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Colchester keeps manufacturer competitive

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article image Colchester Tornados with integral bar feeder.

THE addition of four Colchester Tornado CNC lathes at Centor Architectural has ensured the company is now more competitive with its rivals, many of which are manufacturing in South East Asia.

Centor manufactures a range of architectural door and window hardware predominantly for sliding and folding tracking systems.

In the past four years, Centor has restructured its operations significantly and invested heavily in its design, manufacturing and marketing capabilities. During this expansion the company has more than doubled its workforce.

Centor had previously outsourced all turning requirements before analysis showed that owning a single CNC lathe would reduce costs, while offering the additional in-house benefits of tighter quality control and shorter lead times.

Manufacturing manager Rod Bridge explained how the addition of the lathes also had a significant impact on other aspects of the business.

"First of all we changed the manufacturing skill set of this company from basically metal pressing and roll forming to complete product manufacturing and assembly.

"The Colchester Tornado also gave us greater flexibility and confidence with regards to development of new products, as it became so easy to manufacture one-offs in-house, while our R&D engineers trialed different designs.

“Our in-house capability allows us to tune our designs and engineer a nice feel to the hardware, something which was previously very difficult from just a 3D solid model," Mr Bridge said.

The dynamic approach to product development has resulted in Centor applying for nine patents and registered designs, while 75 per cent of total sales now come from products that are less than two years old.

The Tornado A50 features a thermally-insulated production capsule, massive 60° slant bed and an unstressed, fabricated and ballasted plinth.

A unique feature is the bar feeder that is manufactured and supplied by Colchester as an integral part of the lathe, rather than an add-on as with other brands.

The A50 is also 20 per cent heavier than comparable machines, which creates high strength levels and vibration dampening, resulting in improved accuracy and higher standards of surface finish.

"We have been really impressed with the solid performance of the bar feeder. It has significantly reduced the amount of time an operator is required at the lathe when machining stainless steel," Mr Bridge said. 600 Machine Tools 02 9748 1964.

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