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BK Engineering has invested in an LVD Orion 3015Plus laser system with automated loading/unloading to further develop the service it offers.

BK Engineering aims to offer its customers a complete service for high-quality sheet metal fabrications with a speedy turnaround.

The company believes that there is still a strong niche market for the small to medium batch work that it offers, especially at the high-quality end and where a fast turnaround and on-time delivery are critical.

‘Quality is important, price is important, but on-time delivery is the key as most people work to such tight deadlines on delivery, and they get passed down to us,’ said manufacturing director Don Cook.

Sales director Andy Gray added: ‘In the past, customers would keep stocks of items and give you four to six weeks lead time; now a lot of them are operating JIT and ship-to-line and so delivery is paramount and there is no leeway to be late.’ With an LVD Global punch press and LVD PPEB press brake already in place, BK looked at how it could build on this to further enhance its service levels and ensure it remained competitive.

‘We felt that, with our costs rising, and the constant pressure from customers to reduce costs, the only way to remain profitable was to invest in capital equipment,’ said Cook.

‘We saw the laser, particularly with the ability to run lights out, as a way to increase output without the need to take on more labour or invest in additional tooling.’ He added that the Orion laser is very flexible in terms of the work it can produce and makes small batch working more cost-effective – by reducing the amount of downtime for setup and by nesting parts onto the sheet for maximum material utilisation.

The company looked at six different machines and LVD’s Orion came out best all round in terms of ease of setup, flexibility, value for money and the level of service that LVD provided.

The thickest material BK needs to cut is 10mm mild steel.

The 4kW Orion can cut up to 20mm thick steel and is very quick on the 10mm material.

BK tends to process longer running jobs overnight and do the smaller batches during the day.

The machine is attended during the day, but the operator does other work around the machine too, including second-operation work on other jobs.

‘A lot of the orders we get now are schedule orders, with deliveries called off over a period of time,’ said Gray.

‘We can run three or four months’ worth overnight on the laser and that eases the pressure on the factory and enables us to maintain our delivery dates.’ The ability to make small batches and nest parts onto a sheet makes it simple to supply customers with kits of parts, which allows them to reduce their inventory.

‘Whereas in the past, if there were, say, 10 parts in an assembly they would have to stock 10 product lines and try to balance the stock; now we can supply a complete kit of 10 parts in one box,’ said Gray.

‘The laser complements our punch press very well,’ said Cook.

‘Jobs with a lot of holes pierced in them are better off on the punching machine – it is a quicker operation.

‘Anything with very fine detail or lots of angles and in thick material is difficult to produce on the punching machine, but on the laser, if you can draw it, you can cut it.

‘Having both machines means we can also be more effective with the punch by using it for what it does best – punching lots of parts or parts with a lot of holes – without having to keep changing the tooling for one or two-off parts that we would now do on the laser.’ LVD Cadman offline programming software for the laser, punch and press brake also helps to keep BK responsive.

‘With LVD’s art-to-part programming philosophy you do all the engineering work before it hits the shop floor to make it as easy as you can to get it through production,’ said Cook.

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