Kerf is Part of the Family at Made Profiles

After working in the sheet metal profiling industry for over 20 years, Mark Derbyshire admirably wanted to build his own family business to provide a better future for his young family. Starting with nothing but industry contacts and experience, Mr Derbyshire formed Made Profiles in March and only a matter of months later, the company is already exceeding its projections and expectations. This is largely credit to a management team that helped found the company - a management team that consists of a sales and CAD/production manager both having over 20 years of experience that has been integral in the early success.

When forming the company with limited finances, Mr Derbyshire needed a cutting table that would deliver reliability and first class service levels, first and foremost. The first point of call for the new business to achieve this, was Kerf Developments. As Managing Director of Wigan based Made Profiles, Mr Derbyshire comments: "As a start-up company buying our first machine, it was imperative that we bought a quality machine with outstanding service levels. This was because if the machine went down, the profit centre of the business would be on-stop. We reviewed the marketplace and the deciding factor was that I worked with Kerf machines in my previous post, so I knew their service and support was second-to-none."

Whilst Made Profiles set the bar high with its service and reliability expectations, another key factor was the ability of Kerf to manufacture a bespoke machine that fitted the needs of the subcontractor that services the offshore, automotive, rail, construction and bridge building industries. When specifying a cutting table, Made Profiles wanted flame cutting heads for profiling up to 250mm thick steel plates whilst simultaneously requiring high definition plasma cutting capabilities for high speed and high quality cutting of sheets below 25mm thick. Kerf duly obliged by manufacturing an RUM3500 machine with four flame cutting heads for simultaneously profiling multiple parts, plus one high definition plasma head for high speed cutting of thinner profiles.

Kerf is Part of the Family at Made Profiles 1

However, Mr Derbyshire also had the industry nous to specify the Kerf RUM3500 with a particularly large 12 by 3m bed. As Mr Derbyshire continues: "I wanted a large bed machine for two reasons.

Firstly, it would allow us to cut very large profiles whilst also catering for small parts in larger batch sizes using the multiple heads. Most importantly, I wanted a large bed for flexibility and work flow purposes. For example, we are continually growing and the large bed enables us to prepare up to three jobs simultaneously on the machine. This allows us to set-up

at one end of the bed whilst an operator is cutting profiles at the other end. This reduces our set-up and lead times drastically and it improves our workflow through the shop-floor."

This workflow is of particular importance to Made Profiles. One of the founding principles of the business is to deliver quality profiles at lead-times the customer requires. As Mr Derbyshire says: "In general, the lead-times in steel profiling industry for small quantity volumes can be quite lengthy, so we aim to work to a lead time of 2-3 days for our customers. To consistently meet our target, the Kerf RUM3500 is running up to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. Despite this non-stop running, the RUM3500 has been outstanding with no breakdowns or downtime, which justifies why we opted for Kerf."

Kerf is Part of the Family at Made Profiles 2

The Next Step

The fast turnaround service at Made Profiles has enabled it to exceed its growth expectations in year one. The result of this growth is the imminent delivery of a second Kerf RUM3500 machine. As Mr Derbyshire continues: "Now we have been operational for a number of months, we have a better projection of what materials, thicknesses and profiles our customer require. Up to 75% of our year 1 work is precision steel profiles up to 25mm thick, so we have ordered a second RUM3500 with a single 275AMP plasma cutting head. The new machine will allow us to cut high quality profiles up to 40mm thick whereas the existing 150AMP head is limited at 25mm thicknesses."

Kerf will add the second RUM machine to the existing cutting table and at the same time extend it to 15m. This will effectively provide Made Profiles with the flexibility to manufacture components up to 15m or alternately use the bed as two individual 7.5m machines on a single platform.

As Mr Derbyshire concludes: "We are cutting anything from mild and stainless steel through to Hardox, Durbar and boiler plates and the new plasma head will improve our through-flow of work and enable us to maintain our benchmark in the industry as a supplier that can consistently meet short lead times. We have built our business on this philosophy and the support of our customers has been outstanding. With such exceptional support from our customers, we will continue to invest to exceed their expectations. Kerf has been, and undoubtedly will be instrumental in our future plans."

