Six-unit Citizen lathe order demonstrates Unicut's ambition

2 mins read

Unicut Precision has installed six sliding head turning centres from Citizen and a fixed head turning centre from Miyano whilst also adding three new apprentices to its 40-staff payroll.

The £760,000 investment saw the delivery of the six Citizen machines in December, and the Miyano BNA 42SY a month earlier in November 2015. The company has always adhered to its policy of updating machines beyond a threshold of five years old, but it was the installation of two new Citizen A20 sliding head lathes some 18 months earlier that proved the catalyst for this major overhaul.

Unicut Precision's managing director, Jason Nicholson, explains: "Our turning shop is split into three areas, the sliding heads up to 20 mm diameter capacity, 32 mm capacity and the larger fixed head machines. With over 13 machines of different ages and specifications in our 20 mm section, we needed greater autonomy. The first two A20 machines were faster, easier to set, more efficient and more flexible than their predecessors. The benefits were so clear that we bit the bullet and ordered an additional six Citizen A20s."

The new Citizen machines have improved cycle times by upward of 15-20%. However, Nicholson is keen to state that it's not all about the speed of the machines. The company MD continues: "The machines may reduce cycle times and set-up times by over 15%; and they are far more flexible. But the real benefit to our business is the autonomy of having eight machines with the same specification, the same tooling configuration and the same CNC control. Previously, we had setters that could only program or set up certain CNC controls and tooling configurations; this disrupted our scheduling as we had to work around machine and staff availability and skill levels. Now, we can interchange the jobs, the staff, the CNC programs and the tooling between all eight machines. The benefits to our business are many-fold."

With such a significant investment level, Unicut considered the impact on its own bottom line as well as the benefits for the customer. From a Unicut perspective, the autonomy of having eight identical Citizen A20 machines has reduced the tooling costs and subsequent inventory whilst the efficiency of the modern machine tools will reduce power consumption and the associated energy costs. For a subcontractor running machines over 16 hours a day to produce over 15 million parts per annum, machine downtime is also a critical factor.

When considering the customer, the company philosophy runs a lot deeper than just reducing lead-times. Comments Nicholson: "Over 75% of our order book is long term contract manufacture for OEMs. Our aim is to become a 'contract manufacturer' rather than just another subcontractor. By aligning our machine tool acquisitions with customer projects as opposed to selling the customer 'machine capacity', we can offer added incentives for the customer. We can get immersed in a project and invest in the process; and this is where we can apply our engineering expertise to a project.The benefits to the OEM are 'cost-out' programs that will include comprehensive plans to continually reduce costs, inventory and other factors that may apply. Working in this manner provides a multitude of benefits to the customer whilst simultaneously securing long-term contracts for Unicut."

This method of manufacture means that the Welwyn Garden business has already dedicated some of its new Citizen A20 machines to long term projects for two specific customers. He concludes: "Our sliding heads typically run batches from 50 to 50,000 parts around the clock, and three of the new machines have already been committed to OEM customers and their long term production needs. However, if an urgent job arrives from one of these customers, rather than disrupt their production run, we can apply the tooling, programming and staff to the next available machine to ensure we exceed their delivery expectations."

The company is also exhibiting at MACH 2016, stand 5489.