As technology advances and market conditions change, specialist subcontractor Mini Gears speeds up its internal processes, invests in new Inspection facilities, works towards Industry 4.0 and upgrades its CNC gear cutting capacity.

Mini Gears, a privately owned UK SME, is set to invest £1.3 million over the next 18 months in new machinery, IT infrastructure and training.

The company manufactures precision machined parts, gears and gear racks for many power transmission industries worldwide and its growing business in the aerospace sector has now spearheaded this radical transformation to upgrade its manufacturing facilities and embrace Industry 4.0, as managing director, Peter Durkin explains:

“Manufacturing to the stringent requirements of the AS9100D Standard to supply to aerospace and defence markets means that we need to work as efficiently as possible to be cost-effective.  We are accelerating our 5S methodology programme throughout our shopfloor, working closely with Jounetsu Consulting who run training courses on 5S, lean manufacturing and the development of personnel.

“The first area to be upgraded to the required standard and completed last year, was our Quality Department,” he continues. “After clearing the area of all unnecessary items, we completely refurbished it with new units, work surfaces and flooring. The whole room is temperature controlled. It looks professional and is a well organised space. We wanted to set the standard for everyone.”

As part of speeding up internal processes, Mini Gears has also invested in a new Keyence Image IM-7030T dimension measurement system. Located in the Quality Department this user-friendly machine is a significant aid because machined components, that generally would take 10 – 15 minutes to inspect on the CMMs by an inspector, can now be checked by the operator on the Keyence in a few seconds against stored programmes. With Mini Gears running 24 hours a day, machine set-up and pass off time has reduced, making manufacturing more efficient as there is less down time.

“Within the first four months of installing the Keyence our night shift is 15% more efficient which has enabled us to offer more capacity,” Mr Durkin adds. “For our aerospace work, a major benefit provided by the Keyence is it can log all critical dimensions and store them for future use for that component. It will be able to provide us with a 100% inspection record and history of all safety critical flight parts. All critical components would be measured and recorded.”

Mini Gears has been successfully serving the aircraft interiors market for some time and is now looking to support its customers by manufacturing other gearing and machined components throughout the aircraft, such as landing gear and wing actuation mechanisms.

To facilitate this the company has invested in a new Gleason Pfauter GP300ES (electronic shaping) gear shaping machine due to arrive in September: “This will enable us to finish cut a higher class of gear in lieu of gear grinding, cut internal and external helicals without having to purchase costly helical guides and, for internal gears, we will be able to work to tighter tolerances, eliminating the need to buy broach tooling, which are on long lead times,”  Mr Durkin affirms. “Also, by gear cutting the internals we are in control of size pre heat treatment and plating processes.”

Although the Gleason has been purchased mainly for aerospace work, it will also be used for other industries where a high grade of gear is required such as defence and surgical instrumentation.

The shopfloor is now poised for its radical transformation. Over the last eight years, Mini Gears has gone from a monthly delivery to a weekly delivery service. This in turn has created a multitude of extra paperwork so the company is aiming for a paperless factory using Industrial Digitalisation Technologies (IDT).

Work is well underway with the internal cabling, preparing the machines for Industry 4.0.  Every machine will be connected to a server and fitted with a touchscreen, enabling work instructions, manufacturing drawings, quality documents and videos showing set-up to be issued and updated electronically.

This connectivity will mean that operators will clock on and off jobs at the machine thus providing better data capture enabling the company to react to customer changes more efficiently and provide real-time capacity information.

Post time: Mar-17-2020