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.

Kerf Improves Cycle Times by 70% for Subcontract Profile Company

When subcontract profile cutting company Patrick Steel Ltd was looking at possible ways to expand its well established business, the Coventry company investigated the potential benefits of acquiring a plasma cutting machine to complement its existing cutting, grinding and fabrication capacity.

Kerf Improves Cycle Times by 70% for Subcontract Profile Company 3

As a company established in 1986, Patrick Steel has the expertise, experience and industry insight that has seen the business continually grow for a generation. The company decided that the addition of a high definition plasma cutting machine, coupled with the four multi-headed flame cutting machines would have a positive impact on lead times and quality. In addition, it would open up the potential to explore new markets, particularly with thinner material, allowing customers a viable alternative to the more expensive laser and water-jet cutting. The future potential to offer a non-ferrous cutting service, including stainless steel and aluminium would be a further benefit.

The automotive, aerospace, construction, fabrication and general manufacturing subcontractor, fully investigated the potential benefits of a plasma cutting machine. Upon investigation, the clear benefits of adding plasma cutting to the existing flame cutting and grinding services were apparent. It was the recommendation of numerous independent steel profiling companies and service engineers that led the 12 employee company to Kerf Developments and its RUR2500 plasma cutting machine.

Commenting upon the acquisition, Patrick Steel's Joint Managing Director, Mr Jamie Bruce says: "Our flame cutting machines have the capacity to cut from 5 to 300mm thick steel plate. After an in-depth analysis of our actual cutting habits we deduced around 50% of material sold was 25mm thick and under - ideally suited for high definition plasma cutting. The Kerf machine will also enable us to drop below the 5mm lower limit of flame-cutting to thinner gauge material, further enhancing our product range. The benefits of plasma cutting were evident and based on our review of the market and recommendations, we opted for the Kerf RUR2500."

With a decision made, the Kerf RUR2500 was chosen and the new acquisition instantly delivered results. As Mr Bruce continues: "In general, flame cutting machines have a pre­heating period of 30 to 35 seconds prior to piercing whereas the plasma machine is almost instant, with a fully automated cutting procedure. This has made an immediate impact on our productivity. Furthermore, the Kerf machine has improved the quality and precision of our parts with the Kerf RUR2500 achieving a cut precision of ±0.25mm through most plate thicknesses in comparison to ±1.0mm achieved with flame cutting. In addition, the edge quality has also improved and customers are recognising this and often requesting a plasma-cut finish."

The need for speed...

Patrick Steel has always been aware that plasma cutting was faster than flame cutting for parts up to 25mm and once the Kerf RUR2500 was installed and running the cutting speed advantage became apparent. The machine, with a 6m x 2m cutting bed proved itself to be 4.5 times faster than the flame­cutting machines and in some instances up to 7 times faster. "The cutting speed is significantly faster and with no pre-heat time, the Kerf RUR2500 has been an excellent addition to our plant list. The setting-up of plates has also been improved and this also increases our throughput and capacity and decreases downtime.

Kerf Improves Cycle Times by 70% for Subcontract Profile Company 4

The Lantek software and Burny control unit on the RUR2500 has contributed to throughput for Patrick Steel, as Mr Bruce continues: "The machine software has an automatic nesting feature that works on a database configuration. This improves the location and through-flow of repeat jobs from the office to the shop-floor. It also allows us to produce more parts from each plate by automatically utilising any remaining plate stock to produce components from any previous production run by digitally locating stock. This has further reduced our material costs. Furthermore, the control unit on the Kerf machine is very user friendly, easy to operate and enjoyable to use."

Looking to the Future...

