Case Studies >>
PRODUCTION CONTROL SOFTWARE SUPPORTS JIG AND TOOL MANUFACTURE
Finding readily adaptable ‘off-the-shelf’ production management software for special machine building and jig and tool manufacture is not easy. Brown and Holmes (Tamworth), however, became the first jig and tool company to use the PSL DataTrack system, which provided well-supported production control modules for the complex operation.
Brown & Holmes (B & H) produces customised work holding fixtures, builds special production machinery and is the UK agent for Forkardt precision chucking systems. Founded originally in 1939 by the Brown and Holmes families, the company was acquired by today’s owners in 2003, with Carl Baker and Kevin Ward as joint Managing Directors. Today, B & H employs around 48 personnel, including 32 on the shop floor. Annual turnover is around £3.5 million.
Introducing production control software came in early when a local IT consultant developed in-house computer software to replace, as Carl Baker said, “A very good paper-based system.” Problems arose when the ‘IT man’ changed career. “The system had run very well for four years,” said Carl Baker. “But without the guy who had written the system we suddenly had no IT support. Production control is the key to our successful operation, and we therefore had to look for a replacement, specifically an off-the-shelf system if possible”
In 2002, Carl Baker’s team had narrowed production control software suppliers down to three. One provider was PSL DataTrack of Bracknell, Berkshire. “PSL DataTrack showed us some existing users, mostly producing higher volume batches than we were used to. But we could see a promise of flexibility and tailoring,” said Carl Baker. “We knew that as the system stood it was not ideal, but it could be easily and readily tailored to our needs. We also noted that the software undergoes constant improvements and was competitive in price.”
Carl Baker explained: “We wanted a ‘user-friendly and easy-to-learn production control software system that would not stop day-to-day business during the learning period. Our operation was too big for an excel based system and we felt it would take ‘an age’ to bed in a larger MRP/ERP type system in an operation like ours. This, and the flexibility of design of the software, is why our ultimate decision to purchase PSL Datatrack was
As Carl Baker also explained, the jig and tool and special machine building business varies constantly. Very few manufacturing jobs are similar and rarely repeat. Some workholding fixtures may need a lot of special machining and assembly. They may be made up partly from machined parts, standard components and ‘bought out’ items. So over a period of time, it is very difficult to achieve any kind of proper balance on the shop floor between the different machining processes.
An example is a three-face, hydraulic clamping, workholding fixture ‘cube’ for three separate workpiece holding positions. At the quotation stage, the engineering team, including jig and tool designers would agree the best solution. They would discuss details like workpiece locations, orientation, clamping systems and perhaps whether the workpiece needed slight modification to simplify location and clamping. From this, the quotation would be entered into the PSL DataTrack system and a proposal sent to the customer. Following an order, a detailed CAD drawing would be produced and process layouts for every manufactured part input into PSL DataTrack. This PSL DataTrack information would then produce work orders for use on the shop floor to book manufacturing time, allowing comparison between actual costs and calculated costs.
At B & H the system also controls the purchasing function as well as producing delivery notes and invoices. In addition to their many manufacturing customers companies, B & H also produces fixtures and work holding systems for major machine tool companies providing ‘turnkey’ systems (machine tools plus fixtures, handling systems), such as NCMT and Mori-Seiki.
Most of the CNC machine tools used by B & H are integrated into the PSL DataTrack system. ” In addition, all our toolmakers are skilled in at least two disciplines,” explained Carl Baker. “We have a core of toolmakers and machinists who can move around the shop floor. Some men can switch from prismatic machining to grinding, and then to turning, which minimises bottlenecks in production. Our investment in training three
graduate design staff and two current apprentices is further evidence of our commitment to customer support through relevant skills.”
Over half of the machine tools used are CNC, including multi-axis turning and milling, jig-boring and large bed surface grinding. Also linked into PSL DataTrack is the co-ordinate measuring machine where the company's quality engineers also book inspection time into PSL DataTrack. This, together with on-going investment in new machine tools, keeps B&H at the forefront of technology and competitiveness.
Production data is entered into PSL Datatrack daily to provide accurate end-of-job costing which, together with purchased items such as material, subcontract and finishing operations, ensures we constantly monitor our production effectiveness and estimating procedures. At present, B & H operates 10 seats with PSL DataTrack running in Microsoft Windows XP and Windows7.
“We occasionally throw challenges at PSL DataTrack,” said Carl Baker. For example, B & H recently acquired the UK agency for Forkardt precision chucks, collets and mandrels. “We wanted to separate the Forkardt operation from the jig and tool operation, using different customer codes,” said Carl Baker. Work measurement, margins and sales levels had to be separated too. “PSL DataTrack very quickly tailored the system enabling us to run virtually two businesses with a single system.”
In addition to the jig and tool and Forkardt operations, PSL Datatrack has helped B&H through the recent recession by keeping the operation lean, controlling purchasing costs and giving instant feedback on operating costs. It also enhanced the company’s ability to support new markets such as Aerospace and Power Generation, resulting in membership of the Midlands Aerospace Alliance, a vastly increased customer base and a rapid recovery from the recession. All of this was achieved without any redundancy and without the need for additional management personnel.
In conclusion, Carl Baker commented: “For me, the system we chose is right, and PSL DataTrack has developed their systems in line with our development of our business. The software is flexible enough to be tailored to suit our changing needs, communication between our companies is excellent and they have proved themselves to have a good understanding of our business.”
