After 15 years of working in the subcontract machining environment Michael Thompson decided that it was time for a change. He was aware that he had the necessary skills and experience to work for himself and after some research the seeds for a new business were sown. Speaking with his now fellow directors Martin Stokoe and Stephen Hornby they were all in the same mind, wanting to run their own engineering business. Taking the sensible option, the trio sat back and planned, putting the feelers out to identify business opportunities and, almost 12 months later, created Newcastle-based Expert Precision Engineering.

“We knew we were making the right decision,” says Michael Thompson, “given the skills set that we had with myself and Martin having extensive machining experience which was supplemented by Stephen’s extensive knowledge of quality and production management. From the outset we knew we would be involved in the machining of jobs that others maybe didn’t want due to their difficulty or awkward materials, so we knew we had to invest wisely in machine tool capacity.” That initial investment took the form of four machines from XYZ Machine Tools, two XYZ TC400 turning centres, an XYZ 1100 HD and an XYZ 800 HD vertical machining centres.

The two XZ TC 400 Turning Centres undertake some heavy-duty machining operations  

Among the key reasons to choose XYZ as a machine supplier was its use of the Siemens Shopmill and Shopturn control systems, along with the solid construction of the machines with their box slideways and overall machining capacities. “We find that using the Siemens control we can cut programming time in half thanks to the easy-to-use interface and graphics. We can also edit those programs quickly as well,” says Martin Stokoe. “The rigid construction of the machines along with powerful spindles also suited the work we envisaged we would be machining, which involves hogging out material. In our view the XYZ machines can do the work of machines that would be twice the price, so they provide excellent value for money and cost-effective machining, delivering savings that we can pass on to customers.”

Being a start-up company with no track record, making such an investment posed its own difficulties. It was here that XYZ Machine Tools’ Area Sales Manager Phil Hopkins and Mike Hankin of Capital Funding Solutions sat down with the three directors to work through all of the finance options to ensure the right package was delivered. “Phil and Mike were a big influence in the early stages of the decision making process, we knew we wanted outright ownership of the machines and between them they delivered the hire purchase solution that worked for us.” The machines were delivered in two tranches with the first of the TC 400 turning centres and the 1100 HD VMC arriving first and, were cutting metal within 24 hours of their arrival. The second TC 400 and the 800 HD VMC arrived as per schedule three months later.

The two XZ TC 400 Turning Centres undertake some heavy-duty machining operations  

With no such thing as a typical batch quantity, with work running from one-offs to more general 20-30 offs, the ease-of-use of the XYZ machines and the Siemens controls are paying dividends for Expert Precision Engineering. “Key to our success is being able to push work through quickly and accurately and give customers the confidence that we will deliver on our promises,” says Michael Thompson. “With the XYZ machines we can be cutting metal within hours of receiving an order and with the skills we have within the business we know that anyone can step up to the machines and program, set and operate them without any issues. This ability to deliver on-time has had a positive effect on business and we are seeing a change in the work we are getting, with more complex and competitive work coming our way, which in turn will allow us to invest further in XYZ machines.”

The XYZ 1100 HD and 800 HD form part of XYZ Machine Tools’ heavy-duty range of vertical machining centres. Constructed around solid castings with box slideways weighing in at 7000 kg and 4400 kg respectively with both machines featuring a 33 hp/25 kW 10,000 revs/min spindles. Axis travels are 100 x 600 x 610 mm and 800 x 500 x 510 mm, which provide the capacity required for the typical components machined by Expert Precision. Work that comes from across a number of sectors including oil & gas; marine and airport infrastructure and motorsport.  The two XYZ TC 400 turning centres also provide heavy-duty machining capability, with a 45 hp/32 kW 3300 revs/min spindle, 78 mm bar capacity and a maximum turning diameter of 400 mm. Once again with hardened box slideways and solid Meehanite castings weighing some 5,700 kg, the XYZ TC 400 is a highly capable machine for high volume metal removal.