(Above) Finished cubicles featuring Shadow Tech fittings.
If we are being honest how many of us while getting changed at a leisure centre or, making use of toilet facilities, have given a moment’s thought to the fittings locking the door or holding the cubicle together. Not many I would guess. However, at County Durham-based Shadow Tech every last detail is poured over to ensure that the locks, hinges, feet and panel supports are engineered to the highest standards. Such is their drive for quality and design that their products have been chosen to grace the toilets and changing facilities of some of the UK’s finest sporting venues, including the new Wembley stadium and Carnoustie golf course.
This decision to machine in-house has had a significant positive impact on our cash flow and work in progress. By eliminating the logistics, we can work on a just in time basis, reducing stock and manufacturing in much smaller batch quantities.
Many of the projects that it works on require bespoke designs, for example, the feet of the cubicles at Carnoustie had to resemble golf tees, and with such prestigious customers, quality of design and manufacture has to be of the highest standard. “Design and functionality is everything to us, while the fittings that we create may be largely ignored, and it may be seen as ‘only a toilet’ we are determined that what we produce is well engineered and will function as it is intended for many years, while looking good at the same time,” says Chris Harvey, Shadow Tech’s Managing Director. “When we started the business 17 years ago we had no intention of doing any of the machining ourselves, as our focus was purely on the design element of the product. Therefore we offshored much of the machining to India, but as time went on we reviewed the situation and started to invest in in-house manufacturing about five-six years ago. Now, every new designed product is 100 per cent manufactured in the UK. This decision to machine in-house has had a significant positive impact on our cash flow and work in progress. By eliminating the logistics, we can work on a just in time basis, reducing stock and manufacturing in much smaller batch quantities.”
The most recent investment made by Shadow Tech was in an XYZ 2-OP portable vertical machining centre. This was purchased, as the machine name implies, to carry out second operation work and relieve pressure on other more high cost machine tools. “The XYZ 2-OP is doing exactly what we expected of it, taking those fiddly second operations away from other machines. We have used it, occasionally, as a supplementary machining centre, for which it is more than capable, but its primary purpose is to simply to relieve pressure on other spindles by doing simple operations such as drilling, tapping and slotting.,” says Chris Harvey.
the capacity of the machine belies its size the machining envelope is excellent, the overall performance is good
The footprint of the XYZ 2-OP was one of the key factors in choosing the machine, as with requiring only 1220 mm by 760 mm of floorspace the machine can fit anywhere in the machine shop. And, while Shadow Tech have used the portability of the 2-OP the size of its machining facility means that it tends to remain in one location now. “As we never intended to have a machine shop, the space we had available was limited so the compact nature of the 2-OP is perfect for us. That said, the capacity of the machine belies its size the machining envelope is excellent, the overall performance is good, the machine table with the Jergens Ball Lock system is perfect for us as we can quickly and accurately change set-ups by utilising fixture plates.”
As someone involved in component design, Chris Harvey is also impressed by the innovative eight-position toolchange system on the XYZ 2-OP which, with a maximum tool diameter capacity of 50 mm, is hidden away behind the machining area until required. The ability to machine within its axis travels of 355 mm by 305 mm by 455 mm (xyz) with a maximum table load of 250 kg making use of a 50 – 6,000 revs/min, 3 hp, spindle makes the XYZ 2-OP a highly capable machine for the operations it is designed to undertake.
While in-house machining was not on the agenda when Shadow Tech was created by Chris Harvey the investment in machining capacity is a logical progression from the company’s founding principles, those being to provide a specialist service to architects and panel manufactures through innovative design and quality manufacture, while maintaining competitive pricing and deliveries. The machining capacity is making a significant difference to the efficiency of the business. The addition of the XYZ 2-OP has further enhanced those efficiencies, freeing up expensive spindle time on other machines by carrying out those straightforward machining operations.
(Above) Shower cubicles featuring Shadow Tech fittings.
(Above) Golf tee shaped cubicle support/foot.
(Above) A selection of cubicle door furniture.
(Above) Typical components that now get machined on the XYZ 2-OP.
(Above) The versatile XYZ 2-OP at Shadow Tech.