In the few short months since taking delivery of the Kerf RUR2500, Patrick Steel has improved productivity by 75% for almost 50% of its workload. Additionally, by moving this work to the more productive Kerf machine; Patrick Steel has also freed up capacity for its four flame cutting machines allowing them to seek out heavier work better suited to the flame-cutting process. The software on the Kerf machine has also expedited the workflow for Patrick Steel with lead times being further reduced.

From a quality perspective, customers are appreciating the better surface finishes and precision delivered by the Kerf RUR. Concluding on the acquisition, Mr Bruce says: "The Kerf purchase has been a revelation for our business. It has improved quality, throughput, productivity and also given us extra capacity on our alternate machines. The service and support from Kerf has been outstanding and we are extremely pleased with the plant purchase."

Patrick Steel April 2020

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.

AEM Steel Profiles Invest for their Future

When Adam May was working for a steel profiling company, the young engineer was disillusioned by the poor quality and lead times of the supply chain. Mr May spotted a gap in the market for a reputable company to deliver high quality steel profiles to tight delivery schedules; so he set up AEM Steel Profiles Limited. Four years later, the Bristol company is already outgrowing its 5,500sq/ft facility and is harbouring ambitions of hitting a £2m turnover - not bad going for an engineer that has not long turned 30.

After developing a budding business over the last four years that now has 10 staff; the company is growing rapidly by maintaining its mantra of supplying the marketplace with high quality steel profiles on time. With the ability to supply flame cut, waterjet, laser and high definition plasma cut steel profiles up to 500mm thick; the pride of AEM's shop floor is the three flame cutting machines from Kerf Developments.

AEM Steel Profiles Invest for their Future 5

As Managing Director, Mr Adam May recalls: "Like any start up business with limited finances, we started out with 2nd hand machines. Despite our first two machines working well for the first 18 months, we wanted to start investing in new machines. Added to this, the OEM supplier was providing poor and unreliable service levels. We found Kerf Developments on-line and compared them against our current vendor. The cost, build quality and proposed service levels from Kerf won us over."

The company's first foray into Kerf machines arrived with a small footprint Scorpion 2500 Flame Cutting Machine with four cutting heads. This 3.2 by 2m bed machine was initially acquired to conduct one-off and small batch production runs, so AEM could retain longer production quantities on the large table machines without interrupting production with urgent jobs. As Mr May continues: "Quality and delivery is everything to us, so having a machine that can allow us to turn urgent jobs around in hours instead of days is a huge selling point. Added to this, Kerf has lived up to its promise of providing outstanding service levels. So, when we were looking at replacing our other two machines - Kerf was a clear frontrunner in the selection process."

After due diligence, AEM replaced its older machines with two Kerf RUR3500 Flame cutting machines. The new Kerf additions have a 3m wide cutting bed. With four cutting heads on one machine and five torches on the other, when compared to the configuration of 3 and 4 heads on the older machines, the two RUR3500's have drastically improved cycle times. This is particularly the case when cutting large batches of parts. Furthermore, the larger work envelope and improved nesting capability reduce waste material for the subcontractor. Operating in industries such as nuclear, oil & gas, yellow goods, Engineering and structural fabrication.

The Kerf machines at AEM are now configured with the two RUR3500's constantly running high volume batch work, cutting up to 200mm thick steel profiles. Whilst the smaller Scorpion machine produces smaller production runs. As Mr May continues: "The current telecoms sector job on the RUR will be produced in a batch of 250 parts. The 60mm thick, mild steel plate has taken 2.5 hours to cut 160 parts, this is a 50% cycle time reduction compared to our previous machines. If we wanted to reduce our turnaround and set-up times further, the bed of the Kerf machines can be extended to accept larger steel plates. If we get an urgent job whilst this batch is running, we don't have to disrupt production as the smaller machine can cater for this."

