Investment differentiates R&M from the rest

R&M Assembly, part of the R&M Electrical Group, has over 20 years’ experience in the assembly, modification and distribution of specialist power distribution and control systems for use in hazardous (explosive) environments.

The company supplies a diverse range of customers across the oil and gas, nuclear, rail and marine sectors, to list but a few. A major advantage of R&M Assembly is its ability to provide bespoke systems in short lead times. This brings its own challenges as the company must overcome production bottlenecks caused by some manufacturing processes. Investment in new machining capacity has not only overcome these bottlenecks, but enabled R&M Assembly to generate new business from existing and new customers.
“Our business model is a reactive one in which we have to respond quickly to demand from our suppliers and customers,” says R&M Assembly division manager Martin Goodall. “One of our main tasks, therefore, is to iron out peaks and troughs in production to deliver a managed service and, where possible, avoid any unexpected issues. The limited machining that we have to do is one of those areas, as on a major project we may have over 2000 holes to drill and tap, and we can only do that at a certain speed with our existing equipment. The option to outsource this work was considered, but the loss of control over deliveries and quality saw us look to expand our in-house capability.”
In order to justify the investment in new machining capacity, Goodall had to identify efficiencies through in-depth time and motion studies, and with limited machining experience he called on XYZ for assistance in the form of area sales manager Keith Ellis. The initial thought for Ellis was to double-up on an existing XYZ SMX 2500 bed mill as the control was familiar and easy to use. However, talking through the needs of R&M Assembly, it became clear that to achieve the necessary versatility and productivity, a machine with a tool changer and fourth-axis unit would bring greater benefits.
“If we had gone with another SMX we wouldn’t have required any training and so it would have made our life easier initially, but in conversation with Keith it became obvious that a step-up was required and the new XYZ 500 LR vertical machining centre would have a significant impact on how we do business,” explains Goodall.

R&M Assembly’s projections, based on a major customer project valued at £1m, suggested that the addition of the XYZ 500 LR would generate savings of up to six weeks in labour, or £64,000, based on which the machine would have a payback period of just 16 weeks.
“Our projections also indicated that the addition of the tool changer would allow much greater unmanned operation, freeing-up operator time every day by as much as 6.5 hours, during which they could be doing other tasks,” says Goodall.
These projected savings were enough to justify investment in the machine, however, they must then be delivered upon. By maximising the capability and capacity of the XYZ 500 LR, with its 13 kW, 8000 rpm spindle, 12-position tool carousel and 510 x 400 x 450 mm of axis travel, combined with the agility of the linear rail technology on all axes, an immediate positive impact on efficiency was seen. Typically, a batch of 200 electrical junction boxes would take 2-3 weeks to produce, with drilling and tapping multiple holes being the bottleneck. Now, by utilising the XYZ 500 LR, machining is completed in two days and the batch fully processed within a week. Machining efficiency has seen gains of up to tenfold by reinventing the processes to match the machine’s capabilities.
The benefits of investing in new machining capacity for the R&M Electrical Group go beyond simple cycle-time savings and efficiencies; the machine is being used as a sales tool to drive new business for the group and typical of this is its partnership with Hawke International, a manufacturer of cable glands and electrical enclosures.
“With investment in the XYZ machine, Hawke has recognised our commitment and is supporting us as an extension to their manufacturing capability, allowing us to gain EAC certification, which will differentiate us from our competitors – all from buying an XYZ machine tool,” says Goodall. “The investment in the machine, along with our relocation to new premises, has allowed us to review many processes and techniques. This is seen as a sign of confidence, especially for customers servicing the oil and gas sector, which is coming out of its downturn.”

The XYZ 500 LR is part of the recently introduced range of linear rail machining centres from XYZ Machine Tools. LR series machines make use of the latest developments in linear rail technology, while providing a cost-effective entry into the world of vertical machining centres, says the company. These machines provide a natural progression or complementary solution for customers moving from manual or XYZ ProtoTrak-controlled machines. The LR range is in addition to XYZ’s recently extend HD range of vertical machining centres, which continue to make use of the box slideway construction, offering greater capability and capacity when required.
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