Manufacturing’s street credibility is tarnished, we opine, pointing to: fractured sector representation; calls for subsidies that have in the past been abused (SEFIS, FMS grants); the fact that the recent recession is described as producing an industry leaner and fitter (implying it was fat and out of shape); and national press coverage of BAE Systems, GEC and Hawker Siddeley showing these three giants to be poor manufacturing examples.

Labour and the Conservative government have published manufacturing strategies, but where is the sector’s own document, we ask? We hope the new-but-now-defunct CBI National Manufacturing Council will prove equal to the task of improving manufacturing’s image and producing a strategy.

And this same month, the CBI’s Manufacturing Advisory Group publishes the first of what is hoped to be a series of ‘manufacturing state of the nation’ reports. This sets target for the year 2000. But without regular monitoring of progress against priorities, it is just another report, we say. (Today: earlier this year the CBI called for “a modern industrial strategy to help others achieve the same success as aerospace and automotive”).

In news, US machine tool maker Cincinnati Milacron’s Birmingham, UK, site unveils yet another low-cost vertical machining centre (VMC), the Sabre 1000 – it hopes to capture 5% of the 30,000 unit/year global VMC market within a couple of years (the company is now part of Fives). It is also entering the low-cost horizontal machining centre market with the 400H (standalone, eight-pallet unit, £130,000; today £266,659: machine with rail-car pallet transport and six pallets, £155,000; today £317,939).

Yamazaki Machinery UK’s Worcester plant (called Yamazaki Mazak today) is hailed as one of the best in the world, according to a productivity study carried out by Sweden’s Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences. It was one of 10 selected from hundreds of companies worldwide, and one of just two machine tool makers – Italy’s Mandelli was the other.

And finally in news, Renishaw makes machine tool accuracy measurement easy with the launch of the Quick-Check Gauge – a PC-based software tool for machine tool users.

In features, the benefits of modular fixturing systems in prismatic machining are set out, with a WDS Wharton spokesman saying that: “In 40 years with the company, I’ve never come across a dedicated fixture that couldn’t be matched, in terms of accuracy and rigidity, by modular fixturing.”

The rise of the gang-tooled lathe, at least as measured by their availability from suppliers, comes under the spotlight. High accuracy is a common claim for such machines, but they take a bit of thought to fully exploit, Machinery is told by Wasino seller Integrated Machine Tools: “Planning the methods with these takes a lot of thought, because of collision possibilities and the fact that the work is in two quadrants, not a single one, as with turret machines.”

In our subcontracting supplement this month, as an indication of what thing were like before the Internet everywhere, we highlight software package Buy-Line, a means to connect buyers with suppliers via modem/telephone line or paid-for access to networks established by IBM and the like. Both buyers and suppliers will need to acquire this automated buying, enquiry and response package to make this effective, we offer.

Also this month: CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers compete (no fibre yet); advances in EDM that boost process reliability and reduce operator dependence; plus a major automotive report that focuses on Nissan’s Sunderland operation, which started production in 1986 (gaining the firm an EU foothold) and laid the roots for today’s automotive sector’s success that is threatened now by EU exit.

In other news this month:

  • Queen front man Freddie Mercury dies
  • Hostage Terry Waite of the UK released after 4½ years
  • Computer retailer PC World first UK store, in Croydon, Surrey
  • Oxford, UK: first ever controlled and substantial production of fusion energy
  • Australia win Rugby World Cup, defeating England 12-6 at Twickenham
  • Last UK nuclear test: Nevada, USA, test site
  • Publishing magnate Robert Maxwell found dead off coast of Tenerife

This article was published in the November 2016 issue of Machinery magazine.