Complete processing Raise Productivity by 70 % with a Turning/Milling Centre

Author / Editor: Klaus Vollrath / Mag. Victoria Sonnenberg

French industrial firms include numerous high-tech groups of world rank, such as Airbus, Alstom or Renault. These in turn require suppliers of high-quality mechanical parts and components. At the end of 2017, one of these suppliers chose a turning / milling centre from Index.

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In December 2017 Ouest Décolletage became one of the first French customers to receive a type Index G 200 turning/milling centre.
In December 2017 Ouest Décolletage became one of the first French customers to receive a type Index G 200 turning/milling centre.
(Photo: Klaus Vollrath)

The five metal-processing firms in the ARBM group in the Anjou region in the west of France supply mechanical components to customers in such high-tech sectors as aerospace, medical technology, robotics, petrochemicals and communications technologies. The core of the group is the firm Ouest Décolletage, founded by firm boss Sébastien Ripoche in 1997 with one employee. This start-up had a total of just two NC automatic turning machines with which, in three-shift operation, they produced low-cost turning/milling parts as a supplier to suppliers. At that stage, a large part of the production went to all the places in France where low-cost mass-produced parts were needed.

A future in the manufacture of high-precision parts

“In the long term, there is too little growth and profit in making simple parts. That is why we wanted to get away from this as soon as possible,” recalls Ripoche. From the beginning, it was clear to him that the real future was in the area of manufacturing sophisticated high-petition parts from difficult-to-machine materials in small to medium-sized batches. He therefore worked his way to the forefront in this market segment with determination and patience, which also involved setting up a suitable machine park and finding qualified staff. In a few years, therefore, his two-man business turned into a formidable manufacturer of high-tech components. In 2010, he was able to acquire another firm with a primary orientation towards high-precision milled parts.

In 2015, a medical technology firm was founded, followed soon by the takeover of a specialist firm for aerospace parts and an automated turning shop. In total, this group currently has around 140 employees. Each of the firms has its speciality in a definite processing technology and concentrates particularly on supplying international markets.

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The areas of competence mutually supplement each other, so that overall the broadest possible palette of services is available. At the moment, Ripoche is working strategically on getting the group fit for the challenges of the next two decades. The aim is to have close supplier relationships with high-tech customers for sophisticated one-offs, or for shorter and longer series. This, of course, also calls for being equipped with highly modern machine tools.

“Originally, in fact, I was thinking of a multi-spindle machine, but then I was convinced by the G200 turning/milling centre from Index, although at the time it only existed on paper,” says Ripoche. He approached this adventure full of confidence, we hear, primarily because the concept of the machine meant it could do what he needed for the markets he was supplying. The priority was to have the possibility of carrying out all the working steps necessary for manufacturing the component on one and the same machine, so that the component came out the installation completely finished. Ultimately, every transfer and every replanting involves costs, he tells us, increases work in the in-house logistics and management and, above all, compromises the achievable quality and precision.

Today, now that the first machine has become established, he can confirm that his decision was exactly right. “After the delivery of the machine at the beginning of December 2017, installation and setting-up both ran smoothly,” Ripoche reports. The training offered by Index France took place in three seminars of one week each. After a familiarisation period and the first experiments, the firm already went on to the production of complex components at the beginning of March, for which they initially had to have special collets made for the counter-spindle, tailored precisely to the part. Any further questions they had were answered quickly and efficiently by the telephone support. In total, the commissioning by Index technicians went more quickly and straightforwardly than he had expected. He was pleased to note that the G200 very soon produced the expected results, also in productivity, where it offered a net improvement of almost 70 % compared to the turning/milling centres previously used.

Fear of the new and employees’ worries

“Once the Index G200 was set up, our people were initially anxious about approaching it,” Ripoche remembers. One point was that the new machine had Siemens controls instead of the familiar Fanuc CNC, the second was that workers were worried because of the high working speed, since programming errors could quickly lead to rejects or tool damage.

That is why the software called “virtual machine” was very useful during the familiarisation phase. In principle, it enables the entire machining process to be visualised on the screen of a PC. The operating surface of a Siemens 840D control unit is likewise visualised, as are 3D models of the spindles, tool carriers and the component. The entire machining process is represented 1:1 on the screen. During this time, the machine itself continues producing undisturbed. Advantages include reliable collision monitoring, shorter preparation times, and the optimisation of piece times. The user thus receives a completely set up program with which he can immediately go ahead with production.

This software turned out to be the ideal instrument in training so that employees could get to know the programming without risk. This quickly led to acceptance. “And this is a very essential point, for the validation of new technology, in my view, is a matter for the workers and not something to be decided by an order from the boss,” explains Ripoche.

Oriented on the challenges of the market

“The conclusion I draw from all this experience is that, with Index, I have found a strategic partner with whom I wish to continue working closely in future,” Ripoche summarises. Fundamentally, his assessment applies not only to the machine program, including the aspects quality, service and advice, but also to the manufacturer’s clear vision for the future.

The development programme of any future partner has to take its orientation from the future challenges of the market. From this point of view, the philosophy of Index concurs closely with Ripoche’s vision. In light of the corresponding reshaping of his own firm, while carrying out this recent purchase he also took a close look at Index. As far as he is concerned, Index has passed this test and is therefore validated.

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* Klaus Vollrath is a freelance specialist journalist in 4912 Aarwangen (Schweiz). Further information: Index-Werke GmbH & Co. KG in 73730 Esslingen, tel. (00 49- 7 11) 31 91 12 86,