Traditional manufacturing covers many things, a particular industry may be traditional in one part of the country, a method of making products may also be traditional. B&G Lock & Tool Co complies with both those definitions of traditional. Based in Willenhall in the Black Country, it is now one of the few remaining lockmakers in an area that was once synonymous with an industry that employed some 15,000 people working for small family businesses through to multinationals.

In terms of the lockmaking heritage, B&G Lock is a relative newcomer, having been founded in 1945 by brothers Alan and Stanley Bickley, along with Thomas Goodall. Family ownership ended in 2001 when the business was taken under the wing of the Guardian Lock and Engineering Co. B&G LockÕs business was built on the manufacture of high quality brass padlocks under its STA-LOK and STA-SECURE brand names, which are still manufactured in relatively high volumes. However, manufacturing methods remained the same, with traditional flowline techniques being employed to produce the lock bodies.

“Traditionally, we manufactured the lock bodies on a line of 16 pedestal drills, with individual fixtures, and the operator walking each lock body down the line,” says Jim Plimmer Production Manager B&G Lock & Tool Co. “This is a very inefficient method, but with the growth in more niche products we needed to look at our machining process and make investment in the right areas.”

This move towards a change in manufacturing techniques was driven by demand for more bespoke products. This brought an increased demand for small to medium size batch manufacture, a review of which brought them into contact with XYZ Machine Tools and the purchase of an XYZ 710 VMC machining centre. B&G Lock now fully utilise the machine’s 760 by 430 mm table size through use of a multi-part fixture that holds three rows of 16 lock bodies, each presenting the part to complete a single operation, with each cycle creating 16 finished machined lock bodies. The machine also provides much greater flexibility, if bespoke locks are required as it is a simple process to change the program, compared to the need for completely new sets of jigs using the old method, which was both time consuming and expensive.

“The old method of working severely restricted our ability to respond to design changes and meet short run orders due to the time required to manufacture jigs. With the XYZ 710 VMC we have dramatically reduced set-up and cycle times and it has also allowed us to develop new products, such as our HS650 hardened steel padlocks, which we simply couldnÕt have manufactured using the pillar drills. The arrival of the XYZ VMC will also allow us to free up more shopfloor space, it is also creating additional machining capacity, which we are filling with subcontract work,” says Jim Plimmer.

The move to the XYZ 710 VMC was a step change for B&G Lock and the detailed training and applications support provided by XYZ Machine Tools was an important aspect in the decision to buy the machine. This was the first CNC machine in the company’s history so it had no experience in programming or selecting the optimum feeds and speeds. The initial training over two days at XYZ Nuneaton showroom gave B&G Lock the confidence to start operating the machine, a further dayÕs training took place in-house once they were up and running. Now that they are more familiar with the machine and its capabilities a further one-day advanced training course has been scheduled to develop some advanced programming skills to reduce cycle times even further.

The XYZ 710 VMC is one of the mainstays of the XYZ vertical machining centre range. As with the other machines in the range it features a solid Meehanite ribbed base with hardened and ground box slideways, a combination which provides maximum rigidity and vibration damping, allowing the user to maximise the machines 20 m/min maximum feedrates and 8000 revs/min (12,000 revs/min option), 20 hp spindle. For added versatility the machines can be fitted with 4th and 5th axis capability.

(Above) B&G Lock & Tool Co has improved productivity dramatically since installing the XYZ 710 VMC.