Laser investment means more work in-house for UK company

RJW Sheet Metal has bought an Amada laser/punching combination machine to expand its business and turn out high quality work faster.

Winborne, Dorset, England - According to Darren Slade, writing for the Bournemouth Echo, RJW Sheet Metal Ltd., a family-run business with over 40 years’ experience in the subcontract sheet metal industry, has invested in a combination laser/punching machine that is changing the way the company does business. The equipment will mean the business has to subcontract less work and can turn out high quality work quicker. The company bought an Amada EML3610 NT, its biggest investment to date.

RJW is reportedly the only subcontract sheet metal company in Dorset or Hampshire to have a machine that can punch holes at a rate of 1,800 per minute and laser cut through 6.4 mm thick steel, stainless steel, and aluminum in sheet sizes up to 3 meters by 1.5 meters. It can also add forms and folds and tap threads into the jobs before removing them from the sheets using a chute and conveyors.

Director Andy Weight said the company's work is used in applications including medical equipment, air conditioning, the electronics and telecommunications industries, and bracketry for cars. The ability to cut through thicker steel will mean the business can do more work for itself. "It's automated a lot more processes in-house," he said.

"On jobs where we've had to tap holes as a second operation, now it's all done on one machine, so we can take the job more or less off the machine, fold it and turn it over to the finisher,” Weight added. "It's impressed the customers when they come and see what you can do and the quality of work that comes off the machine.”

The firm was started in 1966 by Mr. Weight's late father, Fred, and it is run today by Andy Weight and his brother and fellow director Chris. When they took over in 1988, the company consisted of four people, but today it employs 22 to 23, and over the years, it has bought two more units near its head office.

The list price of the Amada machine is nearly £1m, although the company reduced that by part-exchange and preferred to set money aside for the purchase rather than borrow heavily.

"We've had to work it into our budget. Sometimes it will take six months or a year before you see the benefit of it and, if you're not prepared and financially sound, it can turn a business upside down and make it bust," said Andy Weight. "We've seen companies expand and do fantastic things and a couple of years down the line, when they can't afford the finance, they disappear. Sometimes we're a bit over-cautious, but it's better to be that way than risk the jobs of your employees and your business."

More in Cutting