Christo Green of Precision Separators
Companies give various reasons as to why they have brought or kept machining in-house instead of outsourcing it to a supplier. One of the benefits of retaining control of machining is quality control or inventory control. There is also the potential to scale up for increasing demand and the fast introduction of new designs with little disruption to production and machining.
There is also the added benefit of manufacturing efficiencies that only come from knowing the product very well whereas an outside supplier will not have the passion for and the knowledge of your components or products. Of course, to bring machining in-house, a company needs staff to do the machining.
Another reason to invest in machining could be the forward-looking value of expanding the range of services to customers. Or the strategy could be that in-house machining saves the company money and enables it to respond flexibly to changing market conditions.
However, one of the most compelling reasons why companies have brought or kept machining in-house instead of outsourcing it to a supplier is to keep intellectual property on the property. A company that operates under regulatory procedures operates in a disciplined manner and employees are trained to be mindful of the policies and procedures required to remain compliant with good manufacturing practices. Everyone from the quality department to the cleaning staff must share this mindset because there are numerous ways these regulations can cause a company to trip up. And non-compliance can be costly to companies in many respects.
Precision Separators is a good news story and one of many in our metalworking industry despite the reports about the metalworking industry being under pressure with companies closing or operating on shortened working weeks. Although we must acknowledge that a nagging shortage of trained workers and strong foreign competition has created some serious concerns and despite all the naysayers and the apathy within reports there is positive news out there notwithstanding the trauma that our government puts us under.
Precision Separators’ management is innovative. They have designed and manufactured their own air pressure fixtures for smaller components
The company was only established as recently as the latter half of 2016 and was started with the mandate to supply machined components to its holding company Klydon (Pty) Ltd a company that develops and provides aerodynamic separation process (ASP) solutions - an isotope separation technology. The ASP Technology separates components of a gas mixture or different isotopes of a specific gaseous compound based on the mass difference of the gas components or the isotopes.
“It was not that we were experiencing outsourcing issues but there comes a time where every company has to look at in-house manufacturing as compared to outsourcing. There are a number of reasons that could influence the decision, some more pressing than others. Ultimately a company has to decide what is best for its operation,” said Christo Green who has been with the holding company for over 15 years and was tasked to establish Precision Separators.
“In our case there were a number of reasons.”
“The machining company now helps the holding company to maintain manageable inventory levels. There’s no need to purchase a large number of components at an attractive low cost when small batches can be produced in-house at a comparable price. Plus, the company doesn’t end up stuck with a lot of obsolete inventory if designs change or custom pieces are required.”
“Although most components were delivered within spec this was not always the case. With the type of equipment that we have to supply components for, whereby the process and technology of this equipment is of a critical nature, we cannot afford breakdowns. The quality of the components has to be carefully monitored. Therefore quality was another reason.”
“Production costs of the components were exceptionally high, due in part to the low batch size. With in-house production we can reduce the cost per component and this will be even more enhanced because Klydon have embarked on an expansion programme and demand for more of the same component was an influencing factor.”
“We are certainly not a production machining operation but in our short history we have had to produce up to 6 000 of the same component. Minimum orders that we are looking at is about 250 of the same component and, at this stage, we are budgeted to produce about 60 000 components per year. The mix is made up of 30 different components.”
“The intellectual property of the production plants that Klydon develops was a key influencer to establish Precision Separators.”
“Klydon (Pty) Ltd is a private company that has business operations in the gas and solar energy markets as well as in the medical imaging field and in the development and production of pharmaceuticals.”
“Klydon owns proprietary technology that is classified as dual-use technology and is registered in terms of the Nuclear Act of 1993 with the Council for Non-Proliferation and Weapons of Mass Destruction that operates in the Department of Trade and Industry.
“Klydon’s new technology enterprise has flourished in the new South Africa, benefitting from the nation's pool of intellectual capital and positive environment for technology innovation. Klydon’s major achievement has been the development of a proprietary isotope enrichment technology called the Aerodynamic Separation Process or ASP.”
