHS, Coca-Cola and Kimberly Clark, quality and continuous improvement are key factors for KME. “The new Kerf RUR2500p has the very latest Ultra sharp cutting technology and this has improved the precision and surface finishes of the profiles and holes we cut. Additionally, there is less cleaning, no secondary hand finishing and there is less slag from the process.”
As well as offering precision levels in the +/-0.5mm range, the 275amp Lincoln Electric Spirit II plasma unit has the capacity to pierce and cut materials up to 35mm thick.Concluding on the benefits of the machine acquisitions, Mr Mills says: “The Kerf and Amada press brake combination is saving us upwards of £250,000 a year in subcontract costs. By purchasing more sheet material than the previous box section and also having complete control over the materials we need as well as integrating a design-for-manufacture ethos, we are saving an additional £150,000 a year in material. Added to this, there are fewer transport costs as we don’t deal with subcontractors.”
“From a customer perspective, our lead times for a machine have been cut from 8 weeks down to4-6 weeks depending upon the customer specified machine. Furthermore, by implementing a design-for-manufacture philosophy, our machines are more aesthetically pleasing, more functional and also easier to use and maintain.For the customer, this gives a host of new reasons to buy machinery from KME. From our perspective, we have enhanced our brand, the product portfolio and we now have more unique selling points over our competitors,” concludes Mr Mills.
Success is Made With Kerf When Made Profiles first opened its doors for business in March 2014, the first acquisition for the sheet metal company was a CNC plasma cutting machine. (The RUM3500 profiling machine) from Kerf Developments.
Just over two years later and the fledgling Wigan subcontractor has grown exponentially, recently taking delivery of its third Kerf profiling machine, an RUR2500 high definition plasma cutter.
Founded by Managing Director Mr Mark Derbyshire, Made Profiles started with one man's ambition, decades of experience and a book of industry contacts. Using his expertise and business acumen, Mark initially opted for a Kerf Developments machine as he was familiar with the build quality, reliability, service and support that Kerf guarantee - all critical elements for a new business that would be reliant upon the uptime of its single machine. In the two years since its inception, Made Profiles has built its business around the reliability and productivity levels that Kerf has delivered.
The first plasma cutting machine installed, the colossal 12m by 3m bed RUM3500 has four flame cutting heads for simultaneously profiling multiple parts up to 250mm thick. This machine also has one 150amp high definition plasma head for high-speed cutting of steel profiles up to 15mm thick.
Only six months after the installation, Made Profiles commissioned Kerf to extend the machine bed by 3m. The now 15m bed received a second high definition CNC plasma table with a high powered 275amp plasma jet cutting head for rapidly processing steel sheets up to 30mm in thickness.
Supplying cut profiles for the rail, oil & gas, automotive, construction and general subcontract engineering sectors, the first two CNC machines suitably cater for the high speed and high definition cutting of thin profiles whilst the oxy-fuel flame cutting four- head configuration provides simultaneous cutting of extremely thick steel billets.
If the first two machines and the respective plasma torch cutting head configurations were acquired to satisfy market demand, the arrival of the RUR2500 was specified to take the business to the next level.
Already processing anything from mild steel, Hardox, Durbar and boilerplates; the biggest market growth has been cutting stainless steel profiles. This is why the new RUR2500 machine was installed. Delivered with the UltraSharp plasma system technology for precision oxy fuel cutting to less than +/- 0.5mm with astounding edge finishes, the RUR2500 has been purchased specifically for cutting small stainless parts. The 150amp cnc plasma cutting unit is well suited for parts up to 20mm thick whilst the 4 by 2m bed has been configured by Kerf for small part production.
As Mr Derbyshire recalls: "Typical spacing between the machine 'bed bars' is 100mm, but we asked Kerf to supply a bed with a bar spacing of 50mm. With the wider spacing, small parts could fall through the bed. With the bespoke bed configuration, we can now comfortably process parts as small as 50-60mm square.
Complementing this, the UltraSharp profile cutter gives us unparalleled edge quality and clarity when cutting slots, holes and other internal geometries on small parts that may have once been beyond our scope. We used to subcontract out any work smaller than 120mm, with the RUR2500 we have brought this work in-house, slashed subcontract costs and reduced the associated lead-times by 4-5 days."
Mr Derbyshire continues: "We also wanted the machine to have an etching facility, this allows us to mark parts with identity numbers and reference codes to customer requirements. We are also etching datum spots for customers that want to drill or machine their profiles as a secondary operation. The changeover from cutting to etching is completely automated and seamless, thanks to the touch screen Burny 10 CNC control unit. We only have to enter our material types and cutting parameters and the control unit does the rest."
The component programming and part nesting for the Kerf machines is conducted off-line with the Lantek CAD system that is also supplied by Kerf Developments. As Mr Derbyshire says: "We now have two seats of Lantek CAD software from Kerf and this maps out the cutting speeds, plasma gas flow, nozzle height and even the torch path based on how to optimise material usage, productivity and cut-quality. We bought the Kerf RUR2500 CNC plasma cutter as a 'laser equivalent' machine. With the UltraSharp system, the RUR2500 is far superior to standard plasma cutting and this gives us the ideal machine for stainless steel profiling."