How powerPerfector were able to help Brown & Holmes
With the help of a four year interest free Carbon Trust loan, we installed
a powerPerfector unit into our offices in April 2009 which is now delivering
substantial energy, financial and carbon savings of 15.1%.Along with other
energy saving measures, the installation of the powerPerfector unit has gone
a long way to helping Brown & Holmes achieve lower levels of energy
Kevin Ward Director, Brown & Holmes
After Brown & Holmes sent its annual electricity consumption details, it was possible to give a
provisional quote for a powerPerfector unit and the energy savings that would be expected. A
voltage logger was then sent for one week, which recorded the voltage level in the building by
connecting to it in to a regular mains socket. It was found that the average voltage at the site
was 245 volts (V), 15V higher than the nominal supply in the UK. After a survey of the site by a
powerPerfector Approved Contractor, the installation took place. There was no noticeable
change to the operation of the building, although continuous carbon savings were instantly
being made every day at the site. Just under 2 years after the installation the electricity
consumption was analysed to find a reduction of 15.1%, equating to annual carbon dioxide
emissions saving of 39.9 tonnes.
Getting the source right
powerPerfector is the world’s only Voltage Power Optimiser, giving energy, carbon and cost
savings by efficiently optimising a site’s supply voltage. By optimising the voltage, electrical
equipment runs more efficiently and consumes less energy. The declared electricity supply in
the United Kingdom is now, as a result of European Harmonisation, 230V with a tolerance of
+10% to ‐10%. This means that effective voltage can be anywhere between 207V and 253V
depending on local conditions. Most electrical equipment manufactured for Europe and the UK
is rated at 220V and operates more efficiently at this level. Forcing appliances to operate at a
higher voltage in the UK (242V is the average supply level) leads to significantly higher energy
consumption, increased heat losses and a reduced life span. Optimising voltage with
powerPerfector brings your supply voltage to the “higher efficiency” operating range of your
equipment. Without this, the ‘raw’ supply voltage to your site is likely to be at the top end of the
range of voltages your electrical equipment can tolerate. As well as reducing energy
consumption, this reduces the strain on your equipment, extending its lifespan according to
many of our clients. It is estimated that 90% of sites in the UK are operating at too high a voltage
and could therefore benefit from installing a powerPerfector.
Savings Summary for Brown & Holmes ‐ Tamworth:
> Reduction in average kWh consumption: 15.1 %
> Projected annual carbon dioxide emissions savings: 39.9 tonnes
> Projected annual financial savings: £7,000
A 210kVA powerPerfector unit with an 8 % optimisation setting was installed at Brown &
Holmes on 14th April 2009. The analysis shows that the electricity consumption at the site has
been 15.1% lower than when compared to the same period prior to installation. This equates to
a projected annual carbon dioxide emissions saving of approximately 39.9 tonnes and an annual
financial saving of £7,000.
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How Roemheld Helps Brown & Holmes Ensure Quality Is Key Fixture Of Business
As one of the leading suppliers of hydraulic fixtures in the UK, Brown & Holmes (Tamworth) Ltd only uses quality hydraulic components from suppliers such as Roemheld.
As a sub-contractor for three main machine tool builders in the UK, as well as supplying directly to a large number of customers, Brown & Holmes has earned a reputation for design excellence and building product to high accuracy. This extends right down to its careful choice of every single component specified.
Joint Managing Director, Carl Baker, said: "We have used Roemheld for over 25 years as their product range is wide ranging, high quality and offers us excellent choice so we can easily pick the right product for our requirements. They also react quickly if we encounter any problems in the field, which is vital for maintaining the high service levels we pride ourselves on."
Since its management buyout in 2003, Brown & Holmes (Tamworth) Ltd has gone from strength to strength. Carl Baker and Kevin Ward, who now run the company, both started as apprentices back in the 1970's with the original Brown & Holmes and they have spent the past few years rebuilding the business and setting up a new purpose built plant in Tamworth. Brown and Holmes is now also the exclusive UK agent for the Forkardt workholding range of precision chucks and mandrels.
Carl Baker said: "With the new company we were able to start over with a blank sheet of paper and we were delighted that all our suppliers and customers supported us even though the original company had gone into receivership. We are now a more proactive company than before, with all the 65 years' experience of the old Brown & Holmes combined with a more customer-focused and ambitious approach."
The company is constantly looking to improve efficiency and employees are multi-skilled, giving ability to react to changing customer requirements. Training is an important area of investment for Brown & Holmes. Carl Baker commented: "It is becoming more difficult to find the right people so we are actively involved in apprenticeship training."
The company has built a reputation for specialising in precision workholding solutions. The company can manufacture a product to a customer's specifications or using the expertise of an in-house team of designers, can design and manufacture bespoke fixtures and gauges and special purpose machines. The Roemheld 3D modelling package available on the Roemheld website and interactive CD-ROM has proved invaluable in assisting with planning these solutions as there is no need for the designers to spend time drawing in a component, it can just be downloaded in 3D format and incorporated into the 3D plan within seconds.
The new base in Tamworth has allowed the company to expand its operations and its ongoing investment in machine tools is set to continue. With the UK market contracting slightly as manufacturing continues to move overseas to Europe, Brown & Holmes is currently looking to expand its export business that currently supplies to Ireland, Germany, Norway and The Czech Republic.
Carl Baker said: "We are in a stronger position now than ever before to build on Brown & Holmes' 65 plus years of expertise in precision workholding. We are committed to offering the highest possible quality of products and by using suppliers such as Roemheld, we know that we can continue to deliver to our customers the reliability and service they expect."