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 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 to 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 McCabe says: "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 an 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 height of the bed on the previous machines made loading and unloading a challenge for staff. 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 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." PP Group January 2021
Founded in 2001, Kerf Developments have grown over the years to become the leading supplier of profile cutting machines in the UK and Ireland.
The company was originally formed to provide a repair and support service for customers operating a range of profile cutting machines. These machines were varied in size and capabilities. From small magic-eye gas cutting machines through to automated plasma and high pressure waterjet cutting solutions.
As the company’s reputation for repairing and in some cases upgrading older machinery spread – predominantly through word of mouth, additional engineers were employed to provide additional cover for the UK and Ireland.
It was a chance request from a customer who stated that his older machine had reached the end of its life and needed replacing that journeyed the Kerf team towards machine development. The customer asked Kerf and it’s engineers to design and build a new machine using their considerable experience of what were the “best” products available.
The first machine was built using a rail based design which helped to isolate delicate electronic systems from shock loading, particularly when loading and unloading large steel plates from the machine. The control system selected was from Burny which has proven itself to be very reliable in challenging industrial applications across the world.
Heavy duty downdraft cutting tables were selected and the plasma unit was a high definition system supplied by Hypertherm.
After the installation, news of the productivity and reliability that the new machine provided along with the quality and accuracy of the parts being cut spread, and further orders for similar machines came flooding in.
The simplistic design and choice of best in class products are still in use today with new machines utilising the current Burny control systems, INOVA electronic torch height controls, and with the latest best in class UltraSharp plasma systems supplied by Lincoln Electric.
The success of the company has been based on providing quality products at competitive prices and backing the equipment up with effective customer service and support be it for oxy-fuel, plasma or waterjet cutting technology.