Technical solutions in Stuttgart

Offering a wealth of machining capability and technical expertise, the opening of a brand new Technology Centre in Stuttgart, Germany will be good news for tooling specialist Mitsubishi Materials’ UK customers. Dave Tudor attended the opening ceremony in early June.


The opening of Mitsubishi Materials’ MTEC (Mitsubishi Technology and Education Centre) in Stuttgart is a big deal for the global tooling innovator.

Representing an investment in excess of €3 million, the latest development is the company’s seventh MTEC globally and the second in Europe. There are similar established centres in Valencia (Spain), North Carolina (USA), Saitama and Gifu (Japan), Bangkok (Thailand) and Tianjin (China) with plans to open new MTECs in Mexico, Brazil and India in the near future.

Not surprisingly, for such a key milestone in the company’s European evolution, top Mitsubishi Materials management from Japan were out in force at the event. Masato Yamada, general manager, machining technology centres; Yoshiaki Kaneko, general manager, sales division; Shinichi Nakamura, managing executive officer; and Yutaka Tanaka, president MMC Hardmetal Europe were in attendance, ably supported by Antonio Abrantes, vice president, MMC Hartmetall, GmbH and Enrique Lopez, general manager MTEC Stuttgart.

The new Stuttgart MTEC is just part of a wider initiative to support European customers: “Through the adoption of Mitsubishi Materials technologies in Europe, our objective is to help our European customers optimise their operations in terms of quality, profitability and sustainability,” explains Yutaka Tanaka, president, MMC Hartmetall, Europe.

“As well as the new MTEC, we have developed a fully automated European Distribution Centre in the Netherlands and established a project engineering group here in Stuttgart to offer customers the highest levels of technical expertise and applications support to develop fully customised solutions. I’m proud to say we now have in excess of 450 employees Europewide and a growing network of distributors that share our passion,” he enthuses.

A Hermle C52 U MT operated by Heinz Pfeiffenberger, team member, Industrial Marketing department

“The opening of MTEC Stuttgart is of vital importance to us because it will shape our activities and facilitate growth in Europe moving forwards,” he adds. “It will enable the development of bespoke manufacturing solutions – working collaboratively with customers – as well as open innovation and technology transfer with machine tool builders, academic establishments and other technology partners; particularly on technically demanding and complex turnkey projects.”

One of the underlying aims of MTECs globally is to facilitate deeper collaboration between Mitsubishi sites. Indeed, during his keynote speech, Masato Yamada, machining technology centre general manager, explained that the Stuttgart MTEC, as the seventh member of Mitsubishi Materials’ GTSN (Global Technology Support Network), would be instrumental in nurturing closer working relationships between Europe and Japan.

Well-equipped

A significant part of the total figure invested in the Stuttgart MTECH has been on state-of-the art equipment. In the machine tool department no expense has been spared with equipment from Tornos, DMG Mori and Hermle.

The Tornos GT32B Swiss type turning centre is ideal for producing small, high precision parts such as those commonly found in medical, watchmaking and dental applications. Capable of processing workpieces up to 32mm diameter, this is a 6-axis machine with two C-axes and a B-axis.

Two machines from DMG Mori are next up on the machine tool inventory. The NLX 2500|1250 is a universal turning centre with a maximum turning diameter of 366mm and maximum workpiece length of 1,255mm.

Mitsubishi Materials has specified its NLX 2500 with Mitsubishi CNC, 70 bar high pressure coolant and DMG Mori’s Celos app-based control and operation system for fully networked operation.

The second DMG Mori machine located in the machining area at Stuttgart is the NHX 5500 4-axis horizontal machining centre which was put through its paces machining a structural aerospace component during the visit.

Mitsubishi Materials’ application engineer Dennis Loibl explained that this machine, with its 16,000rpm spindle and pallet changer options (each pallet can accommodate parts up to 1,000kg in weight) is ideal for automotive components such as cylinder blocks, gear housings, transmission cases and crankcases. Celos is also a prominent feature on this machine.

Completing the machine tool line-up is a Hermle C52 U MT 5-axis mill/turn centre with 14,000rpm on the main spindle and capable of handling workpieces up to 1,000mm diameter and 810mm height. Control is via Siemens S840D.

