13 August 2008

BLM tube laser contributes to Hydram Sheet Metalwork?s world class strategy

In the past two years Hydram Sheet Metalwork has invested more than £2 million in capital equipment and plans to expand its factory by a further 30,000 sq. ft. next year. A crucial part of this investment by the ISO 9001:2000-accredited subcontractor has been the installation of a BLM Dynamo CNC tube bender and, more recently, a BLM Adige LT 712D CNC tube laser. This is in response to the current three-year business plan that identifies possible additions to the company’s range of services.

With over 30 years’ experience in subcontract manufacturing and more than 150 customers spread across virtually every industry sector, Hydram has built a reputation for high quality sheet metal components, assemblies and light fabrications produced at its 70,000 sq. ft. factory. However, a decade ago this 130-employee company’s customer base did not extend much beyond a 40 minute drive from its location on the Chilton Industrial Estate, near Ferryhill, County Durham. Today, it is a very different picture.

“The marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive, with UK companies looking to offshore manufacture or dual source as a way of combating increases in energy, material and labour costs,” says John Young, Managing Director. “To counter this trend we are investing in more efficient and productive equipment while, at the same time, looking further afield for customers within the UK and continental Europe. Tube bending is one of our core competencies and we needed to upgrade our capability in terms of automated operation. The tube laser, on the other hand, is in addition to our flat sheet laser machining capability and has opened up new market opportunities while differentiating Hydram from its competitors.”

The decision to purchase the LT 712D tube laser was based in part on the performance and reliability of the BLM Dynamo CNC tube bender, BLM Group’s acknowledged expertise in tube processing, and the new machine’s 8.5 metre tube length processing capacity. “We were also impressed by the build quality of the machine, its off-line programming capability, the service and support provided by BLM Group UK Ltd, and the experiences of other end-users,” says David Greatorex, Operations Director. “Where we would previously have used several machines to process tubular components, we now use the tube laser and have eliminated inaccuracies and work-in-progress. It has also impacted on operations downstream, for example, by eliminating the need for welding jigs as parts can now be tagged. All of this has enabled us to take cost out of the job because it is not just about cutting faster, it is about revisiting the entire production process from design to delivery of the completed component.”

This BLM Adige LT 712D is equipped with a Siemens Sinumerik 840D CNC and can process round, square, rectangular and flat-sided oval section tube up to 152 mm diameter, courtesy of a 2500 W laser source. Off-line programming software specifically developed for the machining of tubes creates new programs quickly and easily, typically less than 10 minutes from drawing to finished part, while the Siemens control allows the operator to manage all the main functions, including program downloads. Fast set-up and change-over times – around three minutes – means short batches can be managed as cost-effectively as longer production runs.

In addition to sheet metal processes such as CNC punching, presswork, folding and rolling, and its expertise in laser tube cutting and profiling, Hydram also offers MIG/TIG welding of mild, stainless steel and aluminium. Precision CNC machining is also available, with parts requiring painting being powder coated prior to final assembly and delivery.

“We consider Hydram to be one of the top sheet metalworking companies in the UK, with more than 150 customers spread across virtually every industry sector,” says David Greatorex. “However, the objective is to be confirmed as world class when assessed against the criteria typically used by ‘blue chip’ manufacturing companies such as Nissan. It is, of course, difficult to compare our performance with businesses operating outside of the sheet metal sector and especially those serving high-volume production markets. However, we have concentrated on key aspects such as cost, quality and delivery, and have arrived at target figures that we believe represent a truly world class standard – for example, 99.9 per cent of orders delivered on time and in full. Training, too, is a big thing for Hydram. Last year training averaged four days per person and 90 per cent of our workforce is educated to a minimum NVQ Level 2 standard.”

The upshot, he adds, is that Hydram’s customers “are benefiting from a single-source supplier pursuing a policy of continuous improvement and committed to high quality products, competitive pricing and prompt delivery”.

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