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Macnaught makes a success of inhouse manufacturing

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In 1948, Colin Macnaught started manufacturing hand pumps for kerosene and oil in Turella, NSW.

Today, sixty-five years on, the company bearing his name manufactures a range of equipment for the lubrication and fluid transfer industries including grease pumps and guns, oil pumps and guns, fuel pumps, hose reels and flow meters. 

While many local manufacturers flee the country seeking low-cost bases overseas, Macnaught bucked the trend and focused on its in-house production.  

"Because of our heritage as a manufacturer in Australia, going offshore is always the last resort for us," said Bob Hill, CEO, Macnaught.  

Since the GFC in 2008, the company has invested heavily in equipment and skills, building strong local capabilities.

This month Macnaught will draw upon this investment and unveil a range of positive displacement flow meters that it believes, will set it far ahead of the competition. 

Macnaught's new MX range replaces the older M series and comprises of nine base models. One of the major enhancements is in the area of instrument quality.  

"We are now manufacturing from billet rather than castings, which gives us better dimensional stability, corrosion resistance, and improves the pressure rating," explains Graham Wilson, Product Manager, Flow Meters.  

"The ability to control the manufacture of the meters from the machining of the raw materials to the final assembly, enables us to apply strict Quality Assurance procedures throughout the entire process in order to produce a consistently high quality product." [Editor: A billet is a length of metal that has a round or square cross-section. Billets are created via extrusion or rolling an ingot.] 

The MX range will be available in nine models representing different sizing (1/4" to 4") and flow rates (0.5 lph to 1200 lpm).  

"We have designed this range with common components to make it easy for the end user to select a suitable meter for their particular application, with the mounting arrangement of the display or pulse module really setting it apart," explains Wilson.  

The mounting system, called M-lock, is a unique bayonet type quarter turn fitting that allows the output display module - which is common across the range - to be quickly changed or replaced if required.  

"If you had a range of meters in your plant spanning various sizes, you only need to hold very limited stock of replacement displays, perhaps one or two to cover the range," adds Wilson. 

With positive displacement flow meters, typically only a couple of things can go wrong: either the rotors are not turning which means that there is no mechanical movement, or the electronics has failed.  

Macnaught's unique bayonet design allows the user to do a quick test to identify the source of the problem.

"If we're not getting a signal, I just need to quarter turn off the existing electronic module, quarter turn on another one, and check whether the system is working," explains Wilson. There's no need to stop the process or dismantle the meter. 

The new MX range, available in two versions, is targeted at the fuel and oil, mining, and chemical processing and dispensing sectors locally and overseas. 

The aluminium version is suitable for the general non-aggressive materials, like fuels and oils.

The stainless steel version has higher grade material and is suitable for the more aggressive industrial environments.  

"When we launch we will also seek to pene-trate new markets," adds Wilson. 

The company is optimistic about its new product range and its competitive position in the market. Perhaps, much of this is belief is due to Macnaught's local manufacturing culture, with all production carried out at its plant in Turrella, New South Wales. 

"We can essentially make any component required to build our products - with the exception of general hardware such as nuts and bolts," explains Steve Gavin, Operations Director. Agility is another key aspect.  

"We have versatile CNC machinery that we can change over quickly, enabling us to switch from one of two or three products during the same day on any given machine."  

As demand changes, Macnaught has developed the flexibility to deploy machines on the required product lines and thus achieve very short lead times.

"We can manufacture products within a few days rather than waiting on sub-contractors for weeks," adds Gavin.

"Also, our in-house engineering department is able to apply design changes or improvements to the components or the products in real time." 

The GFC of 2008 put a lot of stress on many companies but Macnaught used these challenging times to redefine its operations.

"By designing manufacturability into our products, we can minimise the labour content and thereby neutralise to a great extent the first advantage offshore suppliers enjoy," explains Hill.  

The transformation to self sufficiency was a challenging one. Apart from raising funds for equipment purchase and extensive staff retraining the company had to move to a lean manufacturing culture.  

For example, the earlier practice was to inspect components and assemblies as they come into the building.  

"When set-up for in-house manufacturing we changed to in-process inspection which is at the beginning of a set-up and during the manufacturing process," explains Gavin.  

"Consequently, there are not too many delays at the end of the production run when checking and passing the goods." 

By building its operations around a local manufacturing strategy, Macnaught is definitely swimming against the tide, but this approach is paying dividends.

"Local design and manufacture ensure that we remain in touch with the needs of the market and are able to adapt," explains Hill. 

The company appears to be holding its own locally and overseas.

As Gavin explains, "Being globally competitive is about working smarter with the right tools." 

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