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Waterjet cuts production lifeline after AG fire

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May 25, 2006 is a date that contract cutter AG will never forget. Nor will the industrial precinct and residents of southwest Sydney. Nor for that matter will anyone involved in industry that happened to see the television news that evening.

That is the day the factory of AG (formerly known as Associated Gaskets) went up in the flames of such a powerful fire that the thick black smoke could be seen from most parts of Sydney.

This tragedy was a defining moment in the development of AG. Rather than sink the company, its management looked towards investments that would quickly get it off the ground and running profitably once more.

The proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes story had become AG’s reality.

According to AG before anything else that competitors within the industry were the first to call and offer their assistance.

This was a fabulous gesture from other companies within the markets, but AG knew they had to do it as quickly as possible by ourselves, they had clients to serve and dedicated employees who wanted to continue the jobs with its long established company.

AG is one of the company in Australia, which is known for the contract cutting of various products including gaskets, electrical and thermal insulation, electronic components, tapes and safety products.

Forced to move into a temporary premises while AG factories was being redesigned, the management team decided to look carefully at reinvesting in new cutting technology to gain the utmost inefficiency and hence maximise profitability in a testing time.

National manufacturing week 2006 offered an opportunity to have a look at various technologies on the market, and it was there and then we AG decided what to do.

AG invested in two water jet cutters from WaterJet Sweden AB, the  WJS NC3015 E water jet cutter with 3m x 1.5m cutting area as well as a WJS NC3015 EB (also with 3m x 1.5m cutting area), which are distributed throughout Australia by Power Machinery.

AG management concluded that these units would combine technical accuracy in the cutting process with the speed required to move jobs from start to finish as quickly as possible.

This would allow rapid turnarounds to meet the expectations of the client base, which already overlooked slight delays, while the company reassessed and rearranged itself after the damaging fire.

Ironically, the fire and the exhibition were well timed and when AG saw the WJS machines at the show they had little hesitation in the decision and Power Machinery delivered the units immediately after AG moved into their short-term premises.

WJS water jet cutters are suitable for fast, intricate shape cutting with flawless edges on glass, wood, plastic, sheet metal, marble and foam.

There is no heat affected material (as in laser cutting), no dangerous gases, and only a modest amount of energy is required to operate this technology.

Compared to other processes, the advantage with high-pressure water jet cutting is the cold cutting process. A cold process with a jet of 1mm makes it possible to place the parts close to each other on blank material, thus minimising scrap.

The process gives a clean edge that does not require any second operation. Cutting does not have any heat effect on the material. For example, it is straightforward to perform multi head cutting of Hardox 500, 80mm thickness.

Using advanced technology, Water Jets Sweden AB has brought water jet cutting accuracy down to 0.1mm for a maximum thickness of 300mm and the technology is increasingly being used across a variety of industries including aerospace and defence, engineering and manufacturing, manufacture of building fitout materials, ornamental displays, and others.

AG has been well supported by all customers and as AG is only as good as its last price and its last service, so AG are exceptionally grateful in the way its client base stood by it during this interruption.

While the new premises are being designed and built, these WJS water jet cutters have given AG an accurate tool, so it can continue to perform contract cutting of any material for the national market.

The new premises will be slightly larger with room for expansion as the previous building was 40 years old with a different configuration.

AG has a traditional market of the process industry (power, all chemical), transportation (trucks, buses, etc) and electrical (meat and power station repairs, transformer manufacturers), but they are in a good position to expand even further.

A secret to the success is a quick turnaround; with the WJS water jet machines one does not need to make expensive tooling. WJS water jet machines has quick program, and AG has the personnel power to run to the customer’s schedule.

Plus a machine like that gives top-quality finish for precision work. AG did have experience with other brands prior to the fire, but they finally feel that they have chosen the market leader.

AG are keen to further develop its capabilities in using them by sending a couple of people to Sweden to investigate more features and trends on water cutting.

This is where business with WJS equipment becomes more than customisation and supply; it becomes a partnership that is win/win.

The team in AG are long serving employees that wanted to get this business back on the road and running properly as quickly as possible and they put in a lot of unpaid hours for the last few months for AG to stabilise and go forward.

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