29 January 2010

Trumpf laser maximises uptime at Powell manufacturing

Bradford-based subcontract fabrication specialist Powell Manufacturing has achieved notably impressive 99.68% uptime since installing its latest TruLaser 3040 laser cutting machine from Trumpf.

Powell Manufacturing demanded high uptime guarantees before committing to the purchase of the TruLaser 3040 to ensure that it could continue to meet the expectations of its high profile customers in industries such as electronics, construction and automotive.

Powell Manufacturing, (previously known as NGBM), a trading division of Switchgear & Instrumentation Ltd, was acquired by US group Powell Industries in 2005. Although the company continues to supply fabricated products for the switchgear side of its business, around £5 million is generated annually in turnover from external contracts.

To distinguish itself from competitors, one of the company’s recent manufacturing strategies has been to implement a highly developed maintenance and performance programme in order to help ensure that its quality, reliability and price remain market leading attributes.

“Turnaround times are tight and there is little if no margin for machine downtime, particularly with regard to our laser cutting facilities which are integral to our operation and productivity,” says Powell Manufacturing’s sales and marketing manager Peter Watts. “We operate a computerised capacity planning system to schedule the workload across all our processes, thereby ensuring deliveries are maintained at the optimum, and allowing fast re-scheduling to reflect the dynamic demands of our many and varied customers. Machine downtime does not fit into this manufacturing ethos.”

Powell Manufacturing needn’t have worried. In its first 97 weeks, the TruLaser 3040 worked for 13,926 hours, i.e. 143.54 hours per week. This equates to 99.68% availability across the company’s working directive of 24 hours a day, six days a week (144 hours). Downtime has amounted to just 42 hours in 97 weeks, time that can be attributed to installing new software updates and for routine wearing part changes.

So what is the secret of such remarkable uptime? Well, aside from the inherent reliability gained from Trumpf’s standards of high quality engineering, the maintenance team at Powell Manufacturing is Trumpf-trained.

“We have four engineers trained to maintain Trumpf technology,” says Mr Watts. “Most of the maintenance is simply planned routine tasks, but if there is ever a small glitch, we have the capability to get the machine up and running again in minutes rather than calling for assistance from Trumpf. Our team can even rectify major faults should they ever arise, in fact we are one of the few companies trusted by Trumpf to work on the high voltage side of the resonator.”

“While the performance of the TruLaser 3040 has been outstanding, the attitude of Powell Manufacturing is very refreshing,” says Trumpf service manager Brian Harper. “But not all Trumpf users need to reach Powell’s level of expertise. Even learning a simple programme of planned maintenance and care can extend machine life expectancy considerably.”

Powell Manufacturing uses its TruLaser 3040 to process everything from 0.5mm aluminium (for electronics industry parts) up to 20mm stainless steel found typically in balustrade and balcony components for the construction sector. Batches range from 1-off up to thousands. Mr Watts says that the inherent flexibility and lack of tool changes means that laser cutting is well suited to the business model at Powell Manufacturing, which also undertakes CNC forming, welding, powder coating and assembly operations at its Bradford facility 24 hours a day, six days a week.

With its 3000 x 1500mm working range, everything about the TruLaser 3040 is geared towards getting from ‘art to part’ in the shortest possible time. Advanced functionality includes modern control technology with integrated know-how, programming with TruTops Laser, the ability to preset processing parameters via technology tables and a quick-change system for cutting heads.

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