Three Queensland manufacturers have made significant investment in the future with the latest hi-tech CNC machines and have found that even the remote locations of some are no barrier to high levels of technical support and training from Okuma, both on-site and via remote control.

Tuff Manufacturing

After 40 years in engineering, Charlie Quagliata of Tuff Manufacturing established a new business in North Queensland and at the same time initiated a relationship with leading CNC machine supplier Okuma Australia for the first time. Tuff Manufacturing produces high-quality hydraulic cylinders for a range of applications including components for concrete trucks and agitators, and with a strong emphasis in the supply of components to original equipment manufacturers including steel and nylon rollers and chute cylinders.

“Operating a precision manufacturing operation approximately one hour’s drive south of Townsville meant that quality, reliability and back-up service on the machine was essential and Okuma had what I wanted in a large machine,” said Charlie. “Whilst I have an experienced team of skilled engineers, the high-level training aspect was also what we were looking for and the Okuma technicians didn’t leave until we were happy and they have bent over backwards with any early issue we experienced.”

What has impressed Charlie and his team is the versatility of its new 14-ton Okuma LB35IIISBBCx1500 lathe. The machine was commissioned to do large work, but is now also efficiently producing parts of 100 grams in weight. The versatility of the machine is opening up new business opportunities for Tuff nationwide and allowing improvements to be introduced to existing components through a redesign process that is ongoing throughout the range. According to Charlie the new machine is making his company more competitive on larger jobs by up to 25% with perfect, consistent accuracy.

Whilst the skilled workforce at Tuff Manufacturing have been used to other equipment, operators have been quick to adapt to the new controller with its ease of programming and are keen to work on the new machine. Charlie commented that as a result of this experience he would have no hesitation in buying more Okuma machines.

Hodge Industries

One of the world’s leading specialists in the manufacture and supply of machinery to the sugar cane industr, Hodge Industries has also invested in the latest high-tech Okuma LB3000EXIIBMYCx950 CNC lathe, building on a relationship with the machinery supplier of more than 20 years.

Hodge Industries’ remote manufacturing location in Mackay, North Queensland, is 1,100km or 12 hours drive from Brisbane, meaning that precision, reliability and fast technical back-up were all essential elements. The new machine offers all of this and more, according to Managing Director Wayne Willis.

Founded in 1914, Hodge Industries is a fourth-generation family business that has been servicing the sugar cane industry in Australia since that date. It has also been exporting its advanced machinery and expertise to major sugar cane growing areas around the world such as Asia, Africa and South America since 1974. The company manufactures a diversified range of agricultural equipment to meet the needs of the general farming community, manufacturing and fabricating products from raw materials to finished painted machinery in-house.

The company has been operating a 23-year-old Okuma CNC machine without experiencing any issues and was able to keep all the old tooling and the old programs. According to Wayne, training provided by Okuma on the new machine has been outstanding, extending the knowledge of the operators. The new machine also has many more safety features and benefits built in, resulting in a seamless changeover.

“The new machine has an impressive range of functions that completely meet our requirements,” said Wayne. “It has more facilities and is easier to program, it is user-friendly and the remote service functionality that allows a technician at Okuma to take over the machine and provide direct assistance to an operator on the job is just exceptional.

“Importantly the machine has saved us time from day one in operation. We are achieving reductions from four different operational stages to one on many jobs, with time savings of at least 50%, with one set-up with hubs, grease nipple holes, key ways, threading and soon all in one operation.”

The investment in this new technology is showing many advantages. Set-up times are dramatically reduced with jobs now up and running within 30 minutes. This allows cost-effective short runs and reductions in inventory to be achieved plus a high-quality finished product outcome. The new machine is opening up opportunities to enhance existing products through redesign, plus increased business potential with new customers such as methane gas testing cylinders for mine sites.

According to Wayne, the Queensland economy is turning around after its slump at the end of the mining boom, with coal prices recovering and with the agricultural business good over the last two years. This 103-year-old company is looking forward to continuing growth in both its Queensland and export markets using the latest investment in technology to its full advantage.

Hillier Engineering Services

Having purchased its first Okuma machine in 1992, Hillier Engineering Services is a longstanding customer of the precision machine supplier. The first machine still in operation and it remains as accurate today according to Managing Director John Hillier.

Hillier Engineering is a family-owned and operated CNC machining specialist and fabrication shop located at Acacia Ridge in Brisbane, established in 1988 by Ray and John Hillier. The company offers precision CNC turning, milling, and EDM wire cutting, CMM inspection, manual milling and turning for its Australian and international clients. The company uses the latest machining technology and has developed its own computer manufacturing database ‘Tracking Manufacturing’ to ensure clients requirements and delivery times are achieved at all times.

Hillier Engineering specialises in CNC machining of castings, forgings, fabrications and bar stock in all metals for a broad range of industries such as agriculture, construction, earthmoving, mining, mineral processing, refineries, railways, transportation, water treatment, equipment manufacturers, food & beverages, and marine.

The purchase of the latest Okuma MA650VB machining centre, with an OSP-P300MA control, builds up the company’s extensive line-up of Okuma precision CNC machines, with a Robocut CNC EDM Wire Cutting machine also already installed in Hillier Engineering’s advanced manufacturing facility.

“Okuma Australia’s high levels of service and back-up, supported by highly qualified technical personnel and the ability to remotely trouble shoot via ‘Team Viewer’ whilst an operator is on a job, is something that we value in our relationship with Okuma,” said John. “All our programs feed into the machines, and although we have very experienced operators on-site we received customised training whilst we were still producing so there was no time lost.”

Having experienced first-hand the quality and standards to which the Okuma machines are built during a recent visit to the Okuma manufacturing plant in Japan, the management at Hilliers Engineering has a high level of confidence in the Okuma machines.

“The components we are producing on the Okuma machines are up to one ton in weight with fine tolerances of around 0.01mm, with a high surface finish,” John commented. “And the fourth axis set-up time is very quick for lower volume work. The fourth-axis option is a big advantage along with the higher spindle speed of this high-speed machine.”

The new machine is opening up new opportunities for Hillier Engineering in both the Australia-wide domestic and international markets with an emphasis on defence and aerospace contracts, new clients and diversification into R & D electric charging stations. The company has a close relationship with Queensland University, producing components for the Scramjet engine development and intricate parts for R&D projects.

“Our skilled workforce are all enjoying the benefits of the latest technology with its functionality and standardised easy to operate programming,” said John. “Which gives us great confidence in producing large and small high-quality fine-tolerance components.”