Commenting on the journey from the first Kerf machine to the latest acquisition, Mr Derbyshire says: "We started with five staff and now we have 13. The business grew 100% in year one and two. Year three is on-course to almost match previous figures. This growth is down to our expertise and sticking to our core strategy of turning out high quality bespoke and small batch steel profiles faster than our competitors. Of course, Kerf Developments have been with us all the way to ensure our machines never miss a beat. That is one reason why we will keep returning to Kerf whenever we need to invest in machinery." MADE Profiles October 2016
Kerfs Plasma Cutting Systems use ultrasharp technology for laser sharp results. If you would like to know more, speak to our team of experts today. Read another case study: Kerf Gets Subcontractor Into Top Gear
When Arcon Engineering made the trip from Ballymena to the MACH exhibition eight years ago, the fledgling company was looking for a new CNC plasma cutting machine to replace its ageing and unreliable machine. In meeting Kerf Developments at MACH 2008, Arcon found more than a machine supplier; it located a partner that could confidently serve all their sheet and metal plate cutting requirements.
Formed in 2003 to cater for the complex cutting and fabricating demands of the mining, transport, utilities and heavy industry sectors, Arcon offers an extremely diverse level of services. With expertise in design, CNC profiling, welding and fabrication, press brake forming, assembly and much more, Arcon Engineering has grown at an exponential rate, now employing over 30 staff. Nowhere is this growth better demonstrated than with the CNC plasma cutting machines from Kerf.
Commenting upon starting his journey of buying machines from Kerf, Arcon Engineering's Managing Director, Mr Paschal McLoughlin recalls: "Our old plasma machine was unreliable and this was compounded by our struggle to reliably obtain service support and parts. This caused considerable headaches and production bottlenecks. We went to MACH and reviewed all the available machines, and it was Kerf that had the build quality, service, support and productivity that we needed. We installed a Kerf RUR3000 CNC plasma cutting machine with a Hypertherm HPR260 plasma unit in June 2008 and it has been running over 18 hours a day plus weekends ever since."
Of course, the reliability of the RUR3000 combined with the often 24 hour production, led the Ahoghill manufacturer to invest in a second profiling machine and once again the company bought from Rochdale based Kerf. "Running our first machine non-stop, we were conscious of depending upon the reliability of the RUR3000. We knew that any breakdown or unscheduled maintenance would create a bottleneck or capacity issues. Considering this, we bought a second machine. Of course, the first Kerf machine never failed us; and within no time the second machine was also running at capacity."
The second machine, a Kerf RUR2500GP with a Lincoln Electric Proline 200amp high definition plasma system slotted straight into the business in November 2014. Like its predecessor, the RUR2500GP has been running non-stop since installation. The company is cutting profiles from one-off and small quantities to larger batch runs from materials such as stainless and mild steel with plate thicknesses varying from 3, 4 and 5mm through to heavy duty 30 and 40mm plates.
As the Irish business has expanded, it has closely reviewed its processes and more recently considered investing in a CNC laser profiling machine for high-precision cutting with impeccable edge finishes. However, upon discussing the evolving needs of the business with Kerf Developments, it was soon realised that Kerf once again had the solution. Arcon wanted to achieve extremely precise profiles with outstanding edge finishes, so Kerf took Arcon to a local company using the latest Lincoln Electric Spirit plasma unit with Ultrasharp technology to demonstrate the system.
As Mr McLoughlin continues: "We wanted the quality of laser without the cost, Kerf gave us the alternative with their new RUR3500P machine that has a Lincoln Electric Spirit 400amp plasma unit with UltraSharp technology. The cut quality and precision were outstanding whilst the cost wasn't near the price of a laser machine. Furthermore, the Kerf RUR3500P is more flexible than a laser as the high definition unit is powerful enough to cut through material far beyond the scope of a laser."
The single head RUR3500P machine with a Lincoln Electric Spirit 400amp high definition plasma unit was installed in June 2016 and the company has been thoroughly impressed. The design and technology built into the Lincoln Electric Spirit system incorporates a water reservoir that keeps the cutting torches cool. The benefit of this technology is that torch and consumable life is extended considerably.
Furthermore, the high-powered system has a lower gas consumption. The result for Arcon is a more powerful machine with significantly reduced operating and consumable costs. For a business that is sometimes running its machines 24 hours a day, the saving over the life of the machine will be huge. In fact, trials have shown that this technology uses up to 78% less plasma gas than competitor machines.
From a capability perspective, the powerful 400amp system can cut plate up to 75mm thick, which gives Arcon the potential to extend its workload beyond existing plate thicknesses. In addition, the new machine has the ability to mark components as well as cut. This allows Arcon to mark datum points, identification features and location spots for secondary alignment operations.
