A clear statement of intent

Mills CNC, the exclusive distributor of Doosan machine tools in the UK and Ireland, has supplied design, manufacturing and fabrication specialist – D & M Design and Fabrication Ltd – with four new Doosan machines.

The first two machines to arrive were a Puma 2600SY Mk II multi-tasking lathe with sub-spindle and Y-axis capabilities and a large-capacity DNM 6700 vertical machining centre with an integrated Nikken 4th-axis unit. These are now joined by a second DNM 6700 machine and a Lynx 2100A lathe featuring a Hydrafeed short magazine servo-driven barfeed.

The acquisition of four high-performance Doosan machines is a considerable and formidable CNC machining resource and, as was the intention, has helped D&M to augment the range of services it can offer. In addition, the investment has opened up a whole new set of opportunities and a completely new revenue stream (the machining and supply of high-precision, complex parts in small to medium volumes to new customers) that the company is keen to exploit.

D&M is committed to continuous improvement and, over its 11-year history, has made regular and significant investment in its people, plant and equipment – and in its systems and processes.
Says Michael Barratt, co-owner and director: “A constant theme running through all our investment plans is improving our manufacturing capabilities; not just on increasing production capacity. We are always looking to manufacture things better, faster and more economically.”

D&M is first and foremost a fabrication specialist. Prior to creating its own in-house machine shop, the company would subcontract its machining requirements to local companies. The situation was not ideal for a number of reasons.

Explains Dave Mawer, co-owner and director: “Not all customers needed or required their parts to be machined. However, for those that did, some issues – primarily concerning lead time fulfilment – were evident. Our customers like, and respond well, to a single source and single point of contact approach where we are in control of all aspects of the job, with all processes taking place under our roof. Having to outsource machining work meant that we were not in full control. And, if any issues occurred during machining it would, in all likelihood, have a negative impact on delivery times; possibly on part quality/accuracy too.”

The outbreak of the pandemic and its impact on D&M’s suppliers compounded matters, affecting access to high-quality subcontract machining services.

“Covid-19 focused our minds,” recalls Barratt. “We couldn’t guarantee to customers when we’d be able to deliver their parts because we were having difficulty locating subcontract machining resources per se – let alone ones that could meet the delivery times we and our customers required. It got to the stage where the lack of in-house machining services was causing us to lose work. This was the catalyst, and it set things in motion.”

Creating a machine shop from scratch in the middle of the pandemic, while keeping the core fabrication business going, would have been a tall order for many, but not for D&M.
“We tackled the project like every other and broke it down into its constituent parts,” says Mawer. “As there was no space in the existing manufacturing facility, we made the decision to build a brand new, purpose-built and dedicated machine shop on land available to us: adjacent to where our welding and fabrication operations take place.

“We wanted the new machine shop to look and be impressive,” he continues. “Our intention was to create a fully-functional machine shop that would not only be the in-house machining resource for our design and fabrication customers, but become a stand-alone precision machining subcontractor that offers high-quality and competitively priced CNC services to existing and new customers.”

The machine shop facility is 3700 sq ft in size and provides ample room for expansion.

Another key decision confronting the directors was recruiting skilled and experienced members of staff to operate and program the machines, and to run the machine shop.

Says Barratt: “As well as having a good reputation we have strong relationships with manufacturers in the area. Both helped us to attract the right people. We initially recruited two people for the new machine shop, but such has been the growing demand for our services that we are looking to recruit an additional machinist.”

Some companies, when setting up a machine shop from scratch, may start their new venture by acquiring used/pre-owned machines. This was not the case with D&M, which straight out of the gate invested in a large Doosan DNM 6700 machining centre featuring a 4th-axis unit and a Doosan Puma 2600SY II lathe with a sub-spindle, driven tools and an integrated Y axis.
“We decided to invest in new machine tools and set about researching the market to narrow down our choice of machine tool supplier,” states Mawer.

D&M adopted a rigorous and systematic approach. The directors talked to their peers, undertook extensive desk research and visited a number of suppliers to discuss their needs.
Says Barratt: “As we didn’t know the machine tool market, the sales process adopted by the different suppliers was important to us. Out of everyone we spoke to, we responded best to the sales staff from Mills CNC. They took the time to listen and understand what we were trying to achieve: there was no ‘hard sell’ involved. We ultimately invested in two Doosan machines from Mills because we wanted to offer quality machining services and build a reputation based on accuracy, quick turnarounds and competitive pricing.”

With the new building ready and the people and new machines in place, D&M – having already informed customers about its new machine shop – waited in eager anticipation for things to take off. The company did not have to wait long.

“Demand for our machining services from existing customers and a whole tranche of new ones has been exceptional,” says Mawer

So much so, in fact, that within two months of operation the company had virtually exhausted its capacity and ordered an additional two machines – its second DNM 6700 machining centre and a Lynx 2100 lathe with integrated barfeed.

Concludes Barratt: “There is no denying that it’s been an eventful time. From a standing start we now have a well-resourced and successfully operating machine shop. The decision to invest in advanced and multi-tasking Doosan machine tools has paid off. We are able to achieve impressive part cycle times and machine high-precision, complex components in single set ups. And we are able to meet tight delivery deadlines.”

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