“Klydon’s ASP technology offers a low cost solution for myriad of applications in the energy, basic materials, semiconductor and medical sectors. As a leading edge developer of isotope separation technology for critical path applications, Klydon works with best-in-class industrial partners to commercialise and deploy the Klydon innovations on a global scale.”
“At this stage we are involved in manufacturing a small percentage of the components that make up a plant of this nature, which could take up to 18 months to erect.”
give various reasons as to why they have brought or kept machining in-house
instead of outsourcing it to a supplier. One of the benefits of retaining
control of machining is quality control or inventory control. There is also the
potential to scale up for increasing demand and the fast introduction of new designs
with little disruption to production and machining
The company has six Hurco machines including a TM6, TM8 and TMM8 CNC lathe and a VM10 and VM20 machining center
“We had the opportunity to start our own machining shop from scratch and this gave us the chance to decide, all at once, what the equipment list ought to be. Creating a new, in-house CNC machine shop does not come around often and with my experience more on the design side and building systems, we had to rely on the machine suppliers to offer us solutions rather than just supply us another machine.”
“In our books Hurco Machine Tools came out on top and this is why we have standardised on the one brand of machines.”
“So far we have invested in six CNC machines with the first two installed in November 2016. The last of the machines were installed in January 2017.”
“The machines consist of three lathes, one with live tooling, and three machining centers. Each lathe is setup next to a machining center creating mini cells. This enables us to allow one operator to generally operate a lathe and machining center simultaneously and where components require turning and machining operations there is very limited transfer time of the component between machines.”
“The last machine to be installed was the Hurco VMX 42i vertical machining center. It is the largest of the machining centers on the floor and the machine has XYZ travels of 1 067 x 610 x 610mm, a table working surface of 1 270 x 610mm and can take a load of 1 360 kilograms. Like all our Hurco machines it comes fitted with a Renishaw probe.”
“What is special about this machine is that we have fitted it with a Renishaw NC4 laser tool probe and a Renishaw OMP40 part probe system. Renishaw’s NC4 uses laser technology for the high-speed high-precision measurement of cutting tools with diameters down to 0.2mm and tool-breakage detection on tools as small as 0.1mm. The Renishaw’s OMP40 touch probe features advanced modulated optical transmission to provide 360-degree signal transmission. The probe simplifies measurement and the calibration processes and achieve high-precision measurement for workpieces with complex profiles.”
“The other Hurco machines we have are the TM6, TM8 and TMM8 CNC lathes and VM10 and VM20 machining centers.”
“From the start, Hurco machine tools have been the backbone of our company. If the spindles on our shopfloor are running we are making components. Hurco machines ensure that this happens. A majority of our components are programmed conversationally in WinMax at the controls on the shopfloor and are into production very quickly.”
“In the case of smaller, less complicated parts, the machines can be cutting metal in a matter of minutes. For more complex components, entire cutting cycles or the more difficult elements within them are prepared off-line and the program is then downloaded to the Hurco controls.”
“Going forward we are seriously looking at acquiring a 5-axis machining center and a CMM machine is also a great possibility.”
“While we are not in the automotive industry, which is a fiercely competitive industry and where Tier One car suppliers are constantly looking for breakthroughs in performance, safety and innovative design - all of which places ever stricter requirements on the processing of metal components - we still have to comply with the quality, dimensional stability and the precision requirements for metal products in our industry, which are extremely high.”
“This is whether we are processing stainless steel, aluminium, brass, copper or polymer products, all of which we machine.”
“Precision Separators will be supplying the components for Klydon’s future plants, therefore we have to gear up to cope with demand and quality. We also have to be flexible. Through my design experience and the use of SolidWorks we can make prototypes ‘on the run’. If we were still outsourcing we could not do this.”
Precision Separators has eight staff and operates from a 240m² facility in Koedoespoort, Gauteng.
Precision Separators have standardised on the one brand of CNC machines - Hurco
Machinist Johnny Geske working the Hurco VMX 42i vertical machining center