Turnell & Odell looks to the future

When asked what the biggest changes Turnell & Odell has witnessed in its 101 year history managing director Clive Odell states simply – electric motors and cutting tools. It is the latter that is allowing this sub-contract engineer to continue to grow and develop into its second century.

For a company that pre-dates high speed steel cutting tools, cutting its teeth on carbon steel tooling, and before that the blacksmith’s anvil, the changes in cutting tool technology Wellingborough-based Turnell & Odell has witnessed have been nothing short of amazing. In fact, Clive Odell continues to be amazed: “Just when you think you are on top of cutting tool development and are producing components at the optimum speeds and feeds along comes another development. Such is the pace of development, which we have to change our thought processes and call on the expertise of specialists in order to maintain our advantages.”

At one time Turnell & Odell was a machine tool manufacturer, with emphasis on woodworking machinery under the Wellin brand.

However, the investment required and the associated risks in manufacturing its own products led Jeff Odell to shift the emphasis of the business to subcontracting.

A decision that proved intuitive, with the company developing an extremely varied customer base ranging from oil & gas, through renewable energy, to yellow goods and the food industry,  to

name but a few. With volumes ranging from one-offs to several thousand off the ability to cut metal effectively is a vital ingredient to its success.

“The diverse nature of the work that we are given means that we have experience of machining a variety of materials,” says Clive Odell “However, because we are constantly changing from one to another we cannot truly claim to be experts in every aspect of machining them. This is where we have gained an advantage by working closely with WNT (UK), in particular with its Technical Sales Engineer, Warren Howard. Where we need advice Warren has the depth of knowledge that can turn a good job into a very good job.”

An example of this was a large shaft made from 431/S29 steel, with a number of 316L stainless blanks shrunk and welded onto it, which required some very complex machining.

Turnell & Odell was able to program the part offline using its Edgecam software, but to cut it efficiently it had to be ‘fine-tuned’ with the purchase of some new milling cutters from WNT and advice from Warren on cutting data. The result was that were much more efficient and better placed to meet customer deadlines,

For this component WNT proposed the use of its High Feed Cutters (HFC) indexable insert milling cutters. Applying these tools with small depths of cut and very high feed rates allowed high metal removal rates while drawing much lower levels of power from the machine spindle.

When it came to semi-finishing and finish milling the faces and 90 degree shoulders, the choice of cutter was WNT’s 2011 indexable insert milling system, in the form of shell end mills, along with solid carbide tools.

Less conventional was the application of thread milling tools for which WNT also supplied the CNC programs. WNT is unusual in providing part programs for its thread cutting tools, but it applies the same service levels to this as it would to any of its cutting tool products, in that when a customer orders a thread milling tool it will be delivered next day, with the part program being faxed or e-mailed ahead of the tools arriving.

 With the combined experience on-hand from its own staff and that of its suppliers Turnell & Odell is confidently looking to the future and another century of success and growth.

As part of those plans people will play an important role, says Clive Odell: “While we make a living selling our time and machine capacity we have always been a people business and that takes in employees and suppliers.

Some may call these old-fashioned values, but for us it is a positive aspect of our business that leads to greater interaction between staff and suppliers. For example, Warren from WNT is only too happy to pass on his knowledge to our apprentices.

“We have a long history of training apprentices and we are always looking for young, bright, people to join the business.

Even during the recent recession this did not change, in fact we increased our intake. At the beginning of this year we intended to take on one apprentice and received four CVs from the local college.

From these we gave two an opportunity for a week’s work experience, at the end of which we couldn’t split them. The result was that we employed them both.

With the input from these new upcoming engineers, our internal experience and that of our suppliers such as WNT (UK) we are very well placed to meet the needs of our customers, whether they need some simple turning work or complex five-axis machining.