Seiki Systems eradicates lost machining time

Thanks to Seiki Systems advanced planning and scheduling with real-time machine tool monitoring software, the Kenard Engineering Group has the utmost confidence in the precision manufacturing support it provides to OEM companies in the defence, aerospace, communications and oil & gas sectors.

With a 50,000 ft2 manufacturing site in Tewkesbury and a further 28,000 ft2 manufacturing and head office facilities in Dartford, Kent, Kenard is one of the UK’s leading privately-owned precision engineering companies. Both sites are accredited to the stringent AS9100 aerospace quality standard with a total of 140 highly qualified staff employed to support customers around-the-clock – 24/7 when required.  

The Group’s success is reflected in the continued business growth, even through the recent difficult economic climate. Kenard has embraced the idea of developing new and alternative revenue streams that will both enhance customer experience and support business growth plans, and the management team has set a goal of ensuring their customer base always comprises of more than one engineering sector. This goal is being achieved, with business almost equally split between customers in aerospace, oil & gas, communications and defence.

The manufacturing process is optimised using integrated manufacturing systems and keeping overall control of the activities across both sites is KIDS (Kenard Information and Data Collection System), Kenard’s in-house developed ERP system. However, on the shop floor the company relies on Seiki Systems’ advanced scheduling, SFDC and machine monitoring software to provide accurate and detailed business information.

Operations Director, Matt Cornford, explains: “The KIDS ERP software controls customer orders, monitors purchasing functions and production control. As an example the system interfaces with Exostar, the e-procurement system favoured by aerospace and aero-engine manufacturers to keep their global subcontract suppliers informed of delivery requirements, to filter and highlight changes to their schedule on a weekly basis. It also interfaces seamlessly with Seiki Systems Real-Time Scheduler, allowing us to accurately measure our calculated delivery times against the customers’ expectations, which is crucial for our OTIF (On Time, In Full) figures.”

Designed to provide a high level of visibility and control in a manufacturing environment, Seiki Scheduler is a real-time finite capacity planning and scheduling system that plans each works order according to definable scheduling rules, current workloads and available capacity and creates a synchronised work-to list for each individual resource, including part numbers, individual operations, quantity, due dates and forecast finish dates.

“It’s a very powerful tool,” says Matt Cornford. “Sometimes a customer requires a part urgently; we can tell instantly if that schedule change will affect any other jobs which we are doing for that customer as well as any other customer. Even subcontract operations like hardening and surface finishing are scheduled by the software, with further options to input sickness, holidays, planned maintenance and so on.”

Kenard also uses Seiki Systems’ NMS (Networked Manufacturing System) which provides a vital two-way communication link between the shop floor and the production control office. At the shop floor level it can display work queues and allow shop floor data collection (SFDC), machine monitoring, technical data distribution, DNC and probe data collection. While the office analytical suite offers a remote display of machine status and alarms, machine performance analysis, individual job reports, and OEE.

A variety of multi axis milling, turning and mill-turn machines are used by Kenard to produce the complex precision components its customers require. The CNC system of each machine tool is connected to a PC so that the Seiki software can facilitate bi-directional communications directly with both the machine and the operator.

Production Manager, Danny Booth-Adams’ goal is to make the shop floor a paperless environment. He says: “I believe we will achieve this with Seiki Systems software. Operators get the NC code, set up sheets, drawings, tooling list and so on, just about everything that’s needed to complete the job.”

Danny also uses Seiki Scheduler every day to balance the workload on the machines, reducing the time spent scheduling operations down to approximately one hour a day. “We used to require a full-time production scheduler/order chaser,” he says. “With Seiki Systems integrated with KIDS, we now know exactly where we are with any component batch. If a machine does stop it obviously affects the planned schedule. The graphical feedback and reporting provided by Seiki Systems allows me to adjust the plan, such as moving production to another machine, and I can visually check if the change will make a positive difference before I commit to it. As we consider our production capacity as one entity I can even move work to Tewkesbury to hit customer deadlines and gain even more efficiency.” 

Using Seiki Monitoring software the machines’ status for both Tewkesbury and Dartford is displayed on large plasma screens in the production office. However, a recent MoD contract required even more control, and Seiki Systems again provided the solution.

Matt Cornford explains: “Our customer has a very tight schedule for the delivery of precision machined electronic enclosures. So tight, in fact, that we had to have a spindle up time of better than 90 per cent. To achieve this Seiki Systems provided an application for our iPhones, replicating the graphics shown on the screens in the planning office and allowing us to see the exact status of every machine. The loading and operation of the five-machine FMS (Flexible Manufacturing System) in Tewkesbury was key to this project, as it can run for up to 35 hours unmanned. The monitoring provided an essential management tool, keeping everyone focused on this important contract. And, any spindle stoppage promoted an immediate response via the inbuilt NMS alert mechanism.”

As a privately-owned company, Kenard Engineering has always been committed to investing in its facilities, purchasing three new machine tools during the recession. Precision capabilities include turning up to 930mm diameter and simultaneous 5-axis machining, with machines programmed offline using the latest CAM software. Tewkesbury takes the company’s abilities even further with sheet metalworking capability, precision fabrication and electro mechanical assembly, as well as additive manufacturing with epoxy resin and carbon fibre. And, thanks to a recent investment, powder coating and painting can be carried out in-house. This ensures the company meets both the quality and delivery expectations of its customers.

Matt Cornford knows that investment and financial stability are important measures for customers in the sectors supported by Kenard Engineering. “Many of our customers carry out surveys every three months to check these parameters. As a privately-owned company we own our buildings and machine tools, and have a constant manufacturing technology investment programme to support our people.” 

Seiki Systems certainly provides that support, working with the huge volume of data required to run a successful manufacturing operation like Kenard Engineering. The complex components, often produced from difficult to machine material such as titanium, Inconell and duplex stainless steel, are required in low volumes. A batch of more than 60 is considered a long run so the company has engineered solutions to operate efficiently even down to a batch of one. Scheduling this low volume, high variety mix is very demanding but Matt Cornford states: “Using Seiki Systems has increased our efficiency by 10 to 15 per cent and puts us firmly in control of the results expected from the shop floor.”

He concludes: “When you lose time on a machine tool you can never get it back. Our spindles rarely stop and we have high expectations for the efficiency of each machine tool, you have to for a quantifiable return on your investment. We could not have achieved what we have without Seiki Systems, and the software even provides you with the feedback to show that you have made a positive impact on the business.” 

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