Ashford Handicrafts Ltd

DESIGN

This family-run company has been manufacturing looms in traditional silver beech wood, in New Zealand, since 1934. Nowadays, this enterprise, Ashford Handicrafts Ltd., is a world leader in the industry and exports 90% of all it produces. Relations with SCM have permitted their clientele to achieve high levels of precision and considerably increase productivity. “We manufacture around 100 different products, each one comprising of sometimes more than 20 parts - explain the owners - so we need to concentrate on production methods that provide maximum efficiency, like numerical controlled lines and machining centres”.

The attraction of a product, like the loom, that has accompanied humankind through its history, and the warmth and softness of the fabrics woven by this ancient tool. The history of Ashford Handicrafts Ltd began right here, more than eighty years ago, in one of the world’s most famous countries for fine wools and natural fibres, New Zealand. Founded by Walter Ashford in 1934, it is now a world leader in the manufacture of looms, spinning wheels and textile equipment, most of which is produced using Southland Silver Beech, typically found in New Zealand. “Weaving the plot” of this family business are Richard Ashford, son of Walter, and his wife Elizabeth. Around thirty employees work alongside them, bound by a common goal of upholding a tradition, like weaving, that has been handed down over the centuries.

The Ashford looms are eco-sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly thanks to the dedication shown by the owners towards waste recycling and a reduction in energy consumption, but above all, they are the result of significant R&D work: available in natural wood or finished with ecological water-based paint, they are designed for easy assembly as well as being a pleasure to use.

“Our products for textile crafts are aimed at hobbyists, for teaching purposes and working from home” confirm Richard and Elizabeth. “95% of our production is in solid wood while some parts are in MDF and veneered plywood”.

The company exports more than 90% of its looms to over 40 countries: with the exception of neighbouring Australia, all its other main markets are geographically distant, like Europe (especially Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and Italy), the United States, India, Taiwan and Thailand, Singapore and South Africa. The owners explain that their clientele is highly demanding, looking for top quality textile equipment that makes the work of their employees easier while increasing productivity. For a company like this one, which produces everything internally, it is essential to have quality performing machinery. “We manufacture around 100 different products, each one comprising of sometimes more than 20 parts - explain the owners - so we need to concentrate on production methods that provide maximum efficiency, like numerical controlled lines and machining centres”.

In fact, the meeting with SCM whose technologies have ensured the achievement of high levels of precision as well as significant increases in production times, proved decisive. Overall, Ashford have chosen seven SCM machines, of which five are CNC machining centres. The most recent of these purchases, as Richard and Elizabeth showed us, is the accord 30 fx, one of SCM’s best suited models for every kind of intense processing that requires a great deal of removal, maintaining high standards of accuracy and quality finishings. Glancing around the factory, we spot other various kinds of models with different functions: a morbidelli n200 nesting machining centre (universal 2412 pre-rebranding), a superset nt throughfeed moulder, a dmc eurosand sanding and calibrating machine (model currently replaced by the dmc eurosystem) and other machinery for solid wood processing including the very first one every bought more than twenty years earlier, an scm routomat.

The improved quality offered by these models, underlines the Ashford owners who have favoured the Made in Italy technology offered by SCM for many years, is the opportunity for a more accurate production of parts, as well as greater performance, less waste and increased safety, in line with the strictest regulations. “We have remained loyal to the SCM brand because their machinery offers a series of advantages such as the interchanging of parts, the quality of the tools and software, not to mention the training and excellent after-sales service provided by the Italian group

Based on these excellent premises, the Ashford family continues to weave its future with the same passion, creativity and energy which have stood them apart from the outset. “We are looking at how to further increase productivity by investing in other CNC machining centres” explain Richard and Elizabeth proudly, before saying goodbye. High technology and innovation come together even in a antique work tool, but one with timeless charm.

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