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Nearly 60 visitors representing manufacturing companies from Hartlepool to Falmouth converged on the open house staged by Whitehouse Machine Tools at its Kenilworth showroom at the end of June 2012.
Managing director Tim Whitehouse comments: “While numbers were a little lower than we had hoped for, the quality of visitors was high and the enquiries serious – no tyre kickers, just customers with a specific requirement or interest. Given the timing, at the start of the holiday season, we felt that the event was a success and encouragingly, whilst the majority of visitors were existing users and contacts, a quarter of people through the door were new to us."
A diverse spread of companies were represented, from large tier one suppliers to the automotive industry with £20 million turnover to owner/operator businesses with a couple of spindles. They included companies from jobshop environments whose production requirements change from week to week and manufacturers with machining cells dedicated to families of components.
A strong message to emerge from the majority of visitors was that they wanted more than simply a high quality machine tool. Many identified a need for Whitehouse applications engineering support to provide a fully engineered solution that will be in full production from day one.
Mr Whitehouse continued: "There has been a tendency over the past couple of decades for British manufacturers to de-skill their in-house production teams and rely more heavily on engineers from machine tool suppliers to write programs, help with tooling selection and the like. We have noticed a steady rise in application-based work – not only prior to a new machine sale but also when equipment has been in use for a number of years. It is not unusual to visit a long established customer and take 30% out of a cycle, which can easily make the difference between the job making a loss or a profit."
Following Whitehouse’s recent appointment sole UK sales and service agent, feedback on the Spinner range of German-built machines was encouraging, with most visitors commenting on the broad depth of models for both multi-axis turning and prismatic machining in the recently expanded programme. Particular interest was shown in the U-series of 5-axis vertical machining centres.
High speed vertical machining centres from the long established Brother agency range were also on show, including the top end TC-32B QT twin pallet model with Nikken and Kitagawa rotary tables on its respective pallets.
There were two Brother machines fitted with auto loading, which, according to Whitehouse, is another requirement that has been increasing in recent years. One was the long bed, moving table TC-S2DN-O automated by a Nachi MR20 6-axis robot. Brother has a cooperation agreement in Japan with this robot builder.
The other automated machine was a fixed table 32BN-FT equipped with a 100rpm Sankyo 5-axis rotary table, fed with components from a 75 pallet System 3R Workpartner 1+ pallet change system. The cell is destined for a medical equipment subcontractor and the pallet magazine is the first example of this new system to be sold.
Although not shown at the open house, the Akari HS-450i 4-axis horizontal spindle machining centre from Averex Automation, Taichung, was represented by a video showing that the machine is built to high Japanese quality standards. This new Whitehouse UK agency agreement was signed shortly before MACH 2012.
Capable of machining components weighing up to 500kg, the machine is of novel design whereby it can be expanded retrospectively in the field easily and affordably, from two to six pallets and from 80 through 120 to 220 tools in around one day. The first machine destined for the Kenilworth showroom is currently on its way from Taiwan.
Interest was also shown in what ancillary partners were offering, with visitors appreciating objective advice on adding value to existing equipment and processes. Follow-up visits have already been arranged to discuss projects to retrofit non-contact tool setting and part probing from Blum, an MC20 6-axis Nachi robot and a System 3R Workpartner 1+.
Whitehouse Machine Tools