Our Full History
1984 – 2021
after serving an apprenticeship as a machine tool builder, Halifax born Nigel Atherton was faced with redundancy at the height of the miners’ strike of 1984. Grabbing the opportunity, he moved south to start his own business providing CNC programming help and training. However, he soon returned to his main skills and started rebuilding Bridgeport turret mills and fitting Acu-Rite DRO systems.
With some initial success he quickly realised that selling machines was easier than lugging Bridgeport tables around and hand scrapping saddles tables and knees.
It was in late 1985 that he was approached by a Taiwanese company who wrote to the fledgling XYZ Machine Tools with a pretty picture of a new turret mill. Not able to travel to Taiwan to see it in the flesh Nigel took a gamble and ordered two, sight unseen. Happily, when they arrived, he was astonished at the quality: NOTHING needed to be done to them.
However, progress was slowed due to the lack of support from the banks, but with help from Brian Porter, who stepped in temporarily as a director of the business and provided a personal guarantee, the first containers of machines were on the water. All bought on letters of credit, with payment due 30 days after delivery, so the pressure was on to sell.
And sell they did!
XYZ Machine Tools quickly grew into a 10 employee business selling 60 + turret mills and lathes per month.
This saw the original business expand into 2 x 2500 ft2 premises.
This was a year of significant change as it was the year that XYZ Machine Tools discovered ProtoTRAK® for its mills. This control system was set to revolutionise machine shops where the focus was on one-off and small batch production. As a result of ProtoTRAK® sales would grow from £3 million to £15 million over the next five years.
An instant success the arrival of ProtoTRAK® meant further expansion and a relocation to a 10,000ft2 purpose-built unit in Willand, Devon with a crane, which itself was expanded by a further 6000ft2 within 12 months.
The benefits of conversational programming were coming to light and this saw a switch to Siemens for the controls of its VMCs with the Siemens ShopMill control offering the conversational software that fit in very well with XYZ customers that were now familiar with the easy to program ProtoTRAK® that was becoming ever more popular. By now it was fair to say that XYZ Machine Tools had built a great team of people and products and had become a “player” competing with many of the top machine tool businesses.
Turning Centres with Siemens ShopTurn software was the next product development expanding the range even further and opening up many more potential business opportunities. The result was further expansion of premises with a move into a 48,000ft2 new unit with 2 extensions, one in 2000 and one in 2005 taking us up to 98,000ft2
XYZ Machine Tools was now faced with its second recession and one that would have an impact on a business that had grown from £3million to £15million turnover. Good management saw the business remain in profit and in good shape to bounce back.
With the recession fading it was it was back to business as normal. Staff numbers increased to 45+ employees, including a service team of 10 engineers and 10 area sales managers.
The first of these new developments was the arrival of XYZ Machine Tools first fully dedicated five-axis machining centre, the UMC-5X. While having experience of five axis machining utilising 2-axis rotary tables, dedicated simultaneous five-axis was a new venture, and one that would prove successful.
Customers welcomed the capability and price point of the UMC-5X, and for those no requiring simultaneous five-axis machining the UMC-4+1 machine soon followed.
The calm before the Covid storm saw XYZ Machine Tools post its best sales figures in its history with over £35 million of machines being ordered.
The financial year began badly with the combination of Brexit uncertainty and Covid hitting sales dramatically with confidence across manufacturing taking a big hit.
However, XYZ Machine Tools’ customer base proved to be resilient and what started out looking like a disastrous year turned out positive in the end with substantial increases in sales and profit.
XYZ made great strides in 2022 with our new range of Toolroom Machining Centres. The easy-to-use, touchscreen, ProtoTRAK® control has now been integrated into 5 of our best-selling Vertical Machining Centres!
We are also excited to now have a showroom in Zabrze, Poland, with a very successful showroom launch event taking place in February 2023. We hope Poland will be the start of some European growth where we can influence sales by having our own team. The market for machine tools in Poland is bigger than the UK, we hope we can gain a small slice of it.