Wednesbury-based Duright Engineering has built a reputation as one of the UK’s leading tube cutting and processing sub-contractors and its adoption of laser tube cutting from an early stage. With the family-owned business looking to continue its growth strategy, managing director Ross Taylor had two options, more of the same, or diversify and expand the tube bending side of the business.
Taking the second option has proved highly successful, with turnover increasing by more than 55 per cent in the last financial year. Much of this growth attributed to the addition of two BLM ELECT all-electric tube benders.
“We are well known across our key industry sectors of automotive, rail, agricultural equipment and shopfitting for our tube laser cutting capabilities, and we could have opted to expand further on this, but as tube laser accounted for 70 per cent of our business we wanted to opt for a different strategy and tube bending, particularly larger diameter tube bending, provided an opportunity to become a single source option for a lot of customers, providing laser and bending under the one roof,” says Ross Taylor.
Duright already operates four BLM tube laser machines 24 hours, six days a week, the latest of these being the ADIGE LT FIBER tube laser systems. This combined laser capability allows Duright to process round tube up to 154 mm and square rectangular tube up to 120 mm section in lengths up to 8.6 metres. Duright was one of the first in the UK to adopt fiber optic laser and it is very unusual for the tube sector to be leading the flat sheet sector, but when it came to fiber laser the tube industry was way ahead of the curve. “We had our first fiber laser from BLM four years ago and we are surprised that people still buy CO2 tube lasers as we cannot see any downside with fiber, especially on the mix of materials that we are cutting.”
With the success of its Tube laser business it would be the easy option to further expand this and bring in more of the same, but the greater potential for business growth came from tube bending. Here again Duright could have simply expanded on what it had, but reviewing the market it spotted opportunities to develop opportunities in bending larger diameter tube. The decision, therefore, was taken to invest in two ELECT, all-electric, multi-stack tube benders from BLM. The first to be installed was an ELECT 102 machine with capacity to bend tube up to 102 mm diameter with a wall thickness up to 2.5 mm, this was quickly followed by an ELECT 130 which can bend up to 130 mm diameter and 3 mm wall thickness material. There are many advantages to an all-electric system, namely the elimination of hydraulics, lower power requirement, improved machine setting and component quality.
“Competition is tough in the small diameter tube bending sector, and chasing that volume work wasn’t of interest to us,” says Ross Taylor. “However, there are few companies that have invested in larger capacity tube bending and we could see the benefits of going after what may be smaller volume work that would provide better margins. I would say that we have reduced set-up times by between 50 and 70 per cent compared to our old hydraulic machines, but the biggest advantage that we have seen is in getting the first-off part right. This is a straightforward process compared to previous as the set-up process is virtually totally automated.” This automation of the set-up is particularly important as Duright recognised the variables that operators can bring to the process. Previously it may have been the case that between 10 – 20 parts had to be produced before consistent production was achieved; now they are guaranteed that the second part off the machine will be exactly to drawing. The saving in material and time is significant. This speed and consistency of set-up fits well with Duright’s ‘just-in-time’ production mentality and with batch sizes varying from 20-off to 1000-off efficiency in setting the machines is a valuable asset.
Additional benefits to Duright was eliminating the need for hydraulic systems for bending, this has taken away the risk of oil leaks and, the need for a pump to be constantly running, which in turn leads to a better and safer working environment. Electric operation also gives greater control over the bending process, delivering exactly the right torque as required to take into account material types, the result being consistent quality of bends.
Another factor in the success of Duright with the BLM tube benders is the machine control and software system from BLM, which provides a seamless crossover between programs for the tube laser machines and the ELECT benders. The control also provides detailed feedback to Duright, which it finds extremely valuable as that information can be used to further develop bending strategies and creates a library of information that enhances productivity and performance on any future jobs requiring similar bending parameters.
The control software is also playing its part in Duright winning business. “Speed is key when it comes to quoting, but those quotations need to be accurate. To achieve speed and accuracy we invested in a multi-user license for the BLM software and we gave all of our salesmen training in the application of it. So, now, when a customer sends us a CAD 3D model (stp or igs) our salesmen can upload it to the software, which then analyses every option to bend that tube, whether its multi-stack, one centreline radius, multiple centreline radii, or variable radius bending, the software confirms if the bend is possible and output a reliable cycle time, which leads to an extremely accurate quotation being produced very quickly. Using the system in this way eliminates the time that we used to need to get the right people together to discuss the part and removes any guesswork out of quoting.”