9 July 2007

Upcoming orders drive investment at Stratford Tools

Faced with some "very large contracts on the horizon" for customers in the retail/point-of-sale industry, Buckingham-based Stratford Tools decided to act fast and invested in a new Trumpf TruLaser 2025 CNC laser profiling centre featuring fully integral loading and unloading units.

Running two laser cutting machines and one punch/laser combination machine – all supplied by a Trumpf competitor – recent bottlenecks had already led Stratford Tools to assess its capacity. Securing the retail sector orders merely confirmed that action was required.

"We were not unhappy with our previous machine tool supplier, or their machines, but on this occasion the Trumpf TruLaser 2025 simply offered the best solution," explains General Manager Stephen Cooke. "The simplicity of the machine and the way it works in terms of nesting and programming exactly match our future needs. Other machines in its class appear overly complex. We want a simple machine that we can run unmanned, using only semi-skilled operators to tend to its occasional requirements."

Promoted as a low cost ‘fully automated' machine, the Trumpf TruLaser 2025 fabrication centre has loading and unloading units connected directly to the machine, keeping footprint to a minimum, despite offering an X and Y axis of 2.5m and 1.25m respectively. Maximum simultaneous axis speed is approximately 170m/min.

Of course moving away from familiar machines to a new supplier can be seen as a risk, but Mr Cooke thinks this is not necessarily the case. "We have plenty of laser cutting experience," he says. "Along with Trumpf's help we will be fine – two of our operators have already attended the programming course."

Delivery to the company's 78,000ft² air conditioned facility took place in April. The TruLaser 2025 will be set to work producing mild steel and zintec parts between 1mm and 2mm thick. Although the machine can process thicker sheet (12mm mild steel, 6mm stainless steel and 5mm aluminium) the enhanced cutting speeds offered by the TruLaser 2025 for thinner gauge materials have convinced Mr Cooke that this is where it can offer most gains, particularly as the company now has nitrogen generation plant on tap, so that all material will be ‘clean-cut'.

"Previously our nitrogen was supplied by bulk cylinder banks, which significantly increased component costs," says Mr Cooke. "Also, not using nitrogen can present carbon-edge problems when welding. The combination of our new TruLaser 2025 and our nitrogen generation plant will put us in a very competitive market position. Our forthcoming orders for the retail sector are predominantly mild steel-based, so they will benefit enormously."

Stratford Tools has recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. The company founder, George Cooke is now semi-retired, leaving the day-to-day management of the firm in the hands of his two sons. Today Stratford Tools is a 52-employee business that turns over an impressive ÂŁ4.5 million annually. Aside from the retail sector, the ISO9001 accredited company has a strong history of supplying industries such as telecommunications, instrumentation and sound & audio. Although Stratford Tools can produce 1-off components, typical batch sizes are in the realm of 100-200.

Mr Cooke says that the company's customers return time and time again for a number of reasons. "We win contracts because our customers buy into our philosophy of right-first-time quality, on-time delivery and competitive pricing structure," he states. "Our new TruLaser 2025 can help us improve even further in all of these aspects."

Contact: Gerry Jones

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