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FiFe Fabrications Case Study
10 Mar 2015
FiFe Fabrications Ltd. is a leading manufacturer of precision sheet-metal work, electro-mechanical assemblies and precision-machined components.
The company was founded in 1972 and its 140 strong workforce is currently based in its state of the art facility in Glenrothes, Fife.
FiFe Fabrication’s success is founded upon consistent investment in the latest technologically advanced equipment, and a dedicated and highly trained workforce guided by a clear aim as stated in the company literature – to work closely with customers to help them complete their projects on time, on budget and to the highest quality standards.
In 2012, as the local and national economy began to emerge from five years of recession, FiFe Fabrications wanted to be sure they were in the best possible position to make the most of the economic upturn; this resulted in a re-evaluation of some of the manufacturing systems they were using at that time.
In line with Lean Manufacturing techniques evident throughout its manufacturing facility, FiFe Fabrications, supported by its punching and press brake tooling supplier, Wilson Tool International, undertook a thorough audit of its sheet-metal bending capabilities.
The existing press brakes, and the tooling used on them, were beginning to show their age, seriously compromising FiFabs declared aim of delivering their products on time, at a low acquisition cost and with assured quality.
Indeed, one or two of the machines were out of action so often that, according to Craig McIntosh the Operations Manager in the sheet metal department, “they were becoming a risk to the whole operation”.
FiFe Fabrications, just as every other precision sheet-metal working company, are working in an ever more competitive and discerning market place and striving to meet increasingly stringent customer requirements. The average batch size processed through the sheet-metal shop at FiFab’s is 30 – 50 parts. Most of these require some change or modification of tooling set-ups, resulting in 14 to 15, or sometimes more, press brake tool changes per day. It became apparent from the Lean audit that the press brake and press brake tooling set-up was not capable of meeting these needs.
The quest for a bending machine which would give not only advanced technology and productivity gains, but also satisfied FiFe Fabrications’ desire to reduce their carbon footprint resulted in the purchase of four SafanDarley E-Brakes in December of 2013.
Craig McIntosh estimates that the new Electronic Press Brakes and re-organisation of the bending cell have resulted in energy savings of up to 40% and efficiency increases of up to 30%.
And as John Penman, FiFe Fabrications Sales and Marketing Director, points out, -“psychologically, a capital investment on this scale, made when the economy was still not yet out of recession, also sends a clear signal to our customers that FiFe Fabrications is a company planning for its own and their long-term future”.
In addition to the increased efficiencies afforded by the new E Press Brakes, Wilson Tool International, FiFe Fabrications’ preferred tooling supplier, worked closely with them to establish a ‘Lean’ environment to substantially reduce the machine set-up times.
Mark McCornville responsible for the bending cell of SafanDarley E-Brakes, emphasised the need to do this – “when you think that we were doing upwards of 15 tool changes per day and typically on a press brake 30% is set-up time, there was a lot of time waste which could be eliminated”.
Some of the changes implemented are immediately apparent, such as the storage and positioning of the tooling required for each machine in the bending cells adjacent to the machines. Others were less visible, but as important nevertheless. These included advising on special press brake tooling for specific applications, delivering precision press brake tooling on time and offering a personal, technical back-up and service. According to John Penman, they choose to work with Wilson Tool as their punch press and press brake tooling supplier, as they value Wilson Tool’s ‘hands-on’, consistent, personal service and the technical expertise of John Hallimond, their local Wilson Tool sales engineer.
It is unsurprising that FiFe Fabrications works with suppliers such as Wilson Tool, with similar aims and vision to themselves. Among the reasons so many customers choose FiFe Fabrications as their supply partner, John Penman highlights the following: the personal touch to ensure the enquiry or ordering process is as easy as possible; adding value with technical back-up throughout; adding value through engineering and design proposals; maintaining a flexible approach with the customer’s needs as a priority; being guided by principles of honesty and integrity in all their business dealings – attributes which apply equally to both companies.