Based in the shadow of the massive British Steel plant at Scunthorpe, Jaymek Engineering provides a general engineering and breakdown service for a wide range of customers across the north of England. For almost the entirety of its 15 years of business it has relied on a selection of manual lathes and mills to deliver a rapid turnaround service for these customers. Then, 12 months ago it bought its first CNC lathe, an investment suggest owner Mark Porteous that is aimed at future-proofing the business.

“Our business is all about rapid turnaround, we operate very much on a make it, deliver it, basis and while our manual machines have served us well, we never know what will be coming through the door next,” says Mark Porteous. “With business strong I recognised that we needed to move forward and secure the future of the company, and that meant CNC.” The one stumbling block was that Mark, or his colleague Robert Gad, had no CNC experience. This led them to XYZ Machine tools and its SLX range of ProTURN lathes. Fitted with the ProtoTRAK CNC control system they are ideal for the type of work undertaken by Jaymek Engineering, that being one-off and low volume work. The ease of use of the ProtoTRAK control also overcame the lack of CNC knowledge, with the conversational programming language enabling some quite complex parts to be turned.

Robert Gad (left) and Mark Porteous now combine their manual turning skills with CNC following the arrival of the XYZ SLX 425 ProTURN lathe at Jaymek Engineering.

“Our work is mainly small batches of 2-5 off, but we occasionally machine up to 50 off. The big advantage of the XYZ SLX 425 lathe is that we can be certain that the first off will be produced quickly and the last off will be identical to the first. Having the SLX has definitely changed how we work and it has opened up doors to additional larger batch type work.” After some initial training by XYZ, both Mark and Robert were confident in programming the SLX lathe and quickly started to produce some quite intricate work, including parts with ellipses, which would have been time consuming or almost impossible on their manual machines.

“We bought the SLX to be an asset for the business, without any great emphasis on costing or payback, to us it is a long-term investment that will prevent us from falling behind and missing out on work. We know that it is performing very well, and productivity has improved, although it’s difficult to be specific about gains, due to the mix of work we do, we just know it’s more efficient,” says Mark Porteous. “We are probably not using the CNC element of the machine as much as we could, but that is due to our background with manual machines, having the option to resort to winding handles is reassuring for us. That said, the efficiency that the CNC brings to the business is exceptional and we will slowly increase the 50 per cent of work that we produce using the ProtoTRAK control. It has set a benchmark from which we can continue to develop the business, we certainly have no regrets in making the step up, and it will lead us to develop CNC further.”

The XYZ SLX 425 ProTURN lathe with one of the parts produced at Jaymek Engineering

While only a small percentage of the work undertaken by Jaymek Engineering could be described as repeating, the ability to store programs, then quickly upload them to the ProtoTRAK control and repeat work very quickly is a big advantage. This combined with the machines capacity of 480 mm swing over the bed, 1250 mm (2000 mm option) between centre distance and its 7.5 kW spindle with three speed ranges covering 25 to 2500 revs/min, along with its constant surface speed capability, make it an ideal step up from manual turning.