As the oft-used idiom states, mighty oaks from small acorns grow. Few fit this phrase better than Loughborough-based JC Metalworks. Started by Jack Chauhan in his garage in 1986, it has taken less than 30 years for the company to grow into a £5.3 million turnover, 72-employee, 60,0002 ft enterprise.
Like many, JC Metalworks offers an in-house solution for all sheet metal subcontracting requirements, from design and precision engineering services through to product manufacture, assembly (including electrical work and the fitting of non-metal elements such as wood and glass), and delivery. However, the company's differentiating factor, and the secret behind its unerring success is its carefully planned, ongoing investment in modern, automated manufacturing equipment. It is this that enables JC Metalworks to be flexible and highly responsive to customer needs. In combination with three other founding principles - customer service, investment in people and development of processes - this family-owned and run company has gone from strength-to-strength.
Point-of-sale is the main market served by JC Metalworks, which accounts for 85% of business. Over the years, the company has become an expert in retail markets, understanding the sector's products, lead-times and quality requirements. Retail shelving and racking for products such as confectionary, beauty products and tobacco are among core business. Needless to say, laser cutting is a primary process, which is why the company's most recent investment is an FOL3015 AJ 4kW fibre laser from Amada.
"I always look to buy the best and fastest machine when I do my supplier research," says Jason Chauhan, the company's Managing Director and son of the founder. "We had an existing CO2 laser from another supplier, but with 90% of our business involving sheet of less than 1.5 mm thick, it made sense to think about investing in fibre technology. After thoroughly researching the market and the machines on offer, we chose the Amada FOL3015 AJ. Many machines were considered, but Amada represented the best value for us in terms of manufacturing efficiency and automation. Amada also offers total reliability with regard to service."
Duly acquired, the FOL3015 AJ with MP-F automated load/unload spends around 80% of its time cutting mild steel less than 1.5 mm thick, although zintec, pre-galvanised steel, stainless steel and aluminium are also processed on the machine. Anywhere from 20 to 100 sheets are loaded at a time.
"It's a lot quicker than our existing CO2 laser; probably two or three times faster, depending on the part," says Mr Chauhan. "However, aside from the speed, we are also experiencing enhanced cut quality, along with less maintenance thanks to features like automatic nozzle changing and cleaning."
The FOL3015 AJ represents high specification fibre technology from the diode to the workpiece. Both the machine and beam source are developed by Amada, providing perfectly synchronised components for optimum performance. Material processing is rapid, thanks to 340 m/min linear drives and 5G acceleration, while users can expect to save around 70% in energy running costs in comparison with a CO2 machine.
"As well as eliminating the cost of outsourcing some of our previous laser cutting requirements, the machine has given us a real opportunity," says Mr Chauhan. "Not only have we generated extra capacity, some of which we still have to fill, but it's an excellent marketing tool. All of our customers who have seen the machine are really pleased to see that we're investing in the latest manufacturing technologies."Along with the FOL3015 AJ, the company has plenty more Amada technology on site, including an EMZ3610 punch machine with PDC automatic tool changer and load/part remover automation, and two HFP series press brakes and BendCAM software.
Working as a sub-contractor supporting retail agencies and their clients - often well-known and high profile high street brands - with their point of sale manufacturing requirements. It is crucial to JC Metalworks that all products are made to exact specifications and high standards, all while remaining competitive in the marketplace. With this in mind, JC Metalworks is now working with trusted partners in the Gujarat region of India, from where the Chauhan family originate, to undertake some of the company's metalworking processes.
"Having India on-board allows us to manufacture larger volumes on a competitive basis without affecting quality," says Mr Chauhan. "This will open up opportunities for our clients to support their brands globally, as cost effectively as possible, while still making the most of our team's skills and experience."
On the subject of employees, JC Metalworks is clearly proud of its reputation for developing skills and ensuring that all of its sheet metal manufacturing services are run by and carried out using the best equipment available.
"Our success is based on the ability to build long-term partnerships with customers," concludes Mr Chauhan. "Our employees work hard to understand and deliver what matters, only then can we be truly confident that clients will become delighted partners."