Great Yarmouth-based subcontractor, Moughton Engineering Services, has enjoyed 30 per cent annual growth for the last three years and hopes to repeat that performance in 2006.
Paul Moughton, a partner in the family-owned company, says that the upturn in the company’s business can be traced back to 2002 when his father, Brian, used money from his pension fund to purchase a Hurco Hawk 30 CNC mill.
It was the first computer-controlled machine tool on site and paid for itself within six months. Since that time, a VM2 machining centre and two TM10 CNC lathes have been delivered by the same supplier, Hurco Europe, High Wycombe. Coincidentally, it too has increased sales rapidly over a similar period by a slightly lower annual average of 25 per cent, doubling turnover since 2002 to nearly £10 million in the financial year to 31st October 2006.
The Hawk mill is an object lesson in both machine tool manufacture and user application. Paul Eden, who along with his colleagues has been trained to set and program all of the Hurco machines at Moughton Engineering, advised that shortly after installation the Hawk was used to machine a metre-long aluminium component for a plastic window-making machine. The end customer checked the part on a CMM and found that two 38 mm diameter holes had been interpolated at either end of the bar to a relative positional accuracy of -0 / +12 microns.
A machine of this class is not expected to hold such tight tolerances and indeed there is no evidence that other Hawk mills are able to; in any case, they are no longer made. What the CNC machine did for Moughton Engineering, however, was to propel it from a general supplier of manually machined components to a subcontractor capable of producing very high precision, repeatable components.
Encouraged by the success of this project, the company approached Hurco when the decision was taken to install a CNC lathe. The first TM10 was delivered at the end of 2004 and was joined by a second, identical 10-inch chuck model in early 2006. "We were able to buy both of the Hurco lathes for the price of one that we considered from a Japanese supplier, albeit the latter was of higher specification," continued Mr Moughton. "The TM10s do not have driven tool capability but have proved to be good machines that hold tolerance well on general turning work.”
One example is the production of four sizes of CrMo steel fishing spears of 18 to 22 Rc hardness, used to retrieve objects from an oil or gas borehole, such as a broken drillstring or tools. A typical spear takes 75 minutes to OD profile turn, threadcut and bore from solid billet.Another component regularly put on the TM10s is a 250 mm diameter, 316 stainless steel pressure release plate for sub-sea applications. Following 45 minutes of OD turning and facing, the part is transferred to a Hurco VM2 three-axis machining centre for prismatic features to be machined on both sides in a one-hour cycle.
The latter machine was also installed earlier this year to take some of the load from the Hawk mill and to introduce Moughton Engineering to the higher productivity offered by machines with automatic tool change. The 40-taper VM2, with its 1016 x 457 x 457 mm working envelope and 16-station tool magazine, is described by Paul Moughton as "superb" and he is busily relocating offices onto a new, upper floor to make space for further machines, including a larger-capacity Hurco VM3.
He concluded, "All of our Hurco machines are very accurate and reliable; so much so that we think it is a waste of money taking out insurance to cover spares and service after the warranty period.
"When things occasionally go wrong, as they did initially with the first TM10 lathe, back-up from Hurco is very good – and you can even get through to the desk of the MD without any trouble, if necessary.”
About Moughton Engineering Services
Moughton Engineering was established in 1974 by Brian Moughton as a toolmaker and subcontract manufacturer of parts for food packaging machinery. Despite having "retired", Brian remains active in the business at over 70 years of age. Paul joined in 1984, but by 1997 the company still employed only three staff, including Susan Moughton.
In that year, a new fabrication side to the firm was started, mainly making conveyor systems for a packaging company whose moulds and dies Moughton Engineering had been producing for many years. A 2,000 sq ft unit was acquired to house the new division. However, the packaging customer was forced to close in 2001 due to the high cost of removing asbestos from its buildings, so the Moughtons quickly diversified into the offshore, telecoms and power generation sectors to fill the gap.
Contracts for the food and packaging industries now account for around half of turnover, mainly in East Anglia, although systems are delivered as far afield as Germany, Nigeria, Australia and the US. Today, the firm occupies 6,000 sq ft of factory space and employs 36.