Thanks to SCM technologies Neville Johnson achieved record production outputs never seen before
Almost a year on since the commissioning of the Stefani XDs at Neville Johnson, Mick is convinced he made the right decision.
"It was a huge wrench for us to move away from German machines but the built quality, the accuracy, the ease of use and the reliability of both Stefanis - and the service we received from SCM - have proved to be exceptional. Before we made our decision, we also saw other SCM clients in the UK whose machines were very close to what we wanted. We point-blank asked them what the service was like. They pretty much said the same. SCM has done everything they promised. I can't fault them".
Over the last 30 years, Neville Johnson has built an enviable reputation for manufacturing high quality, bespoke offices, bedrooms and lounge furniture. Offering discerning clients a wide choice of designs, sizes and colours in bespoke layouts that have been tailored to fit even the most awkward of spaces perfectly is a challenge few manufacturers would relish, especially not with any regularity - but at Neville Johnson, it's the norm. Add exacting quality standards to the mix and it's not hard to imagine the scale of the nightmare Factory Manager, Mick Coulthard, faced when his two 10-years-old edgebanders started showing their age.
With every job different, Neville Johnson's Trafford Park factory si dedicated to nest-based manufacturing. Three nesting CNCs, all commissioned within the last three years, feed two edgebanders with individually sized panels rangling from large doors to small components. When the company took the decision to replace the two edgebanders with the latest technology, Mick had a clear idea of what was needed: "We wanted to get rid of the bottleneck that all edgebanders create in panel manufacturing." he told Furniture Journal. "We also wanted to eliminate or reduce changeover times and increase flexibility".
At the same time, knowing the impact machine changes have on production, Mick was adamant the replacements would have to be installed back to back so production could continue. Installation, commissioning and training would have to take place after Easter rush but before the 2018 summer holidays. And if that wasn't enough, he had one further non-negotiable that narrowed the field still further: "Reliability is a big thing for us. We have to have absolute faith in the companies we deal with. We needed to be convinced we could get the specification we needed in a reliable machine that we could future-proof, but also that when things go wrong the spares backup was in place, we could get fast delivery and the company we were working with had the number of engineers on the ground to deal with it fast."
Mick approached two companies and in a sea change that, saw the factory shift away from German machines to Italian technology, Neville Johnson ordered two new Stefani XDs from SCM Group (UK) Ltd. And almost 12 months down the line, with all the boxes on his wishlist ticked, Mick is convinced the company has made the right choice: "We have been able to achieve a reduction in overtime to an acceptable, sustainable level while achieving record production months prior to Christmas. Since the Stefanis were commissioned, we have achieved record production outputs that the factory has never seen before without increasing overtime - and that's all down to getting the panels out of the edgebanders."
Before deciding on the Stefanis, Mick made two visits to SCM in Italy to convince himself that the engineering of the frame, the chain and major components really were on a par with the best of German build quality and to refine a specification and to check out the backup available from SCM. "We wanted to be 100% sure of the backup systems, the spare part warehousing and all the dedicated process SCM offered", he said. "We had to have confidence that they could deliver a service throughout the machine's life, with spare parts, warranty, backup engineers, as well as a machine that did the job".
"What SCM has out there is incredible. You have to see it. We went out the first time to go through our specification and see what was available. Having seen the machines, with help from the engineers at Stefani, we respecified a couple of features and decided what our machines needed to have built in so they would see us through the next ten years. Originally, we looked at EVA and PUR units but when we saw the finish with the EVA, we realised we didn't need PUR. The standard was more than acceptable for the products we wanted to produce. The machines have been prearranged for PUR and AirFusion+ so if the market changes we just need a plug-in module to be up and running".
The two Stefani XD machines, each equipped with a panel return system, are relatively straightforward in specification and more than meet the process time Mick laid down in his first meeting with Stefani's engineers. Importantly, they also provide the fast changeover and the flexibility Neville Johnson needed. There are some neat features, like a ceramic heating lamp after the pre-milling unit that warms the panel to the right temperature before the edgeband is applied - ideal for situations where the panels are sized, then left overnight before edging, because there's no risk of glue shock - and Mick specified the automatic pressure roller. The touch of a button is all it takes to switch from a 2mm thick edge to a 0.4mm edge (for example). Mick also wanted a grooving unit to automate the production of Neville Johnson's characteristic V-grooved solid edge lipping. Both Stefanis are equipped with nesting shoes on the trim and scrape that ride over any drillings or routed slots in the board to give a flawless edge, and there are three spraying units for anti-adhesive, high gloss and delicate edges.
In the original specification, the LCD touch screen was Stefani's 17"TFT controller. Mick was delighted that, on delivery, Stefani had provided both edgebanders with the very latest 21" Eye-M touchscreen controller. They were also equipped with Teamviewer (c) software for remote diagnostic control of the machine via the Internet as well as data backup and installation upgrades.
Mick can't speak highly enough about the service he has received from SCM: "They made the whole process really easy and seeing the factories and meeting the Italians to discuss and refine the specification gave us a lot of confidence. Everyone was very efficient, very open and I really like the flexible mentality of the Italians - they were prepared to go that extra yeard and took nothing for granted. There was no backwards-forwards, backwards-forwards with prices. We agreed on the specification, and SCM delivered on time and on budget".
"The installation process was very, very quick and very smooth. We had a very tight window for installation and training. We needed the machines in after Easter but before the summer holidays. We cleared the factory out and decommissioned one of our machines. SCM moved one machine out as the next was being craned off in the yard made everything very simple".
Everything about the programming of the Stefani XD is very straightforward. It's easy to recall programs, change to different edging configurations, different panel thicknesses, different substrates. Even so, there's always a bit of a barrier for operators when they have to change from a machine they have become familiar with over many years. "A new system always makes people feel uneasy." commented Mick, "but we'd pretty much conquered that within the first two weeks from installation. The simplicity of this machine makes that possible. Both machines were in full production by the end of week four.
"We had a week's training for each machine. We staggered this because we took one machine out while still running the old one. After day three, the machine was available, so we moved shift patterns around to release operators for a week's training with SCM's Jon Wilson. The first three or four days was training, then we started running full orders through, but without time pressures so they had a chance to change and reset things and learn new features with an engineer at their side. That was replicated when the second machine came in. The training we received was all very thorough. Since then, Jon's only been back once.
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