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The installation by Howco Critical Components of a series of heavyweight machine tools from Ward CNC's Retrofit Division has at relatively low cost enhanced first-stage machining capacity at this world-leading supplier of highly-engineered products, assemblies and components for tolerance critical applications.

In addition, the high-quality, re-manufactured machines have also enabled the company to bring in-house a series of machining operations that were formerly sub-contacted.

By eliminating this work, Howco has in addition generated invaluable savings in both lead times and costs while also strategically positioning itself to better manage quality expectations on such high-value workpieces.

In recent years Howco has purchased a number of fully re-manufactured machines for its expansive (12,000 m2) facility in Irvine, West Scotland. Here a wide range of components are machined/fabricated for some of the world's largest OEMs in the oil and gas, petrochemical, power generation and aerospace industries. The machines supplied by Ward include:

A large capacity Mazak Slant Turn 50 CNC lathe
A Union KCU 130 CNC horizontal boring and milling machine;
A Soraluce Sora 4 CNC bed mill with 4 metres x axis; and
A Webster & Bennett 60 inch ram-type vertical turning centre - fully re-engineered with Fanuc 18T CNC and auto toolchanger that accommodates Sandvik Capto toolholders.
Howco group operations director Steve Hoggan is the man responsible for the group's on-going machine tool investment programme. This has seen over 20 machines purchased for Howco sites in the UK (at Cumbernauld and Sheffield - locations that have also installed Ward re-manufactured machines) as well as in Canada.

This latest tranche of investment with Ward focused on expanding the company's first stage machining capacity to meet the growing order book at the 116-employee Irvine site.

"The Soraluce and Webster & Bennett machines were purchased primarily to both support production overflow at our Cumbernauld site (populated by manual machines and where space is limited) and to handle a series of large components that were previously sub-contracted by the Irvine team," Steve Hoggan continues.

"In particular, the Webster & Bennett has been installed for roughing work, to ease the load on our existing VTLs," he says.

All materials are processed at the site - including low alloy Inconels, Duplex and titanium - and batches generally peak at 10-off, though the occasional 1,000-off are produced. All sizes of workpieces are machined, from tiny turned parts up to 40-tonne fabrications, and tool assembly is also undertaken.

As expected of such a world-class organisation, a fully array of assembly, testing and finishing processes are maintained alongside an impressive quality control remit that embraces co-ordinate measuring, as well as project management, and installation and commissioning services.

The argument for buying re-manufactured machines from Ward is a no-brainer, he continues. "It all comes down to quality: quality of machine, quality of rebuild and quality of after-sales service." This is where Ward is a market-leader.