Moving on up with more machinery

Established over 30 years ago, Woodbrook Precision is a Tameside-based family-run precision engineering business
Established over 30 years ago, Woodbrook Precision is a Tameside-based family-run precision engineering business

General machining subcontractor Woodbrook Precision has experienced pronounced growth thanks to an assertive approach to purchasing machining centres and forward planning, with assistance from its long-term machine tool supplier, Yamazaki Mazak. PES finds out more.

“There’s no such thing as the ‘right time’ for purchasing equipment in general subcontracting,” says Steve Hogg, director at Woodbrook Precision (Woodbrook).

“We get requests for machining work all the time, and when they come in, I want to be able to say we have the capacity and capability to fulfil them, whatever the order might be. Whether that means purchasing new machines to get work, or doing so to meet a customer request, we’re not afraid to take that important step and move forward.”

Established over 30 years ago, Woodbrook is based in Tameside, Greater Manchester and remains a family-run business to this day. Since its founding the company has focused on purchasing new technologies and specialised machinery from multiple tooling and fixture companies in order to foster further expansion.

As a result of this, it now offers a range of precision engineering services alongside tooling products and solutions to a wide array of industries. This includes machining parts from multiple materials, as well as more specialist gear spinning applications, and rack and specialist tool manufacturing.

Key to this ever-growing list of applications and machining capabilities is Woodbrook’s long-term partnership with machine tool manufacturer Yamazaki Mazak UK. Though the company started out in manual machining, it soon embraced machine tool technology with the purchase of a Mazak Quick Turn 10 CNC lathe over three decades ago, and has not looked back since.

“We purchased one Mazak a long time ago and it just went from there,” comments Mr Hogg. “Whenever it’s time to purchase a new machining centre, we’ve looked at other manufacturers, but we always end up staying with Mazak. This is in no small part due to the excellent service we receive, and the fact that when we do purchase a Mazak machining centre, we can be extremely confident in its performance and reliability. Furthermore, their machines are easy to use and program, and offer the level of accuracy and adaptability we require as a general subcontracting firm.”

The company offers a range of precision engineering services alongside tooling products and solutions to a wide array of industries
The company offers a range of precision engineering services alongside tooling products and solutions to a wide array of industries

Seven up

Woodbrook’s faith in Mazak machines has translated into the company currently operating seven of the supplier’s machines from its new one-acre manufacturing facility in Ashton-under-Lyme, including two Quick Turn Nexus 200-II CNC turning centres and two Quick Turn 10 CNC lathes.

The company also invested in two VCN-530C vertical machining centres to allow it to carry out milling applications in-house, improving reliability and reducing Woodbrook’s reliance on other subcontractors. These purchases have helped Woodbrook establish an enviable reputation as one of the North West’s most experienced, professional and highly-regarded precision engineering and CNC machining companies.

Most recently, the company decided to invest in an additional Mazak VTC-800/30SR in 2020 in reaction to growing enquires for larger machined parts it was having to turn down. Equipped with an 18,000rpm, 35kW main spindle, the VTC-800/30SR is capable of rapid traverse rates of up to 60m/minute in the X-, Y- and Z-axes. It also features full 5-axis capability, a travelling column design that provides optimum machining flexibility and an automatic tool changer with 30 tools as standard.

This expanded array of applications facilitated by Woodbrook’s extensive portfolio of machine tools proved invaluable throughout the coronavirus-induced lockdown period. Because of its wide-ranging machining capabilities, the company continued to enjoy an exceptionally strong order book throughout what could have otherwise been a challenging time.

“We are only a small team here at Woodbrook, with a total of six employees machining parts for a range of industries,” Mr Hogg explains. “However, we’ve been busier than ever over the past few months, working overnight and in 10-12 hours shifts to fulfil the orders we have been receiving.

“This is in no small part due to the purchase of the VTC-800/SR. Once it was installed at our new facility, we were able to branch out into 5-axis work alongside our existing capabilities, meaning we could take on larger and more complex customer requests.”

