XYZ Machine Tools (01823 674200) sold circa 1,000 machines in 2012, which, the company says, makes it the largest supplier of CNC machines by volume in the UK. Sales last year topped a record-breaking £24 million and, what's more, sales in 2013 are up a further 4%. With these sales achievements in mind, XYZ seems perfectly within its rights to launch Manufacturing South West, a showcase not just for the company's own portfolio of machine tools, but the products of 18 complementary technology companies.
Image: Manufacturing South West showed off XYZ Machine Tools' newly extended premises and its boosted stockholding
XYZ's newly extended headquarters near Tiverton, in north Devon, may seem a little off the beaten track for an exhibition of manufacturing technologies, but this two-day show did much to draw the crowds…and the orders. Visitors arrived, not just from Devon, but from the Bristol area, the M4 corridor, south Wales, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands. In total, some 316 visitors from 199 companies attended the event. Even an hour before opening on the first day, an 'early bird' customer was on the doorstep wanting to see machines and promptly placed an immediate order for two.
"This was not pre-planned – the customer was really busy, heard about the event, needed machines urgently and was on the way back to his factory by the time the first customers were arriving," says managing director Nigel Atherton.
The two-machine order set the pace for the XYZ sales team who went on to chalk up a further 17 orders, valued at over £560,000, during the two days. Furthermore, the enquiries taken at the event are estimated to be worth more than £3 million.
"Following our 22,000 sq ft expansion, we now have a total area of 90,000 sq ft, and visitors to Manufacturing South West were able to see for themselves our ability to meet immediate order demands, as we have some 300 machines now stocked within the building," says Mr Atherton. "Visitors were also able to appreciate our added value – during the event, everyday tasks were being carried out, such as machine assembly, alignment checks and pre-delivery inspection."
The extension has created 15 new shopfloor bays and allowed the loading bay to be re-sited in a more convenient location at the far end of the building.
Image: Manufacturing South West gets under way - orders and enquiries abound
MACHINES UNDER POWER
Along with the extended facility, visitors to Manufacturing South West had the opportunity to see 17 XYZ machines under power. Some models were demonstrating other exhibitors' equipment, including a visitor-led challenge where 'on-the-spot' programming of customer parts on the ProtoTRAK control was performed to show the simplicity of the system that uses the latest Verify software. This included turning, grooving, drilling, threading, milling, pocketing and island machining, using tooling mostly from WNT UK (0800 073 2073).
Manufacturing South West represented the first opportunity for the UK to see many technologies previewed at the EMO 2013 exhibition, held in Hanover in September. In fact, XYZ says it used EMO as the launch pad to extend its penetration of mainland Europe through its German distributor, Flott.
Machines under power on the Flott stand at EMO included a Proturn SLX 425 flat bed lathe with ProtoTRAK CNC, a Compact Turn 52 LTY CNC lathe with driven tools, an SMX 4000 bed mill using the latest Verify and Parasolid software options, and a 5-axis variant of the XYZ 710 vertical machining centre with Siemens 840D Sl control. Mr Atherton reports that quotations with a value of €2.5 million have been sent out as a result of enquiries from EMO, with these currently being pursued.
Image: 5-axis technology was demonstrated
EMO was part of plans hatched recently by XYZ to double its level of machine tool sales into mainland Europe to 20% of UK turnover. Key to this is the recent appointment of Andrew Kilshaw as export sales manager, whose brief is to adapt the proven, UK-developed sales strategy around showroom and demonstration centres, marketing promotion and branding, which is to be tailored to individual country requirements. Initial focus countries for XYZ include Germany, France, Scandinavia, the Czech Republic and Poland. The company has also recently appointed its first ever distributor in Italy and is actively seeking representation in Spain.
"EMO could not have come at a better time to up the beat on XYZ's presence in Europe," says Mr Kilshaw. "When our specification, pricing structure and proven customer support strategy is compared against others in the market, we feel we have a lot to offer and will be very competitive."
Back in the UK, the company's reach continues to extend. Already offering showrooms in Blackburn, Sheffield (with WNT), Nuneaton and Waltham Abbey to support its Devon headquarters, XYZ is now opening in Scotland (www.machinery.co.uk/56115), where the company estimates it has an installed base of around 350 machines.
Located at Livingston, the new 3,000 sq ft facility is currently host to nine initial machines, including large capacity oil country lathes and machining centres under power. The new showroom, which is headed-up by Scottish area sales manager David McCafferty, will replace the previous XYZ strategy of selling through distributors in Scotland. Service and applications roles are currently being recruited.
"Following in-depth research of existing and potential customers we gained very positive feedback on having a local supplier presence, especially regarding support and training," says Mr McCafferty. "A key element was the reduction in travel and time involved for training, which could influence the purchase decision."
