With manufacturing plants around the world, specialist commercial vehicle seat manufacturer Isringhausen can be selective where it produces. This means that group companies, such as Isringhausen (GB) in Wrexham, have to be proactive and look at all options to improve productivity and performance.
Therefore, following a strategic review at Wrexham it was decided to look at reducing the reliance on subcontracted supply of the manipulated tube it uses in the manufacture of seat frames. By bringing this work back in-house, work flow could be better organised resulting in the stock levels to meet customers’ just-in-time requirements dramatically reduced. This in turn would free up floor space for the next phase of the company’s expansion and development plans.
The starting point of this project was the installation of a BLM ELECT 42 all-electric multi-stack CNC tube bender. “Buying this machine was a strategic decision and one that would form part of the company’s longer term plan, so we had to make the right choice. We needed a process that would be productive, accurate, reliable and deliver the quality of product that our customers demand of us. We also had on eye on the environmental impact of bringing production back in-house. The fact that the BLM ELECT 42 is an environmentally-friendly, all-electric, multi-stack CNC tube bending machine was a major benefit, for our own production environment. It also opened up the possibility of grant support from the Welsh Government, through its Funding For Innovation scheme.” says Isringhausen (GB)’s Operations Director, Geraint Thomas.
The grant approval came on the back of the benefits of the machine’s environmental credentials, with electric motors replacing the hydraulic system, the reduction in transport miles due to the work not being shipped in from the UK and Europe, and also the fact that the new purpose-built tube manipulation cell at Isringhausen (GB) would create at least ten new jobs. In fact, these jobs materialised within one month of the machine being installed, with new positions being created throughout the factory thanks to changes in working practices and the increased production generated by freeing up space that previously had been given over to storing seat frames.
The versatility of the BLM ELECT 42 with its nine-axes of movement, make it ideal for complex, multi-shaped, tubular components, where tubes are often bent with little or no straights between bends, similar to those being produced at Isringhausen (GB). The machine installed at Isringhausen (GB) has a tube bending capacity of 42 mm diameter, but machines can be specified with maximum tube capacities of 52mm, 63mm, 80mm, 100mm, 130mm and 150mm. Productivity is enhanced by the BLM 3D visual programming software (VGP3D), which through use of quick and easy steps, reduces set up time dramatically, and ensures highly cost-effective production of small to medium sized batches of tubes. Further savings are made by virtue of the setup data being stored with the piece-part program and the VGP 3D software increases productivity by as much as 40 per cent thanks to its advanced working cycle. Once the operator has input the bend coordinates, the software generates a cycle simulation, highlighting any potential problems or collision points. This also results in a real-life cycle time being generated, allowing production costs and component pricing to be calculated accurately, while component feasibility is assessed without the need for physically bending a part or manufacturing prototype tooling.
The simplicity and ease of use of the machine were demonstrated when the machine was delivered in early February. “The installation process was seamless, from the truck arriving almost to the minute of when it was scheduled, to bending the first tube within five hours of it being offloaded, everything just went to plan,” says Steven Moss, Isringhausen (GB)’s I.M.S Manager. “We had undergone some training prior to the machine arriving and had some programs ready and waiting. The control of the BLM machine is so simple compared to what we had been used to previously and the initial training was enough to get into production very quickly, with the two operators shadowing each other for the first week or so. They will then complete the more detailed training in stages as we progress with increasing throughput.”
In the short space of time that the BLM ELECT 42 has been at Isringhausen (GB) there has been a noticeable increase in consistency and overall quality of the seat frames being produced. “We are achieving 100 per cent conformity, which from a machine that we were not familiar with and, after such a short space of time, we are extremely pleased with,” says Geraint Thomas. “The support we have received from BLM in the UK and Italy has been exceptional and has allowed us to hit the ground running. We are also seeing lots of interest in the machine from existing customers of our seating systems. They can see the benefits of what we can achieve now and are asking if we can supply other tubular products to them. In one day alone I received over 50 requests for quote, which is exceptional.”