Supplying finished products for customers across a wide range of different markets helped Spooner Industries remain buoyant during the recession. But with more and more customers reducing their lead times, the period from the production department receiving an order, through to completing the manufacturing process, is getting increasingly shorter.
Nick Murgatroyd, who is responsible for lasering and folding the parts, says the world’s most powerful sheet metal CAD/CAM software, Radan, has played a major role in meeting those deadlines, by programming and driving their Trumpf laser and Edwards Pearson press brake.
Spooner Industries set up a fully integrated operation incorporating Radan, Autodesk Inventor, the laser, the press brake and Microsoft AX business system. A bespoke Radan function speeds up the process of creating nests simultaneously from a number of works orders, contributing greatly to their ability to manufacture one-off products very competitively. “The lead time depends on the size of the job, but we can have a drawing issued in the morning and potentially start cutting in the afternoon. Previously, we couldn’t even dream of starting the manufacturing within a couple of days,” says Nick Murgatroyd.
Operating with 125 employees from 60,000 square foot premises, Spooner manufactures products ranging from industrial ovens and sausage skin machines for the UK and overseas food markets, through driers for the tobacco industry and air turns for paper companies, to coil coating and other industrial processes for the metals sector.
Managing Director Mike Brook says it is this wide diversity that helped them through the recession with no overall downturn in business. “When one industry was cutting back, another stayed healthy and steady. The food sector remained buoyant throughout; metals are currently coming back very strongly; and paper is now starting to re-emerge.” Couple that with a stable team and investment in a new building and new business system, and it is easy to see why Spooner Industries is one of the main employers in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.
With both the bespoke Radan function and Autodesk Inventor linking into the fully integrated Microsoft AX business system, Radan is capable of processing flat packs from as many individual works orders as are required at any one time. Inventor holds a bill of material for everything, and from there they get their list of parts, materials and quantities.
Nick Murgatroyd says: “Radan reads the list and creates all the symbols and then the nests, so all we have to do is to tell Radan what sheets we’ve got, and run the nester. Previously it was a manual procedure. All the flat packs were created for me, but I had to open each one and create all the programs. Now, the bespoke function does it all together by putting all my flat packs into a nest schedule for me. All I have to do is to hit the ‘Run Nester’ button. It’s unbelievable how much time it saves.”
With the drawing office using Inventor as their main CAD system, a number of standard models has been set up as the starting point for most new designs. “This library of parts is invaluable, because while our end products are generally bespoke for the particular customer, they do consist of similar parts.” The drawing office can design parts which are test-proofed on the software before being approved for manufacture. Once the team are happy with the finished model it is exported into AX, which creates the works orders – then the parts are cut on the Trumpf laser, before moving on to the Edwards Pearson press brake for shaping.
Whether Nick Murgatroyd uses fully automatic nesting or finalises the nest himself with Radan’s powerful manual nesting function, depends on how many parts they’re producing in the run. “Irregular shape nesting is absolutely amazing, regarding how well it can get irregular shaped parts into the sheet with effective material utilisation. If I’ve got 200 or 300 works orders which are all the same I’ll simply run the automatic nester for a few moments.” And as part of a push to reduce the number of remnants he has recently started to create nests for parts that are to be used for different jobs, and even for different customers.
But when he is working on what he describes as ‘oversized’ parts, he will finalise the nest himself. Radan has a powerful capability for the user to construct the nest interactively in this way with the help of the nesting program. While Radan provides an excellent nest automatically, Nick Murgatroyd is able to optimise it even further, taking his particular production requirements for that job, into consideration.
When works orders for the lasered parts are returned to the AX business system, it shows which items need to be sent on to the press brake. “Before we added Radbend to our suite of Radan modules in 2010, we just opened the 2D drawing, worked out from that what we needed to fold, and programmed it manually on the machine. Now, programmer/operator Andy Carlton finds the part number in Autodesk Inventor’s data management tool Vault, and creates the program for the Edwards Pearson offline.
“We’re definitely able to fold a lot more now, and Radbend gives us the ability to bend complex and more complicated parts. It frees up valuable machine time and improves first-off reliability, reducing manufacturing costs and saving us fabrication time. Also, costly mistakes are eliminated, thanks to the automatic collision detection, both with the tooling and the machine tool itself.”
Ordinarily, bend tolerances are calculated automatically, but if a high bend tolerance is required it is flagged up on the bar code produced by the AX system. An example job ticket issued to the factory would read: ‘Fold Item to Drawing F1123-0648 (2 person): 8 folds. IMPORTANT: Please see drawing CA1123-0644 for folding tolerances,’ then operators can work to the required tolerance.
“Radan has definitely made my life easier. I would not be able to program the amount of work that goes through the laser, without it,” says Nick Murgatroyd.