Versatile 5-axis

As industry activity begins to increase again after the COVID lockdown, the company continues to aim high and expand further into complex 5-axis work, while also looking to further reduce lead-times. As such, the company has now invested in Mazak’s newest fully simultaneous 5-axis machining centre, the UK-made CV5-500.

Woodbrook Precision decided to invest in an additional Mazak VTC-800/30SR in 2020 in reaction to growing enquires for larger machined parts it was previously having to turn down
Woodbrook Precision decided to invest in an additional Mazak VTC-800/30SR in 2020 in reaction to growing enquires for larger machined parts it was previously having to turn down

Ideally suited to general subcontractors, the versatile 5-axis machine is claimed by Mazak to be unique in its category due to its high-rigidity bridge construction with a fully supported trunnion table that travels in the Y-axis direction under the bridge, ultimately delivering an extremely accurate and compact machining solution required by precision engineering companies such as Woodbrook.

Pioneering integration

Alongside exploring new machinery options, the company is also working with Autodesk and EdgeCAM, specialists in CAD/CAM software for 3D milling, mill turning, and multi-axis and 3D machining, to further support its current Mazak VCN-530C milling machines.

Specifically, the business is aiming to be the first in the world to transform a Mazak machining centre into a coordinate-measuring machine by integrating Renishaw’s Inspection Plus macro software for CNC machine tools into its programming.

The software, which offers a wide range of easy-to-use probing cycles for Renishaw machine tool probes, will enable all Woodbrook’s milling machines to measure the geometrical characteristics of an object to an even more exacting degree, and check machined components conform to intended designs.

Consequently, the company can carry out accurately precise machining, increasing productivity and further guaranteeing processed parts meet the stringent quality standards required by its customers, including those in the marine, aerospace and motorsport sectors.

“The company is continuing to grow at a fast rate, and to an extent, I put this down to being a family business,” Mr Hogg comments. We work long hours – six or seven days a week because we know that if we don’t, the drop in orders will personally affect us. Due to this level of personal investment, we are always looking ahead to how we can improve, and Mazak’s support has been crucial in these efforts.

The company’s decision to invest in high-quality machinery has allowed it to enjoy an exceptionally strong order book
The company’s decision to invest in high-quality machinery has allowed it to enjoy an exceptionally strong order book

He concludes: “The quality of their machines, and their status as a UK-based supplier, means they have always been on hand to help us improve our customer offering. Because of their ability to provide solutions with reduced lead and delivery times, we are able to take a dynamic approach to machinery investment.

“Put simply, we know that any solution we order from Mazak will be installed in time to fulfil our customers’ orders while ensuring high quality, even in applications not currently possible on-site.”

Alan Mucklow, managing director UK and Ireland sales and service division at Yamazaki Mazak, adds: “Woodbrook has worked with Mazak for many years and is a perfect example of how a close customer-supplier relationship can help a business continue its upward trajectory.

“We are extremely pleased that Woodbrook regards the Mazak range as a benchmark for quality, and will continue to be steadfast in our support as the company looks for new solutions that will keep it going from strength to strength.”

Woodbrook Precision
www.woodbrookprecision.com

Related Articles

Technology collaboration

The MTC in Coventry is exhibiting the Porsche 919 Hybrid racing car in its reception area until the start of the MACH show when it will move to the DMG Mori stand at the NEC in hall 5 on stand 5610.
8 years ago Features

Loads better

Mills CNC reports that it is increasingly being approached by manufacturers to help design and implement what, in many instances are innovative manufacturing turnkey and process improvement solutions.
8 years ago Features
Most recent Articles

UK ratifies deal to join major Indo-Pacific trade bloc 

The UK has, earlier than expected, completed its key step required for joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Minister for Trade Policy Greg Hands will tell fellow members of the group during a meeting in Arequipa, Peru.
2 days ago News

Login / Sign up