AEM Steel Profiles Invest for their Future 6

Summarising upon the Kerf acquisitions, Mr May is extremely impressed with the build quality, precision and edge finishes provided by the Kerf product line. However, it is the ease of use and user friendliness of the control unit that was an unforeseen benefit. As Mr May states: "The Kerf machines are supplied with a Burny 10 LCD control unit, which is extremely intuitive and visually reassuring for the machine operator. On our previous machines, we would download jobs to the machines and the machine CNC would only display code. With the Burny 10, the operator has a large screen with a complete visual of the process, so any necessary changes can be made at the machine. This has also eliminated any potential errors and acted as a secondary quality control process. The simplicity and user friendliness of the Burny control combined with the robust build quality of the machine has been a revelation for us. Kerf has delivered us a simple, robust, reliable and well supported solution that meets all our profiling needs.

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.

Kerf Gets Subcontractor into Top Gear

Ten years ago, Hopwood Gear Ltd invested in an Oxy-Propane gas cutting machine from Kerf Developments. Owning a machine that run 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 for its latest machine, a twin-head waterjet machine.

Founded in 1974, Hopwood Gear 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 Gear 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.

Kerf Gets Subcontractor into Top Gear 7

To manufacture its gears and meet the demands of its wider subcontract business, Hopwood 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.

Kerf Cuts Through Customer Issues With New Waterjet.

The evolving face of gear manufacture now sees Hopwood Gear producing more gears up to 50mm thick from materials such as aluminium, titanium, plastic, stainless and mild steels. For profiling these gears, Hopwood was using a subcontract profiling company at a cost of up to £5000 each month. 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.

Kerf Gets Subcontractor into Top Gear 8

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 a waterjet machine, we spoke to Dan at Kerf 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."

Kerf Unlocks Productivity for Hopwood Gear.

By installing the Kerf Optima 420, Hopwood Gear 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 waterjet 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 machine, Hopwood's staff were comprehensively trained on the machine in one-day. The unparalleled ease-of-use and the automated running of the machine 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.

Far Reaching Benefits of Kerf Waterjet.

Whilst the Kerf Optima 420 waterjet machine 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 production facility would struggle to keep up with demand if we didn't have the Kerf Optima on the shop-floor."

Optima 4020 - April 2020

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.

The Power Of Plasma

A PES report By Ed Hill - reprinted from Production Engineering Solutions

Although a well-established technology for cutting sheet metal, plasma cutting can seem overshadowed by lasers. However, the latest advances from Kerf Developments demonstrate that this process can compete, not only in cutting speed and quality but importantly on cost as well. Ed Hill reports.

The systems for cutting sheet metal have evolved into a diverse range of processes over the years, but in recent times the power of lasers seems to have become the most widespread technology amongst many operators in this sector of manufacturing.

A key factor in the adoption of the laser process is the speed and quality of cut it can provide; however, lasers are an expensive capital investment, running costs can be high (particularly with the CO2 variants) and they can struggle with thicker materials.

So are there more cost-effective solutions available? One company leading the way in advancing plasma cutting technology is Rochdale-based Kerf Developments.

Founded in 2002 by Dan Taylor the company began as a service and support company repairing oxy-fuel, plasma and waterjet cutting machines.

After a few years of growing the business and establishing a reputation for excellent support, Kerf was asked if it could build a new plasma cutting machine for a customer in Northern Ireland.

Sales director Craig Walsh begins: “The nature of our work gave Kerf a really good understanding of the products that were out in the field: which ones were reliable and which ones were not.

Kerf was asked to quote for a replacement plasma cutting machine so a specification was drawn up using what we considered to be the best in class components. The machine was built onsite which led to the subsequent sale of hundreds of similar machines across the UK and Ireland.


The Power Of Plasma 9

“Kerf is completely independent and free to choose products and services from leading global suppliers,” he adds. “Our expertise is in bringing these products together and supplying

them as a turnkey solution for customers, with packages including CNC cutting, CAD/CAM software, installation and training. We then look after the customer with effective postsale support and service.”

Kerf sells oxy-fuel, plasma and waterjet cutting machines but plasma is by far its biggest market making up around 70% of sales.

Mr Walsh continues: “Our users’ applications can be varied from small one man operations, right through to large high-volume subcontractors.

