The decision to invest in machining capacity by Rugby-based SiFab Engineering Solutions was driven by a desire to be able to control deliveries to customers as well as manufacturing costs. However, with no formal machining training, and limited floorspace, company director Simon Hall had to choose his machine tools wisely.
After a career working for others developing and building race and championship winning cars, particularly in the classic (and modern classic) sector, Simon Hall, with encouragement from a range of contacts decided to do things for himself and formed SiFab Engineering Solutions. “With the promises of work that I had, I decided to make the jump and set up the business in 2015. Initially it was mainly fabrication, producing and retailing a large range of performance components, for small volume manufacturers, such as Morgan, TVR, Ginetta and similar niche automotive manufacturers. These in-house products, such as radiators, fuel tanks, brake and suspension components, are designed to help transform a road car into a race car. Working to exacting motorsport standards for quality and performance saw SiFab having to rely on subcontract for any machining work, which initially was the sensible thing to do, but it did have its drawbacks, including having to over order to get reasonable response times, or paying a premium for items.”
Developing classic and modern classic race cars, along with race-ready components, is SiFab’s core business
While in the early days sub-contracting made sense eventually thoughts turned to bringing machining in-house, but while Simon had a degree in engineering he had no formal machining training, although he had used manual and some CNC machines over his career. Therefore, he turned to friend and business acquaintance Phil Boffin of BMS Engineering who had gone down the same route in starting his own business for advice. “I had used Phil for some tube work for roll cages, so knew he had invested in XYZ machines. On his advice I went along to an XYZ open day at Nuneaton with the intention of looking at a lathe. After having a ‘play’ on a couple of machines, I placed an order there and then for an XYZ SLX 1630 ProTURN lathe and an XYZ 2-OP machining centre.”
The two machines were delivered to SiFab at the end of November 2017 and once installed Simon went for his free training on a Friday. Come Monday morning he was producing and shipping his first parts. The conversational aspect of the ProtoTRAK control on both machines made generating these first parts easy. “I produce lots of one-off and prototype parts and while I am confident that the first-off will be right using the Traking facility on the SLX lathe, it is also straightforward to make amendments when the customer changes things,” says Simon. “The further advantage is that I haven’t waited two weeks for a sub-contractor to make these parts and charged the earth for them.”
Space is at a premium at SiFAB, so the XYZ SLX 1630 and 2-OP machines are ideal
With space being at a premium at SiFab, the two XYZ machines complement each other, with the SLX, with its 2080 x 1000 footprint and 400 mm swing over the bed, 54 mm spindle bore and 760 mm between centre distance combining compactness with capability. The XYZ 2-OP then adds machining centre capacity in even less space, taking just 760 mm x 1,220 mm of floorspace. With its eight-position toolchanger, it also facilitates unmanned machining: “Having these XYZ machines equates to cost and time saving for me, meaning hose typical Friday afternoon rush orders can be dealt with straightaway. Standard items for the radiators and fuel tanks that SiFab manufacture can be machined to order, rather than over-ordering. Costs are reduced, for example a simple threaded shaft that I use regularly was costing £14 each sub contract and I had to order in batches of 20. With the SLX I can probably machine the whole lot for the cost of one. With the 2-OP and its toolchanger I also have the option of walking away from the machine while it’s working. Given that I’m the most expensive item in the workshop it allows me to maximise my time.”
In terms of machine cost Simon Hall took advantage of XYZ’s rental scheme, which requires an initial payment at the outset of the agreement, then every 12 months there are three options: to return the machine; buy it outright at a pre-agreed price; or extend the rental period for another year with a further single payment, with these subsequent rentals being based on a reducing percentage of the original machine cost. At the end of the fourth year the machine can be purchased outright with a final payment or, returned to XYZ Machine Tools. “The rental scheme is perfect for me as with the addition of the service plan I know exactly what my costs are going to be, and it is easy to account for. At the end of the period I know I will still have a valuable asset, as if you look at the second-hand machine market XYZ machines are not that common, and when they do appear they command a premium price.”