An order book stretching into this year is somewhat unusual for an engineering subcontract business, but this is the situation at Bideford-based Whiteland Engineering, which has built this position on a good working relationship with customers, particularly those in the military sector. Whiteland Engineering’s expertise in the defence sector revolves around the production of components for military vehicles, particularly steering systems, drivetrains and suspension for multi-axle vehicles.
“We are a third generation family business and our success has grown out of the relationships we have developed with customers and the reassurance that they are dealing with a supplier that targets quality and on time delivery. We are particularly proud of the fact that we achieve delivery performance in the high 90 per-cent range, which is unusual in our line of business. It is a situation that has given us the confidence to invest in machine tools, information technology and people to help drive additional efficiency within the business,” says Neil Whiteland, Managing Director, Whiteland Engineering.
The 2-OP in effect adds second operation capability to all of our machines for a fraction of the cost
At the heart of this investment is an XYZ 2-OP portable vertical machining centre, which was among the first to be installed in the UK. The machine is being used to relieve pressure on a range of machines including lathes, mills and machining centres by taking on the secondary operations that are a drain on manpower and machine time. “We looked at a few options before buying the XYZ 2-OP including buying an additional turning centre. However that option would have cost up to £60,000 more than buying the 2-OP, and would have taken up more floorspace. The 2-OP in effect adds second operation capability to all of our machines for a fraction of the cost,” says Neil Whiteland.
As a longstanding customer of XYZ Machine Tools, buying its first ProtoTRAK mill back in 1995, which is still in daily use, for Whiteland Engineering the use of the ProtoTRAK control on the XYZ 2-OP was also an important factor in its decision to purchase the machine. The control adds further versatility as any operator within the business can run the 2-OP, it doesn’t have to be the person who has just machined the first operation, anyone with spare time can be involved in the second operation work. After just a few weeks the 2-OP is running 20 hours per week machining light, secondary features on components.
the fact that we can just load the 2-OP with multiple parts and then get on with something else is allowing us to maximise our available labour hours
“The 20 hours that the 2-OP currently runs is 20 hours that we have freed up on other machines and this figure will increase as time goes on and we target other work for it. While we are using it at the moment for light work, we know that the ProtoTRAK control is capable of producing more complex parts for us. Add this to the fact that we can just load the 2-OP with multiple parts and then get on with something else is allowing us to maximise our available labour hours,” adds Neil Whiteland.
The key features of the 2-OP are its size (1220 mm by 760 mm footprint) and portability allowing it to be located where it is needed, when it is needed. The design brief was to create a portable machine capable of carrying out light machining operations, such as machining datum faces prior to a part going onto a five-axis machine, drilling location holes or tapping location holes and performing light milling operations. To meet that brief it is equipped with a 50 – 6000 revs/min, 3 hp, BT30 spindle, eight position toolchanger, and axis travels of 355 mm (X), 305 mm (Y) and 455 mm (Z) with feed rates up to 15 m/min. Control is provided by the easy to use ProtoTRAK TMX CNC unit.
This combination of investment in machines such as the XYZ 2-OP, systems and the people we employ will ensure that we remain competitive and maximise the resources that we have available to us
The added efficiency that the XYZ 2-OP is bringing to Whiteland Engineering forms part of a top to bottom modernisation of the business that was founded in 1956 by Neil Whiteland’s Grandfather. Working across industries such as defence, aerospace, oil & gas, motorsport and marine; it has customers that expect the best and that includes its use of manufacturing systems. Neil Whiteland saw the need for an efficient system to monitor day-to-day production and carried out a review of existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. This proved fruitless, so he created Whiteland Engineering Software with the task of developing an ERP system suitable for sub-contract engineering businesses such as his. The result is Datahub, which manages all aspects of the business from manufacturing, planning and estimating, through to accounting. It also includes customer and supplier relationship management facilities, with customers having live access to the system to see quotations, invoices and live updates on production, with as much interaction as possible being done electronically.
“This combination of investment in machines such as the XYZ 2-OP, systems and the people we employ will ensure that we remain competitive and maximise the resources that we have available to us,” states Neil Whiteland.