The majority of our customers tend to be involved in processing heavier materials that range from 6 - 30mm although we do have one customer with a specially designed machine that can cut 1,000mm thick material!

Our expertise is in bringing these products together and supplying them as a turnkey solution for customers, with packages including CNC cutting, CAD/CAM software, installation and training. We then look after the customer with effective post-sales support and service

"A disadvantage of early plasma cutters was that although they were fast, hole quality wasn’t great and the edge finish had a large bevel angle,” Mr Walsh explains.

“Furthermore, edge dross meant components often required a considerable amount of manual reworking after being cut, a process that was time consuming and labour intensive.

Step forward the modern high-speed CO2 laser, developed during the 1980s. The laser is a precise process that produces a high-quality edge finish and excellent hole quality.

For years lasers have been improving in speed and capability, however, they do appear to have reached their limit in terms of the thickness of material that can be cut.

While new more powerful laser sources have been developed, there is a grey area of cutting mild steel plate from 12-15mm upwards. Some laser machines can cut these thicknesses but the edge finish is not as neat as on thinner materials.”

In the thick of it Kerf has developed its UltraSharp flatbed machines which provide a quality of cut that can match and even better lasers when it comes to cutting these types and thicknesses of materials; mounted on the company’s own rigid bridge assembly and stable, downdraft cutting tables.

“UltraSharp plasma can pierce and cut mild steel up to 60mm thick, howeverit is material in the 10mmto 30mm thickness rangewhere it offers the major benefits,” Mr Walsh says.

“This thickness range posesan issue for laser cutters as they start to run out of power and cutting speeds have to be significantly reduced. This is not the case with the Kerf UltraSharp technology. As a direct comparison, the Kerf UltraSharp process will cut 25mm mild steel typically two to three times faster than a CO2 laser.”

He adds: “UltraSharp takes the well proven high definition plasma process to the next level. It enables an improvement in edge quality and offers a solution for cutting 1:1 holes in thicker materials. That is to say a good quality 12mm diameter hole in 12mm thick material.

Additionally, the process is driven by CAD/CAM software and a technology database that matches geometry to proven cut data. By using this we have deskilled the highquality plasma cutting process for the machine operator and as a result are able to offer more consistent cut quality.” Creating cost downs

So what are the sorts of cutting applications where UltraSharp really offers users benefits compared to lasercutting technology?

“There is no doubt that a high-speed laser travelling and cutting at full speed is impressive but this does come at a high price, both for the initial purchase price and the ongoing operational costs,” Mr Walsh notes.

“On thin materials, 1mm through to 6mm, you could consider laser if you had a sufficient volume of work for the machine to justify the investment levels. For a laser to be cost-effective it really needs to be fitted with a load/unload system and operate around the clock six days a week. Plus, depending on the size and power of the laser, the investment level for that might be in the region of £700,000. Additionally, the laser process may require premium grade material.

“The cost of an UltraSharp plasma machine for 3mm - 35mm applications would cost less than £100,000 for a complete turnkey installation, with operational costs of around £15 per hour. The process doesn’t require premium grade material and in some cases it provides better cut quality. Kerf can supply a machine that can cut from 1mm through to 60mm on the same machine with different models which match customers’ requirements and budgets.”


The Power Of Plasma 10

are ideal for cutting mild steel, stainless, aluminium, wear plate metals and checker plate. Kerf opts for the US made, Lincoln Electric, Burny systems for the CNC, which can work in tandem with various CAD/CAM packages, although Lantek Expert is the preferred option for new machines.

Mr Walsh says: “The UltraSharp cutting database can import geometry from multiple sources. For those using a 3D structural steel design system they can transfer files directly into the database. Similarly, DXF or DWG files can be imported into the databases. Once in the UltraSharp database the geometry is analysed and the most appropriate cut technology applied to the geometry irrespective of where it originated.

“The software can automatically nest the parts together, apply the lead-in and lead-out technology and then generate the machine efficient CNC code required. Multiple jobs for different customers can be nested together on the same plate to maximise material utilisation.”