XYZ has also completed a deal on a 3,000 sq ft showroom at Cramlington, Northumberland. Once ready, the facility will host around 10 machines. Open days are planned for January 2014.
There are also plenty of other internal moves afoot within XYZ's UK operation. Richard Moore, for example, is the company's new production manager, replacing Martin Burton, who is set to be UK sales manager at the end of the handover period in January. Mr Burton will step into the shoes of Kerry Kidd, who in turn will become sales manager for the education market. XYZ reports it achieved education-related sales of £3 million in 2012. In fact, in September this year, the company announced that a £500,000 training package had been supplied to the recently opened University Technical College (UTC) of Central Bedfordshire (www.machinery.co.uk/56208).
Of course, expanding the sales network means expanding the service network. With this in mind, Martin Davis has recently been appointed as the company's customer service manager. Mr Davis joins the in-house customer support team of four, plus 12 engineers deployed around the country, with the brief to plan the development of the customer communications and support strategy. Among his responsibilities will be machine installations, preventative and ongoing maintenance and service, and communication on spares, especially regarding fast moving items from the £2 million worth of stores stock held at Burlescombe.
"You need to continuously evaluate and progressively develop the support structure, service logistics and efficiency levels of the department right across the machine tool operation," concludes Mr Atherton. "Service is the biggest seller; if you look after your customers, they will come back."
Box item 1
Signs of the times
XYZ Machine Tools has witnessed an interesting sales pattern in recent years. Enjoying steady, upward growth until November 2008, the widely-experienced plunge in 2009 was followed by rapid growth in 2010, steady progress in 2011 and another surge forward in 2012 – the company's best year ever.
"I attribute the success of last year to the ProtoTRAK control, which just seems to go from strength-to-strength," says managing director, Nigel Atherton. "This year, while we are up slightly on 2012, sales are being underpinned more by our vertical machining centres and turning centres. We are definitely selling far more Y-axis lathes now than conventional 2-axis models. We've also introduced a starter 5-axis VMC (featuring Lehmann 2-axis table) for £55,000, and this is proving a real growth area. Across the board, we've witnessed a rise in enquiry levels over the past two months particularly, which, judging by experience, means we are about to get really busy.
"Another expanding sales area is the oil and gas sector," continues Mr Atherton. "We've sold a number of oil country lathes recently, largely because we keep them in stock. The industry-norm is a six-month wait. We've got five in stock at the moment, with different bore and bed sizes, including one at our new Scottish showroom in Livingston."
Box item 2
Manufacturing South West Exhibitor round-up
WNT UK (0800 073 2073) was among 18 'partner' exhibitors at Manufacturing South West. On the company's stand, visitors were able to see examples of WNT's MNG Zero Point base plates. These make use of a simple mechanical clamping system, eliminating the need for hydraulics or air connections, and reducing the initial cost by up to 40% compared with a hydraulic system, says WNT.
Elsewhere at the show, Sodi-Tech EDM (02476 511677) demonstrated two new machines: its entry-level SL400Q wire EDM and an AD35L LNC die-sinker, while Star Micronics GB (01332 864455) showed its newly released SR-20R lV CNC sliding-head lathe and a 7-axis SR-32J machine.
From Siemens (0161 446 6400), visitors were able to view the company's latest control and software plus the Sinu Train training package. Filtermist International (01746 765361) opted to feature its range of centrifugal oil mist extractors at the show, Jemtech UK (01825 767640) its Blaser Swisslube coolant, and MecWash Systems (01684 271600) its Duo aqueous component cleaning capability.
From 1st MTA (01725 512517), a whole host of workholding devices included Iemca barfeed systems, a technology that also featured on the stand of LNS Turbo UK (01226 270033), along with conveyors and high pressure coolant systems. Prosaw (01536 410999) focused on its range of bandsaw and circular sawing machines.
PowerMILL, FeatureCAM, PartMaker and PowerINSPECT software suites were demonstrated by Delcam (0121 683 1000), while Avon CNC Machine Tools (0116 2792080) provided a simultaneous 5-axis demonstration direct from CADCAM of its Lehmann compact tilt and rotary unit on an XYZ 710 VMC. As a point of note, XYZ announced recently that any vertical machining centre in its range can now feature 4th and 5th axis machining, utilising Lehmann rotary tables.
For the sheet metal sector, the latest electrically powered Xcite 180F press brake from Bystronic UK (0844 848 5850) was running under power, while Wilson Tool International (0800 373748) showcased its new 'thick turret' HPX/EXP punching technology.
From a quality control perspective, Aberlink Innovative Metrology (01453 884461) provided benchmark performance tests on its CMM and Project X vision system, while Renishaw (01453 524524) demonstrated its Equator high speed comparative gauging system. Optical microscopes and video measurement were on the Vision Engineering (01483 248300) stand.