UK benefits

With Stuttgart only about an hour and a half away from the London airports, the MTEC is easily accessible for Mitsubishi Materials’ UK operation – ideal for working and collaborating with customers on project work.

Based in Tamworth and headed up by UK sales manager Alex Saboulis, Mitsubishi employs 38 members of staff split across northern and southern territories.

“All our external staff have strong engineering backgrounds and experience,” Mr Saboulis explains. “We pride ourselves on our technical knowledge and expertise which means we can all relate to our customers’ specific manufacturing challenges. That in turn gives them the confidence that we can provide the right solutions.”

Mitsubishi Materials’ UK team: (L-R) Mark Rivett, key account manager; Alex Saboulis, UK sales manager; and Adrian Barnacle, technical manager

Mitsubishi is probably best known in the UK for its wide range of solid carbide rotating tools – end mills and drills – and ISO turning inserts in both negative and positive configurations. It’s clear that providing the highest quality products and services underpins the entire company but an interesting thing about Mitsubishi is that it quite literally ‘owns’ the entire process – including the mines that provide the raw materials.

“In terms of our products and processes, we’re in complete control from start to finish,” affirms Mark Rivett, Mitsubishi Materials’ UK key accounts manager. “We mine the ore; refine it; press it; grind it; and coat it. Every single product we produce passes through this process.”

Whilst the Tamworth facility carries small quantities of standard products, in general, logistically, everything is handled by the company’s European Distribution Centre (EDC) located in the Netherlands: “UK customers ordering by 4.30pm will receive their products next day,” Mr Saboulis assures.

Like many tooling companies, Mitsubishi in the UK relies on a tried and trusted distribution network to spread the word. In fact, volume-wise, products are pretty much a 50/50 split between direct sales and distributor-led business.

Some distributors have elevated status and are known as Technical Partners. These include companies such as Matrix Tooling, Quality Tooling and CIS Tools: “The clue’s in the name here,” Mr Saboulis says. “These guys are often involved with some of our complex aerospace accounts involving bespoke specialised products so they’re a key part of our overall business.”

Standard, off the shelf products are vital part of Mitsubishi’s success, but a growing aspect of the business is working closely with key accounts – often on challenging products.

Key account manager Mark Rivett takes up the story: “Around 60% of our total business in the UK is in aerospace and we have a number of key customers that we work closely with on a medium and long-term basis. Sometimes we’re looking, five, 10 or even 15 years ahead here, offering strategic support on new products and technologies,” he advises.

“Often the solutions we provide to these customers are a combination of standard and bespoke, customised tooling. The main reason why the key account element of our business is so successful is that we have excellent relationships with those clients. They’re very much two-way partnership.”

Project liaison

The new MTEC at Stuttgart will offer a new dimension to customers needing bespoke manufacturing solutions to specific challenges. To facilitate effective communication between the project team in Stuttgart and the Tamworth facility, Mitsubishi has employed a UK-based project engineer, Mark Warrington, to liaise between the two sites.

UK project engineer Mark Warrington

“Mark will effectively be the link between Tamworth and Stuttgart on project work,” explains Adrian Barnacle, technical manager at Mitsubishi UK. “The two sites will use the same CAD/CAM software packages – Creo and Open Mind – and the plan is to develop the programming aspects in the UK and then carry out the actual machining elements in Stuttgart, collaborating closely with the customer.”

“It could be the development of a new product or improving the manufacturing processes and cycle times on an existing part,” adds Mark Rivett, “but either way we’re very excited about having the new Stuttgart facility at our disposal because it’ll add a new dimension to our service offering. It’ll take working on short, medium and long-term projects with our customers to a different level.”

Alex Saboulis predicts the remainder of this year will be spent introducing UK staff to the MTEC Stuttgart and getting them up to speed in terms of its operation and capabilities.

As well as offering a state-of-the-art machining resource, the facility also provides meeting rooms, applications engineering, a tool room and an inspection room, all equipped with brand new, modern equipment from companies such as Zoller, Mitutoyo and Keyence.

Mitsubishi Materials www.mitsubishicarbide.com

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