When Gordon Robinson formed D&D Engineering (Hull) over 30 years ago to design, develop and manufacture bespoke conveyor systems for the food processing industry, he had no ambition to machine parts in-house. His reliance on local sub-contract manufacturing companies to provide the components needed worked perfectly well in the company’s formative years. This was to change when Gordon was joined in the business by his son, and current managing director, Mark Robinson.


With Mark on-board plans were developed to grow the business and, within seven years, D& D Engineering outgrew its original premises so the decision was taken to buy land and create a purpose-built factory. “It was a risk when we mortgaged to buy our current premises, but with the business growing it was a calculated one, and one which paid off quickly, with the 25 year loan being repaid in 12 years,” says Mark Robinson. The growth of the company had come not only from increased sales of conveyor systems, but also from the decision to begin bringing machining in-house for its own production, this then developed into a full sub-contracting business. And with Hull’s economy expected to benefit from its year as the City of Culture, and new manufacturing businesses setting up in the area, this growth looks set to continue.

D&D Engineering’s first machine tool investment was to bring in some turning capacity in the form of XYZ SLX ProTURN lathes with the ProtoTRAK control. “We found the ProtoTRAK control so easy to use as a first step into CNC machining,” says Mark. “Not only that, but the ethos of XYZ Machine tools and the support and enthusiasm from everyone there reassured us that we were making the right decision.” With this initial investment satisfying the turning requirement at the time, attention turned to milling and, the positive experience of the ProtoTRAK control meant that choosing XYZ ProtoTRAK controlled SMX bed mills was an easy decision. “ProtoTRAK is such a wonderful control for producing contours, pockets, holes and a host of other features on the parts for our conveyor systems, with programming being very straightforward.”


With experience of ProtoTRAK turning and milling and business still growing, both for its own products and increasingly supplying customers from the wind power, offshore oil & gas, petrochemical and food industries, D&D looked to develop its machining capability further. This next step saw two XYZ MiniMill 560 vertical machining centres installed with fourth axis attachments. This new capacity brought in larger batch sizes from customers and the versatility of the Siemens control system, which Mark Robinson describes as ‘perfect for our business’ made programming at the machine easy. The business generated by having the MiniMills meant that D&D Engineering could invest further, with XYZ 1020 vertical machining centres joining the capacity list, closely followed by turning centre capability in the form of an XYZ Compact Turn 52 and an XYZ 250 TC, with larger diameter turning catered for with the arrival of an XYZ XL 1100 lathe with a 2 metre between centres and 1100 mm swing over the bed.


With these machines in place new opportunities arose for D&D Engineering and it expanded its support of the food and drinks industry, with one customer from that sector providing in the region of £20,000 of sub-contract business every month. With that level of work machine reliability was vital for Mark Robinson, here he cannot fault the XYZ machines and the service support that he gets, if needed. “Many of our machines are running 18 hours a day so we ensure that they are regularly serviced, with the highest dependency machines being on XYZ service contracts, which provide excellent value. On top of that, the service engineers always seem willing to spend time and discuss things with us, which reflects the high level of support we get from anyone we talk to at XYZ,” says Mark Robinson.


While both the ProtoTRAK and Siemens control make programming at the control a relatively simple procedure thanks to their conversational languages, D&D Engineering has also invested in offline programming through XYZ Machine Tools and, once again, this is opening up new opportunities, especially in the injection moulding sector. With this mould tool work came a further need for investment, this time in larger capacity vertical machining centre capability. This was addressed with the arrival of an XYZ 2010 HD VMC. Part of XYZ’s heavy-duty range of machines the 2010 has 2000 mm of X-axis travel (1000 mm and 800 mm in Y and Z). Developed for large components, such as mould tools, the machine features hardened box slideways, with six slides alone on the Y-axis. At D&D Engineering they utilise the 30 position toolchanger to maximise run-time, with the machine running unmanned overnight on long cycle time work, then switching to shorter runs during the day.

“The XYZ machines and XYZ itself has served us very well and I can’t recommend them highly enough. One knock on effect of our investment in XYZ machines has been the requirement to develop our skills set. This led to us starting an apprentice scheme several years ago and we currently have five apprentices out of a workforce of 28, this is something that we are very proud of. More positive is that many of those that we have trained have stayed with us and gone on to operate and program the XYZ machines,” says Mark Robinson.