Leading UK design, manufacturing and fabrication specialist creates a well-resourced, fully functional machine shop from scratch in double quick time…and fills it with (four) Doosan machine tools from Mills CNC.

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

The first two machines to arrive comprised 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.

They were installed at the company’s new, purpose-built 3,700sq. ft machine shop facility in Ripon in late January 2021 and were joined, in July and August 2021 respectively, by a second DNM 6700 machine and a Lynx 2100A lathe, supplied with an integrated Hydrafeed short magazine servo-driven bar feeder.

The acquisition of four new, high-performance Doosan machines is a considerable, and formidable, CNC machining resource and, as was the intention, has helped D & M substantially augment the range of services it is now able to offer to its existing customers. It has also opened up a whole new set of opportunities and a completely new revenue stream, (i.e., 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: a dynamic and progressive manufacturing specialist

D & M is committed to continuous improvement and, over its 11-year history, has made regular and significant investment in its people, its plant and equipment – and in its systems and processes.

Just a cursory glance at the range of advanced technologies the company had (and still has) at its disposal (prior to the creation of its machine shop and the arrival of the four Doosans), demonstrated its clear and single-minded ambition and desire to be ‘the best it could possibly be.’

Says Michael Barratt, co-owner and director:

“We have invested heavily in new and advanced technologies over the years.

“A constant theme running through all our investment plans is on improving our manufacturing capabilities and not just on increasing production capacity. We are always looking to make things better, faster and more economically.”

D & M is first and foremost a fabrication specialist. It’s in the company’s DNA.

In addition to acquiring a state-of-the-art 10kW fibre laser machine, with advanced nesting software for the efficient cutting of various metal sheets/plates down to size – the company has also invested in:

  1. Six CNC press brakes capable of folding, bending and forming a range of materials with varying thicknesses – from 0.7mm up to 20mm.
  2. TIG, MIG and synergic MIG welding capabilities with a team of specialist welders able to carry out a comprehensive range of welding operations to exacting standards (EN1090 compliant) that also include weld dressing and polishing.
  3. Deburring equipment, including a recently acquired rumbling machine, to remove burrs and create round edges on laser cut parts.
  4. Advanced CAD-CAM software, including SolidWorks and HyperMill.
  5. In-house powder coating capability.

The machine shop: the rationale

Prior to creating its own in-house machine shop D & M used to subcontract out 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 ( D & M) are in control of all aspects of the job…and all processes are taking place under one (our) roof.

“Having to subcontract machining work out meant that we were not in full control. And, if any issues occurred during machining stage it would, in all likelihood, have a negative impact on delivery times…possibly part quality/accuracy too.”

The outbreak of the pandemic and its impact (i.e., company closures, staff furloughs etc.), on D & M’s suppliers clearly compounded matters with ready access to a high-quality subcontract machining services being affected.

“Covid-19 focused our minds”, remembers Michael Barratt. “We couldn’t guarantee to customers when we would 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.”

The machine shop: lots of moving parts

i) The facility

Creating a machine shop from scratch in the middle of the pandemic whilst keeping the core fabrication business going – would have been a tall order for some: but not for D & M.

Remembers Dave Mawer:

“We tackled the project like every other and broke it down into its constituent parts.

“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 etc., take place.

“We wanted the new machine shop to look and to be impressive.

“Our intention was (and still is) to create a fully-functional machine shop that would not only be the in-house machining resource for our design and fabrication customers, but would also become, and act as, a standalone precision machining subcontractor…providing high-quality and competitively priced CNC machining (turning and milling) to existing and new customers.”

To do this the facility had to be big enough to accommodate a range of machine tools and other equipment (i.e., inspection equipment, storage areas etc.). The new machine shop facility is 3,700sq. ft and provides ample room for expansion.

ii) The people

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

Continues Michael Barratt:

“As well as having a good reputation we also have strong relationships with manufacturers in the area. Both helped us 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 increase the headcount and are looking to recruit an additional machinist.”

iii) The machine tools

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 who straight out of the gate invested in a large Doosan machining centre (DNM 6700) with a 4th -axis unit and a multi-axis Doosan lathe (Puma 2600SY II) with a sub-spindle, driven tools and an integrated Y-axis.

“We have a reputation for quality, and we didn’t want to compromise what is in effect one of our key values and market differentiators by purchasing second-hand technology,” says Dave Mawer.

“We therefore decided to invest in new machine tools and, having decided on acquiring one CNC lathe and one machining centre (in the first instance), set about researching the market to narrow down our choice of machine tool supplier.”

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 Michael Barratt:

“As we didn’t know the machine tools’ 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 to understand what we were trying to achieve: there was no ‘hard sell’ involved.

“We ultimately invested in two advanced, high-performance Doosan machine tools from Mills because we wanted to be able to offer quality machining services to customers and to build a reputation based on accuracy, quick turnarounds and competitive pricing.”

With the new building ready and the people and the new machines in place D & M, having already approached its existing customers informing them about the new machine shop, waited in eager anticipation for things to take off.

They didn’t have to wait for that long.

Says David Mawer:

“Demand for our machining services from existing and a whole tranche of new customers has been exceptional.”

So much so in fact that within two months of operation (i.e., from February to March 2021) the company had virtually exhausted its capacity and had ordered an additional two machines – its second DNM 6700 machining centre and a Lynx 2100 lathe with an integrated bar feeder. The new machines were installed in the machine shop in July and August 2021 respectively.

Concludes Michael 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 competitive. We are able to achieve impressive part cycle times and machine high-precision, complex parts in single set ups. And we are able to meet customers tight delivery deadlines.”

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