In conclusion, Mr McLoughlin says: "We've had Kerf machines for almost 10 years and the local service network, machine reliability, consumable availability and the overall build quality and productivity is outstanding. Furthermore, technology has evolved considerably and with the new Lincoln Electric Spirit high definition CNC plasma cutter unit and the latest Burny CNC control unit that automates production and reduces material usage, Kerf has ensured that we stay ahead of the curve. We are likely to be buying machine number four in the future and I have no reason to even consider looking at a different supplier. We're delighted with our decision to invest in Kerf."
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Ten years ago, Hopwood Gears Ltd invested in an Oxy-Propane gas cutting machine from Kerf Developments. Owning a profiling machine that runs like a dream with exemplary service support for over a decade was two of the key reasons why the Oldham based subcontractor went back to Kerf Developments for its latest machine, a twin-head water jet machine.
Founded in 1974, Hopwood Gears immediately set its stall out as a subcontract manufacturer with a niche for producing gears, gear sets and all associated components.
Now with 40 years of gear manufacturing under its belt, Hopwood Gears is a true specialist, manufacturing gears from 4mm diameter up to 3m - and everything in between.
The 33 employee company serves the defence, aerospace, automotive, white goods and consumer markets with bespoke gears for anything from a tank or submarine through to the everyday watch or washing machine.
To manufacture its gears and meet the demands of its wider subcontract business, Hopwood Gears has a machine shop stacked with CNC EDM, turning and machining centres from Agie, Haas, DMG and Mazak as well as a multitude of specialised gear production machines.
However, the issue for Hopwood was the upstream issue of profiling its gears and the consequent subcontract costs and lead-times. Discussing the issue, Hopwood Gear Managing Director, Mr Cory Hopwood says: "Ten years ago we were either buying steel plates for £500, or to save time we were paying upward of £1000 for the plates to be pre-cut into blanks. We invested in a twin-head Kerf Scorpion gas cutting machine to cut the cost and gain control over the process."
The 4m by 2m machine immediately cut costs by 50% when processing steel plates up to 150mm thick. Additionally, the Scorpion cutting head allowed the Manchester company to 'semi-finish' large gears with its impressive precision levels. Still in operation after a decade, the Scorpion is still well used today. Nowadays, the company has a need for a more flexible machine for processing a wider range of materials at even greater precision levels - enter the Kerf Optima 420 waterjet machine.
Commenting on this, Mr Hopwood continues: “We were spending a lot of money getting gear profiles cut prior to entering our machine shop for secondary processing. However, the quality of gears was indifferent. The supply was regularly outside our tolerance band and the gears were often tapered where the waterjet wasn’t cutting at 90 degrees.
As soon as we heard Kerf had waterjet cutting machines, we spoke to Dan at Kerf Developments and gave him some of our externally processed gear profiles. Dan was confident the cut quality and precision of the Kerf Optima would solve all our issues. We trust Kerf implicitly, so we bought the Optima 420 waterjet machine. We haven’t looked back since.”
By installing the Kerf Optima waterjet machine, Hopwood Gears immediately improved the precision of its profiles, attaining a precision level of +/-0.05mm as opposed to +/-0.3mm on subcontract supplied profiles. This precision is credit to the highly acclaimed BFT high-pressure pump on the Optima 420.
The enhanced precision reduced returns and it also cut the internal re-working of gears. These factors reduced lead-times, improved precision and edge finishes and also prevented labour and machine time from being unnecessarily absorbed in the machine shop.
From an economic standpoint, Hopwood Gear estimates that £2000 of the £5000 monthly cost of profile cutting was actually material cost. So, by purchasing the Kerf Optima and acquiring the material direct from the stockholder, Hopwood Gear has reduced its subcontract costs by £3000 each month. The flexibility of the water jet cutter means that Hopwood has also eliminated an additional £500 per month in subcontract costs for laser cutting of thin plates and discs.
With the easy-to-use IGEMS CAD/CAM system on the Optima waterjet machine, Hopwood’s staff were comprehensively trained on the machine in one-day. The unparalleled ease-of-use and the automated running of abrasive waterjets allows one operator to simultaneously run a number of machines, avoiding the cost of additional staff. Furthermore, the twin-head configuration permits fast dual-cutting production. This is ideal for a company producing anything from one-off and batch work in the region 50 through to production runs up to 200,000 off.
Whilst the Kerf Optima 420 high pressure product line has cut costs, improved quality and precision for the subcontractor, the benefits reach much further. As Mr Hopwood concludes: “The lead-time for external waterjet profiles was 4-6 weeks, now we can get the material next day and often turn work around in less than a week. By eliminating the 4-6 week supply chain, we can get gears into the machine shop for secondary machining a lot faster. This gives us more production capacity, better scheduling and it means our machine shop is always busy, as nobody is waiting on a third-party to deliver profiles to the machine shop.”
“Furthermore, the profiles are more precise and this means fewer set-ups and operations in the machine shop. With fewer down-stream operations, there is more machine and labour capacity and even our cutting tool consumption has been reduced. To put it simply, our entire cutting systems production facility would struggle to keep up with demand if we didn’t have the Kerf Optima waterjet cutting machines on the shop-floor.”
Read another case study: Kerf Is Critical In Growth Strategy at BSK Engineering