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Case Study: Winbro Group Technologies

“We are a global business, with manufacturing in the UK and the US, as well as having a truly global supply chain. As we increase our footprint in both traditional and new markets, I have no doubt that PP C&A will offer us the best and shortest route to helping us satisfy the demands of our customers.”

GARY ROBINSON, Vice President of Sourcing
WINBRO GROUP TECHNOLOGIES

Drilling down on core competencies

A strategic manufacturing outsourcing partnership – built on trust, integrity and maximising each other’s production expertise – is celebrating ten years together with the launch of the world’s most productive EDM drilling machine.

Outsourcing non-core competencies is very much in vogue with industry at present, as an increasing number of companies look at new ways of saving money and achieving ‘flex’ in their production schedules.

It’s not rocket science. Strip away the processes that are low value-add and you focus on where your core expertise can deliver new innovations, better returns on investments and increased speed to market.

It’s an approach Winbro Group Technologies Ltd has perfected for almost a decade and one that allows it to build some of the most advanced laser and EDM machine tools on the market, machine tools that are used in the exacting world of the aerospace primes and tier 1s and, in more recent years, those ploughing a new furrow in alternate markets.

The Leicestershire-based business, which is currently in the process of relocating to one 60,000 sq ft advanced manufacturing facility in Shepshed, has been able to achieve this feat thanks to its partnership with PP Control & Automation (PP C&A) in the West Midlands.

It dates back more than a decade and, this year, enters a new era where the relationship is helping to produce the HSD351 system, the world’s most productive EDM drilling system.

The situation

Going back to 2012, there was a genuine need to find a supplier who could build electrical control systems that passed the UL 508A standards required by the North American marketplace – one of Winbro Group Technologies’ main sectors.

A chance meeting at MACH 2012 opened the door for a potential partnership with PP Control & Automation, a partnership that was quickly established after the Cheslyn Hay outsourcing specialist agreed to build two prototype control panels to prove it could meet the exacting quality standards and lead times.

It was a very fruitful exercise. Not only did the prototypes pass the stringent quality standards set by in-house engineers, they were also delivered ahead of schedule.

In the decade that followed, PP Control & Automation has created a dedicated production cell for Winbro, successfully helping to build over 300 machines that are being used to drill holes in complex aero and industrial gas turbine blades and nozzle guide vanes.

A good number of these builds have been subject to UL 508A certification, and this has been overseen by PP C&A engineers to ensure that every machine conforms with the electrical and NFPA fire safety regulations required in that market.

The HSD351 System

Manufacturers are increasingly looking to deliver more productivity via metre squared of space on their shopfloor and this drove Winbro Group Technologies’ decision to develop and launch the HSD351 system.

With a footprint of just 2.5m2, this is the world’s most productive EDM drilling machine and boasts a capacity of almost 700 electrodes, across a range of diameters giving unprecedented lights-out machining capability.

It will more than meet a strategy of drilling the maximum number of right first-time parts within a square metre and is packed with the company’s usual technology and performance.

Gary Robinson, Vice President of Sourcing at Winbro Group Technologies, picked up the story: “The HSD351 is proving that a small footprint can also be powerful, delivering more performance than our previous best-in-class model.

“At the heart of this capability is the EDM Generator module, which is assembled and built at PP Control & Automation to ensure we get the same repeatable quality in every unit.

“This machine really illustrates the strength of our relationship…it’s business critical. Together, we sat down and looked at the design for manufacture for the generator and, using the expertise of both firms, we were able to come up with an assembly process that is faster and more efficient.”

He continued: “It also had the benefit of being fully UL 508A approved for the American market, something we now take for granted after working with PP Control & Automation for so long.”

25 units are currently on order with PP C&A, with production of the generator module set to start in earnest in the West Midlands shortly.

Expertly trained PP Staff are assigned to work on the Winbro line, with a purchasing team now responsible for full supply chain management for this part of the build.

Winbro Group Technologies » WinbroGroup 001 Green Light » PP Control & Automation

Gary went on to add: “Historically, we enjoyed the challenge of retaining every element of manufacture in-house, an approach that doesn’t always produce optimum results. Instead, we chose the path of focusing on our core competences and then looked to outsource the parts of assembly that other companies were well qualified to handle for us.

“This was possibly the best decision we ever made, and, in PP C&A, we now have a strategic partner that offers us world class quality and delivery performance, tied in with the ability to ramp up or decrease volumes depending on demand.”

The results

The HSD351 system is the 10th model platform PP Control & Automation has worked on since entering the supply chain of Winbro Group Technologies.

Each machine tool has seen a different level of complexity, but every time joined-up thinking and collaborative value engineering has helped deliver a world class product that is used by some of the world’s most prestigious manufacturers.

Tony Hague, CEO of PP C&A, went on to add:

“If you are going to write a book about strategic manufacturing outsourcing and how it can work, I’d like to think this relationship would be in the case study section.

“To work with a company that operates in such a demanding field for ten years is some achievement and we are delighted to be entering our ‘testimonial year’ with a new machine tool to help them build.”

He continued: “The HSD351 is an EDM machine that packs so much power in so little space and we have been instrumental in helping produce the heartbeat of the model – the EDM generator module.”

Engineers at PP C&A world class manufacturing and assembly plant are just getting started on the first of 25 units over the course of the next twelve months, with design for manufacturing contributing to an assembly time reduction.

In a world where supply chain disruption is rife, PP Control & Automation is also managing the full bill of materials for the generator and using its purchasing power to secure hard-to-reach electrical components.

Winbro Group Technologies Gary Robinson said: “There is a real level of integrity to the relationship that is hard to achieve, and Tony and his team have been completely transparent with us on the costs and the pricing to see if we can find ways to save money in the overall assembly.

“This has proven very successful, and we have secured several cost downs whilst maintaining the same level of quality and performance on what will be the next generation of our technology.

He concluded:

“We are a global business, with manufacturing in the UK and the US, as well as having a truly global supply chain. As we increase our footprint in both traditional and new markets, I have no doubt that PP C&A will offer us the best and shortest route to helping us satisfy the demands of our customers.”

Winbro Group Technologies » PPAutomation Tony Profiles Aug2021 0054 2000PX » PP Control & Automation

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