A Makino a500z, Levett’s Secret Weapon in Weapon Research and Defence
Headland Machinery caught up with General Manager Paul Belshaw at Levett Engineering
and talked about their business, their areas of focus and their recent purchase of another two Makino a500z horizontal machining centres.
HL: You purchased another two a500Zs Makinos within two years, what was the thought process around these quick successional purchases?
PB: The plan from the first machine was to establish a partner to our ageing fleet, we also wanted automated solutions benefits. We researched every possible technology solution and we kept coming back to Makino. The other machines simply couldn’t provide what Makino could. We chose Makino as it’s the benchmark in the marketplace, locally and globally. The Makino brand is also well known within the aerospace sector. This in itself is reassuring in terms and innovation and gave customers a level of confidence in our quality of workmanship.
We wanted to automate our set up and the a500Z coupled with the MMC2 was an ideal solution. Additionally, geographically speaking Makino’s location in Japan is an ideal time frame for us if we need additionally support, rather than waiting for Europe.
These new machines were purchased with the sole intention of increasing our capacity and reducing costs. The costs are reduced by the available hours, increased efficiencies, automation and relatively unmanned operation. We can run 3 shifts a day, 7 days a week. We have a highly skilled technical operator on the floor during the day and then the machines are set up for the afternoon and night shift operators. Once the machine is loaded, we need less staff to man the entire floor, with the only requirement of the operator to load up the machine once is runs out of material.
HL: What is your company focused on in terms of growth opportunities at the moment?
PB: We are focused on defence/ weapons research, aerospace and military, with more of a focus on increasing our profile within land and sea. All of these components are part of a global supply chain. Locally, we are working on defence in the land and the sea sector. Generally speaking, we are manufacturing air frame components, propulsion system parts and precision machined assemblies.
In terms of size, we have outgrown our current premises (2,000 sq meters in Elizabeth) we are planning to move into the old Holden factory into a large 6,000 square metre factory. In terms of turnover, from 2005 we were turning over $2.5 mil AUD to 15 years later turning over 10 times this figure AUD.
HL: I saw that you have received a lot of export awards in the past, has this changed due to covid or been unaffected as it’s the defence sector?
PB: 80% of business is still export, which is not in decline, thankfully defence is relatively unaffected.
HL: In your own words, what makes Levett successful?
PB: We invest in new technology; we research what is the best in the market and ensure its maximised and connected to achieve the best efficiencies within our production. We also machine highly complex parts and we do it well. We are also agile in our manufacturing process so can adapt quickly if required. We also communicate well with our clients, responding to their needs. We have over 73 people now with the team.
HL: Can you comment on the level of service you have received from Headland to date and what you think of the service team and sales team?
PB: Certainly Michael, working with the machines has been very proactive in that space.
HL: What’s the real value of the machinery you have in your factory?
PB: In comparison to the last horizontal machining centre, its 15% more efficient than a stand-alone machine. The actual machine itself is 92% efficient, meaning the machine only stops running when it runs out of material or we are waiting on more material to come in from overseas. In terms of quality, we have a lot less rejects. Labour costs have also reduced by 30%, due to connectivity.
HL: What are your thoughts on the industry?
PB: In terms of covid, for a lot of us it’s what is still to come, I’ll reserve my judgement. Having this type of equipment allows us to adapt to every changing market, especially in a cost sensitive market. These Makino machines churn through the work and the other equipment struggles to keep up.
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