Exports to China drive investment at Muffett Gears

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With a history dating back to 1920 Muffett Gears the business is now being driven forward by the third generation of the family, which is investing in the company’s manufacturing capacity and its people. While the name Muffett Gears may indicate a narrow band of operation, the business offers what it describes as an ‘end-to-end solution’ involving many non-gear related services, such as assembly and electro-mechanical integration as well as a full range of machining services. This versatility sees it serve customers across a diverse range of industry sectors including medical, oil & gas, aerospace, hydraulics & flow control. As the business has grown, it has also developed its export markets, which now play a significant part in the company’s plans, especially the burgeoning Chinese economy. Increased business from China has recently focussed attention on generating greater productivity and efficiency, leading to the purchase of a ROBBI Omicron CNC3206 CNC Universal Grinding Machine from RK International Machine Tools.

The Robbi Omicron CNC3206 CNC Universal Grinder from RK International Machine Tools is giving Muffett Gears added flexibility and capacity as it expands export sales to China.

“Business is very buoyant at the moment, Turnover has increased 35 per cent in the past 12 months and we expect growth to be in the region of 15 per cent in the current financial year,” says Mark Jagelman, Muffett Gears’ Operations Manager. “Our largest area of business is the medical sector, where we can add value through manufacturing component parts then integrating them into electro-mechanical assemblies. Individual components remain in demand as well, with one of our growth areas are our exports of splined shafts for assembly in China. Key to our ability to meet this growing demand is manufacturing flexibility. Many of our contracts are based on forecast demand from customers, so we need to be able to react quickly to changing schedules. “Most people involved in manufacturing are aware of the cost down pressures from customers. However, as a manufacturer our costs, whether that be labour, materials or energy are increasing, so we have to drive efficiencies, hence the investment in the new Robbi grinder.”

Shift Leader Rob Hudson checks the ground parts using a laser micrometer.

The issue that Muffett Gears had with the splined shafts that it supplies the UK & China was the fact that it required two operations to grind three journals, one of which has a 1:500 inverse taper. To generate the productivity/efficiency this had to be reduced to a single operation. Muffett Gears invited tenders from several companies, but it was RK International Machine Tools and Robbi that were successful. The key to the Robbi machine’s success was the ability to configure the wheelhead to suit Muffett Gears precise requirement. “The Robbi machine’s wheelhead can accommodate a variety of set-ups such as, in this case, 180 degree opposed external wheels with independent electro-spindle motors fitted with motor inverters and water/air chiller. Other variants include a third external wheel or internal grinding spindle,” says RK International Machine Tools Director, Dick Aldrich. “Other features of the ROBBI Omicron CNC3206 CNC installed at Muffett Gears are the aspirator and filter for emulsifying oil and fog, along with gap control technology with an added vibration sensor from Balance Systems on both wheels. Accuracy is maintained by use of incremental linear encoders for table movement and a Hirth coupling with 2.5 degree swivel on the wheelhead. The machine is also one of the first from Robbi to feature the 16 inch capacitive touchscreen control panel on the Siemens 840D sl CNC control.”

The ROBBI Omicron CNC3206 installed recently at Kent based, Muffett Gears.

While already a customer of RK International Mark Jagelman and the team at Muffett Gears needed the confidence that the machine was capable of achieving the required accuracy and throughput and that service and support was available if required. Visits to the Robbi factory in Italy for detailed assessment of the machine, followed by visits to existing Robbi customers in the UK and then a series of demanding machine acceptance trials delivered that confidence. “We were placing a lot of faith in the new machine so needed reassurances on performance and support, the combination of visits and trials gave us that. The design of the Robbi grinder and the resulting confidence we gained that RK International and Robbi could support us, gave us the confidence to make the investment,” says Mark Jagelman. “With the order placed all we had to do was wait for delivery, which happened on the day it was promised, with RK International’s team on-hand to carry out the installation and commissioning the same day.”

Mark Jagelman (left) with RK International Machine Tools Regional Sales Manager Steve Baker.

Following the machine installation Muffett Gears’ staff were given training on the touchscreen Siemens control and the functions of the machine and production parts were coming off the machine within a matter of days of it arriving. Having had the machine since early July, Muffett Gears are already seeing the benefits and achieving their aims of improving service levels to customers through reduced lead times. Eliminating the second grinding operation from the parts destined for China has significantly cut production times, as while the total cycle time may be the same, the level of work in progress has been greatly reduced and throughput increased. “The Robbi Omicron CNC3206 CNC is a very cost-effective solution that has given us everything we needed, with the added reassurance of UK-based support for training and service,” says Mark Jagelman. “By allowing us to reduce costs and lead times, combined with our commitment to developing the skills of our operators and by bringing in fresh talent through our apprenticeship scheme, we can further enhance our service levels and stay ahead of the competition.”

To learn more on the ROBBI Omicron CNC32 series, please click here or email sales@rk-int.com for more information.