Irish Manufacturer Cuts Bottlenecks & Costs With a Kerf Plasma Machine

As a general welding and fabrication subcontractor, Clonakilty Engineering Ltd was finding that its growth potential was being held back by the lead-times of its supply chain. To eradicate the lengthy lead-times and costs of using subcontract laser cutting services, the County Cork based manufacturer has invested in an RUR2000p high definition plasma cutting machine from Kerf Developments.

Founded in 1989, the Irish subcontract company has witnessed steady growth since its inception, working with high profile companies such as Intel, Pfizer and ABP foods to name a few. However, when the company moved from its long term 3,000sq/ft facility to a new 10,000sq/ft factory in 2011, its ambition for growth had evolved. As Clonakilty Engineering's Workshop Manager, Mr David Guest recalls: "When we moved to our new factory, we realised we had the space to acquire a laser cutting machine. However, the level of business as we came off the recession couldn't justify the investment. We have steadily grown by 10% year on year since the downturn, this prompted us to investigate the laser cutting market."

Irish Manufacturer Cuts Bottlenecks & Costs With a Kerf Plasma Machine 1

The company didn't have the facility to laser cut its material in­house and this caused considerable bottlenecks in its workflow. By subcontracting out its laser cutting of stainless and mild steel sheets from 3 to 25mm thick, the lead times for the Irish company were extended by up to 4 days, which wasn't feasible for many customers. The manufacturer of steel components for the construction, medical, science, agricultural, food and pharmaceutical sectors investigated the laser cutting market and immediately took a liking to the Kerf brand of machines.

Changing Perception

As Clonakilty previously relied on its subcontractor for laser cutting, the company had little experience of the process. By speaking to Kerf, the Rochdale based cutting specialist; both parties identified the high cost of laser machines and that Kerf's high definition plasma range of machines could deliver precision and cut quality similar to that of a CNC laser cutting machine at a much lower cost. As Mr Guest continues: "I was of the perception that we needed an expensive CNC laser cutting machine. I explained our type of work to the Kerf engineers and they suggested a demonstration on a lower-cost plasma cutting machine. I was really surprised by the +/- 0.25mm precision level, speed and cut quality of the Kaliburn high definition plasma unit on the Kerf RUR2000p machine. We instantly made our decision to invest." For 14 employee Clonakilty, business would never be the same again...

The Benefits Delivered By The Kerf Plasma...

The immediate benefit was that Clonakilty eliminated the bottleneck created by sending steel sheets to its laser cutting subcontractor.

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Turnaround times with the external supplier fell from 4-5 days and the company now sets its jobs up almost as soon as they cothe profiles internally has instantly eliminated the monthly cost of subcontract cutting.

By cutting its own steel profiles, Clonakilty is also cashing-in on the return from its steel scrap, which its subcontract supplier was previously sending for disposal. At the current scrap rate of €130 Euros per tonne, the business is generating an additional return of €700 to €1000 Euros each month.

Furthermore, by utilising the Kerf nesting software within the Burny 10 LCD control unit, the company is processing more parts from each steel sheet. As Mr Guest continues: "The financial, material and time savings have been phenomenal. We can utilise all our remnants from larger jobs and use them to produce small jobs and this is cutting our waste material whilst maximising our profitability. At present, we are producing a 2m diameter flange and an 80mm square bracket in batches of beyond 500, so our workload and material usage is very diverse. Being able to control this internally is making a huge saving. Furthermore, I am really surprised by the low running costs of the Kerf machine. We've made over 50,000 piercings and use the machine almost all day every day - and the cost of consumables and running the machine are both remarkably low."

Moving Forward With Kerf

When Clonakilty specified the Kerf RUR2000p, it wanted a machine table to suit its requirement to manufacture 4m long steel staircases. So, Kerf duly obliged with a 4.5 by 1.5m bed on the machine. This also enables Clonakilty to place more sheets and respective components on the machine, which is helping it to further increase its eye watering turnaround times. What it also provides, is the facility to expand the scope of the work taken on by the subcontract company. As Mr Guest says: "Our business has gone from a steady 10% year on year growth to over 30% since having the Kerf machine. The majority of this business is attributed to our acquisition of the Kerf RUR2000p. We have been able to increase the complexity and intricacy of our work when required; and this has stopped us from turning work away on the grounds that it previously had an unfeasible lead time or the margin was too small. In fact, the Kerf machine now sees us providing a subcontract cutting service to new and existing customers as well as enabling us to profile all our parts."

"The results have been really impressive. Moreover, the service, support and friendly approach of Kerf means that when we eventually need another machine, Kerf will be our first port of call," concludes Mr Guest.

About Kerf

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.

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