The recent introduction of a production assembly area to support its varied customer base highlights the level of service Kel-Tech Engineering offers. The company’s dedication to providing the exact capabilities its customers require has been supported by Planit’s advanced sheet metal CAD/CAM software - Radan.
With a current turnover of 17 million Euros Waterford-based Kel-Tech Engineering employs 102 on the shopfloor, with 22 staff providing engineering and support functions. Its punching and folding machines operate 24/5 while the welding and paint shop runs 16/5. The new assembly area, which was equipped during November 2008 to support customers, operates on a day shift.
When operations manager, Declan Walsh, joined Kel-Tech Engineering about 15 years ago the company was using an Amada punch press that had been supplied with a CAM software package. He says: “This software could basically draw a part in 2D and tool it - that was the extent of its capabilities. It was extremely slow to operate and if any changes were required to the part it would have to be retooled again. It was so labour intensive that we had four engineers working on it just to create programs for the shopfloor, an expensive resource for a company that, at that time, was turning over between £1 and £2 million.”
Around eight years ago he investigated the alternative CAD/CAM software packages available, and concurrently the company decided to change its preferred supplier of sheet metalworking machine tools to Trumpf. As Declan Walsh says: “The compatibility between the Trumpf machines and Radan was very good, while the previous CAM package would have required bespoke post codes to be written for the Trumpf machines.”
At that time just one punching machine had the capacity to see the company through the following two years of steady growth. “We then purchased another Trumpf punch press to meet the growing demand from our customers but both machines could still be supported by two engineers using Radan to create the parts programs,” he says.
Growth continued and six years ago the company relocated its operation to its present site on the IDA Industrial Park on the outskirts of Waterford. Originally a 20,000 ft2 building the facility has since grown by another 40,000 ft2, housing full welding facilities as well as an automated paint line that alone occupies around 20,000 ft2. A further two CNC punch presses and a laser profiling machine have been added to the shopfloor, and all these machines are supported by Radan CAD/CAM software. NC programs are passed to the shopfloor via a DNC link to the company’s central server.
The new punch presses can handle sheets up to 3000 by 1500 mm because customers’ parts were increasing in size, and Declan Walsh points out that before the investment “we conducted a feasibility study using Radan to confirm the efficiency improvements and material savings we could attain, with savings of around 10 per cent achieved.”
Industry sectors supported include power generation assemblies and enclosures, industrial lighting, agricultural equipment manufacturers and slurry pumps, as well as fluid holding tanks for material handling/forklift truck companies. Material ranges from 0.4 mm for the lighting units up to 15 mm thick for the slurry pumps, with punches used up to 5 mm thick and the laser for parts above that.
Today the company has seven seats of Radan, as Declan Walsh explains: “As a product we feel Radan is very good, the software is very user friendly and the ongoing product developments bringing new functionality to us on a yearly basis. The helpline support is first class and aids our new engineers as they go through the learning curve.”
During the past two or three years the company has been pushing Radan’s functionality with regards to the 3D capability as the level of assembly work carried out by the company increases. “Previously we were supplying sheet metal parts to a drawing,” he says, “so we did not really need to know if parts fitted together or not, it just had to be produced to the drawing.”
He continues: “Also, we have noticed that customers’ needs for drawing and engineering support have increased over the past few years. So, we found ourselves having to draw a lot more components and we also needed to be sure they would fit together correctly at the assembly stage. The powerful 3D element of Radan has played a major part in this all coming together for us.”
One project in particular stands out as an example. An industrial lighting company approached Kel-Tech with a concept for an energy saving lighting unit intended for offices as well as warehouses and workshops. Within the light unit an ambient light sensor measures the natural light available and powers the light just to top up the light to the required level. It also has a motion sensor, so it will only turn on when it is required. Some companies are achieving savings of around 40 per cent per year on the cost of energy for lighting.
Declan Walsh explains: “At the start of the project we had no drawings of the metalwork, all we had was the sensors and other elements that had to be included within the unit. We had to design the units for manufacture and of course the aesthetics were also important because the units are in an environment where customers can see how well they are finished. We have spent a lot of time on the Radan system working on this project over the past 12 months. However, the unit price of electricity is such that it is a viable investment, so the project will become live.”
Kel-Tech has also spent considerable time on the nesting of parts with the cost of steel increasing at such a rapid rate during 2008. “We turned to Planit to help improve our utilisation and Radan engineers visited to configure the software to closely match our process needs and also trained our staff to show them how they could be smarter with material usage. To date we have found another 7.5 per cent utilisation across the range of parts we are producing, which makes a significant dent in the extra cost we were facing from the increase in the raw material prices.”
Radan has supported Kel-Tech’s growth and this was certainly highlighted when the company installed the Trumpf laser just over three years ago. It was one of the first to feature a rotary head which can process tubes for laser profiling and sectioning. “Thanks to Radan’s support we got the machine functioning efficiently and were able to win at least two major contracts because the competition were taking around 20 minutes to machine the wall of the tube to get the required profile and the laser could achieve the same cut out in just 20 seconds,” Declan Walsh confirms.
Prototypes and rush jobs have to be planned in with as much consideration as possible and the company is achieving an up time on the machine of around 70 per cent. Of course, with prototype work there is a far larger element of setting up and making do to minimise the tooling costs to reduce wasted investment. They often run on longer than planned but when the job becomes a production item then the tooling is optimised and fine tuned by Radan.
Declan Walsh concludes: “Metal bashing is seen as dirty in many respects but what we make is often the first thing the customer sees. We always consider this because it is important to the perception of the overall quality of the product and the reputation of our customer, as the company supplying it.
“We offer a full turnkey service to our customers and they can use as much or as little of our skills and process capability as they want. We have modern CNC plant and a good IT infrastructure so we are well placed to take on high quality projects with the help of advanced software such as Radan.”