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Case Study

Is waterjet cutting the missing productivity-puzzle piece for your small factory?


It’s not easy to be a small family business

When you are a small family-run business, and you have to decide what type of technology is going to fill your gaps and boost your capabilities. It is then that you start comparing the technology options available to you. Many manufacturers today outsource all their metal fabrication to vendor partners. With this in mind, the number of resources behind this, runs from the quality control department who typically compares the incoming goods to the specifications required.

While distinct advantages certainly can be gained by outsourcing work to companies specialising in certain profiling and fabrication processes, compared to trying to develop core competencies in every process, the time and labour consumed in outsourcing the work and then verifying incoming quality can be difficult to overcome. This is especially true when considering the added lead time built into outsourcing fabrication/pre-fabrication processes, and the lost flexibility in production scheduling that can hamstring a manufacturer trying to react to rapidly evolving customer needs.

Harbro Engineering use an OMAX waterjet on just about every job

Such was the case for Harbro Engineering a small manufacturer based out of Tasmania, manufacturing parts from steel and plastic and specialising in Mandrel tube bending. Harbro was founded in 1984 by Reginald Clifford Harris and is now led by the 3rd generation. Alex Harris and his brother the third generation now run the operations at Harbro Engineering. It is not uncommon that as an owner of a small business you are not only the HR department, the General Manager and the CNC operator but you also have to make big decisions such as finding the right equipment for your factory.

Harbro found themselves in a quandary, in order to stay reliable and cost-effective Harbro needed to be able to produce 95% of the material in-house. They did their research and decided to purchase the OMAX MAXIEM 1530 Abrasive waterjet. One can argue whether this was the right choice for them but with today’s advanced technology and the diversity of a waterjet machine, Harbro found that this machine would most certainly close the gaps. In Alex Harris’s words:

“We use the waterjet on just about every job that runs through our shop”.

He also adds: “In our workshop prior to the OMAX 1530 waterjet cutter, we had a profile cutter that was quite inaccurate. Everything had to be machined after unless it had a super big tolerance zone. The waterjet cutter does allow us to cut material quite accurately reducing our machining time, which essentially is the main advantage, and we don’t have to outsource anything for accurate plate cutting and pressing. And the fact is we can reduce our processes for production through the workshop because quite often the waterjet cut finish is well and truly good enough, and truly hits the torches that we need”.

It certainly was the right choice for us

Alex didn’t stop at just finding a more affordable option for their flame-cut system. They also found that the MAXIEM 1530 allowed them to cut more materials than their normal system. From the perspective of the MAXIEM 1530, they found that the OMAX brand was one of the superior brands. Not only was it more affordable, but it also allowed for more precision and accuracy in their cuts. “A good choice,” Alex adds, as the machine was also equipped with five axis head which was very important for us because it allows us to use it for even more processes”.

Alex Harris also told us that the amount of work that they outsourced for thin plate cutting over one year was far greater cost than that of the machine. Which became the obvious motivator but not the only one he continued that the waterjet cutter is the most versatile machine out there. Another advantage of the waterjet technology and the bonus with waterjet cutting is that you don’t have to leave a machining allowance for other parts that are cut with heat. When you cut with heat, especially for defence products, you need to leave the machining allowance to remove the heat-affected zone.

Being versatile and meet demands for your customer

Choosing the MAXIEM 1530 allowed Harbro to get the best machine for their diverse customer base. Customers range from a major above and underground mining OEM, several agricultural industry companies to fixing fish farm equipment. The overall consensus is a very satisfied customer. From dealing with the initial contact of a Headland sales representative to the commissioning of the machine to our service provided, beyond just the sale.

How can a waterjet help your small manufacturing business?

A waterjet cutting machine like the MAXIEM 1530 will bring many huge benefits to your operation from being simple to use, meaning no special skills are required to produce accurate parts in any material. Superior edge quality means more time saved on secondary finishing. Lights-out cutting means the machine will keep making you money while you’re doing the thing you want or need to do. Versatile cutting allows you to cut multiple material types on the same bed without having to change tooling Cutting under cold water means the materials will not undergo any heat zones. This also means this is an ultra-safe way of cutting as no dust, fumes, toxic gasses, or debris are let off into the atmosphere for your workers to breathe in. It also makes the working environment a lot quieter.

Headland would like to thank Alex Harris, General Manager of Harbro Engineering, for giving us an insight into their small manufacturing business.


OMAX Maxiem 1530 Data Sheet

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Our Experts

Matthew Weaver

Matthew Weaver

Product Line Manager – Fabrication Division

1300 138 285


Anthony Mitchell

Anthony Mitchell

Client Relationship Manager

1300 138 258