Machine tool investment at the centre of Meddings Group’s growth strategy

Mark Dibbens (left) with engineering manager Colin Richards with the new XYZ UMC-5X
Mark Dibbens (left) with engineering manager Colin Richards with the new XYZ UMC-5X

Meddings Group can trace its roots back to the late 1930s when the current chairman’s grandfather started the business.

It was in 1941 that the first Meddings pillar drill was developed, a product, although greatly updated, remains central to the Group’s activities, with customers around the world. With drill production growing the decision was taken to relocate to its current location, which was a greenfield site in Ivybridge, Devon.

This was a move that would give room for expansion and development of its own products, which also saw the acquisition of swimming pool heating manufacturer Thermalec, along with extensive subcontract machining and fabrication capabilities as well as an industrial supplies division.

“For the past three years, and the past 12 months in particular, the focus of the Meddings Group has been one of looking outwards – to develop its existing markets, not only for its drills and heaters, but also subcontract work, supplying customers across many industries including marine, telecoms, electronics,  oil and gas, and automotive. Also, our AS9100 approval process is underway and making good progress,” says managing director Mark Dibbens.

“We have re-shored all manufacturing of the Meddings Drills and Meddings Thermalec products. Product development will see new drill designs being launched at the MACH 2022 exhibition, as well as expansion of the Meddings Thermalec range which will help open up new markets.”

The UMC-5X’s versatile trunnion table
The UMC-5X’s versatile trunnion table

To help meet increased machining requirements, Meddings Group has undertaken a major investment programme, spending over £1.4m in the past 12 months on capital equipment and facilities to enhance its machining and fabrication capabilities, the latest of which is an XYZ UMC-5X 5-axis machining centre. Meddings Group’s long history is testament to its desire to deliver the highest quality products and components. Its investment in the latest machining technology from XYZ will help to continue that.

“We recognise that market opportunities for our machining activities will in future be driven by the ability to have greater flexibility and efficiency in machining parts and 5-axis will be key to that,” Mr Dibbens adds. “The potential for 5-axis machining is huge, with the ability to turn round jobs faster, reduce set-ups, and improve lead-times on components that are becoming ever more complex and higher in volumes.”

Initially the focus of the XYZ UMC-5X will be on Meddings’ own products with the new developments on drills and Thermalec heaters benefitting from the capability of simultaneous 5-axis machining, such as the new design of pool heater vessel, which at over 100kg in weight means reducing set-ups it’s a major advantage. Another product machined on the XYZ UMC-5X has also seen dramatic reductions in cycle times with one-hit machining cutting the original cycle time of 15 hours down to 7.5 hours.

“Over the past 18 months we have faced challenges but have remained busy and have taken on new employees, including apprentices,” Mr Dibbens adds. “That period also gave us the opportunity to carry out strategic reviews of the business and prepare for what we see as an exciting year ahead for the Group.

“Our ongoing investment programme will allow us to continue our product development plan alongside gaining the versatility and flexibility in our machining capacity to meet the needs of not just our own internal production, but also those of our external subcontract customers.”

The choice of XYZ Machine Tools for this move to 5-axis machining was quite a straightforward one for Mark Dibbens and his engineering team, as they have a longstanding relationship with the supplier.

“The relationship we have with XYZ just works for us; the machines are high quality and competitively priced, the service from initial inquiry through to delivery and ongoing service is fantastic and with their factory just a few miles up the road, we know we can call in at any time to see what’s new or to ask advice.

“We have often thought of putting an XYZ sign outside and becoming a showroom for them as over the years we have built up quite a selection of their machines – including a heavy-duty 2010 vertical machining centre, a high-speed 1060 HS with fourth axis capability, CT 65 LTY and TC 320 LTY Y-axis turning centres, and the most recent addition to our turning capacity, the new CT 65 HD with barfeed.”

Meddings Group

XYZ Machine Tools

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