Head control

Kerf also opts for Lincoln Electric plasma systems along with its Inova torch height control, which sets the initial piercing height of the cutting head and then constantly adjusts it as it moves over the plate to optimise the cutting process. The company also has a remote monitoring system for its machines which greatly enhances customer support.

“We are able to log into any machine around the world with Internet access and with the owner’s permission check if there are any issues. This has been very popular with our customers where we have been able to diagnose problems without having to send an engineer, saving them and ourselves time and money.”

Kerf mainly sells its plasma machines to the UK and Ireland although it will supply customers further afield if there is a local support for its machine’s control systems and plasma units.

The company prides itself on putting together bespoke turnkey packages for its customers, from small compact machines through to the large multi-bridge types installed at companies like the P.P. Group, which featured in the September 18 issue of Production Engineering Solutions.

And although the company has evolved to be a manufacturer and supplier of the latest plasma technology, its ethos is still rooted in its reputation for service and support.

Mr Walsh states: “Wherever possible we try to look at the type of products that the customer is looking to manufacture. Not all products are suitable for UltraSharp and it is essential that we and our customers understand this from the outset.


The Power Of Plasma 11

“Effective post-sales support is what Kerf is known for. It’s where the company started and it’s still at the heart of our business. We have resisted adding additional product ranges, preferring to focus and concentrate on our core products.” he concludes.

West Wales Company is a Trailblazer With New Kerf Machine

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. 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.”

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.”

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Creating Savings Everywhere

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.”

Design for Life

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.”  

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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.”

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Kerf Creates Opportunities

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.”

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“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.

Kerf Is Critical In Growth Strategy at BSK Engineering

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.

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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. With a huge quarry industry on the doorstep and a pool of suitably talented engineers, the company changed its business model to generate growth. To implement the 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 plasma cutting machine, a 3m by 1.5m RUR2000P, BSK Engineering Managing Director, Mr Barry Kerr says: “When buying our first 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.”

The Explosive Growth 

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 machine was initially the perfect fit. The first Kerf machine was 75% committed to structural steel work, 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!

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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 machine – and Kerf duly obliged.

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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.”

Kerf Is Critical In Growth Strategy

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.” 

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 machine 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 a 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 solution.”

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.”

Maximising the Opportunities of Waterjet

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. 

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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 an Optima 320 twin head waterjet 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 waterjet to its machining capability with the arrival of the 3m by 2m Optima waterjet.

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 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. The fast turnaround times on high-value niche market valves has won the company plaudits; with high-profile customers including leading names from industry such as Shell, BP, Ineos, BNFL ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Maersk, Amec and Total to name a few.

Why Invest in a Kerf Waterjet?

Identifying why the company opted for a waterjet 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 waterjet was the only feasible option for our components. Laser 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.” 

Hobbs Valve  - July 2023

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 that are not volume manufactured, so the ability to stock material and produce clamp rings when required gives us the flexibility and reaction time required for components that are produced in volumes from 1 to 10-off.”

Maximising the Opportunities of Waterjet

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. Manufactured from the same materials and quantity levels as the clamp rings, the in-house production of the 25mm to 100mm diameter end plates has reduced subcontracting costs by an additional £20,000 per annum.  

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“The Optima 320 twin head waterjet machine from Kerf Developments has reduced our subcontracting costs by over £50,000 a year on just two component types whilst slashing our lead-times and alleviating supply chain issues. 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 of the Optima not only reduces internal costs and lead-times, it has become a self sufficient cost-centre and 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.”

Kerf Enables Recycling Company to ‘Design for Manufacture’

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 reclaimation 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. 

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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 Electric Spirit 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 the Kerf 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. The Kerf and Amada machines have improved our overall output as a business by at least 20%”

Taking the Kerf Benefits to Another Level

The Kerf RUR2500p 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 Ultrasharp 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%.” 

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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 Ultrasharp 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 to 4-6 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.