Four South Australian manufacturers have made positive investments in new high-tech plant to meet challenging market conditions and take a competitive advantage in local and international environments.

An Okuma customer for more than 35 years, RC Williams Pty Ltd is a manufacturing company at the cutting edge of technology and automation. This company has doubled its business in the last 12 months and is very much a personalised family operation, with the family’s second generation –Robin, Sue, Nick and Sam Williams – running the company with a team of highly skilled precision engineers.

“The recent installation of the latest Okuma Multus U4000 follows the successful use of the Okuma Multus B400-W,” says Sam Williams. “A general multi-function machine centre, designed to reduce set-up time by virtually eliminating repetitive fixturing, has reduced non-cutting time to a minimum. Along with high accuracy levels even in complex parts, it has made us very competitive and generated additional work. But this is just one of seven Okuma machines which consistently produce highly accurate components at speed with cost savings for us even of short runs.”

The company takes full advantage of Okuma’s robotic automation, generous training programs, technical advice at the end of the phone, and strong local sales support provided by the supplier, and continues to build on an already strong relationship.

From its facility in North Plympton, RC Williams specialises in components for mining trucks and heavy off-road vehicles, particularly shafts, bushes, gears, cutting tools and maintenance. It also services a diverse range of clients in transport, agriculture, mining, defence, natural resources, research & development (R&D) projects, the fitness industry and education. With such a broad array of activities, it is not surprising that the company is about to add some 30% more space to its manufacturing facility. The company services clients in South Australia and also across Australia along with indirect export sales.

Opportunities for jet components

Levett Engineering is a world-leading precision component manufacturer with a strong Australian and international client base that includes defence, aerospace, medical, electronics and commercial engineering sectors. Based in Elizabeth South, the company conforms to AS9100 Rev C Quality Standard for aerospace and defence manufactured components with ITAR compliance and also conforms to ISO 9001 2008 Quality Standard as a minimum for all its customers’ requirements.

To achieve the fine tolerance work involved in components for aerospace such as precision parts for the F35 JSF aircraft program, Levett recently commissioned its first Okuma CNC Lathe Multus B400 II W with OSP-P300S Control, and is delighted with the fact that it is holding fine tolerances on components with an exceptional surface finish. With consistent accuracy following one set-up in this precision machine, the company is strongly focused on more defence contracts and building strong relationships with both suppliers and customers. On the shop floor the skilled engineers see the future in this new technology and embrace the training offered by the Okuma team.

“The machine was selected for a purpose and recently client approval was provided on four first off-tool samples which is quite a remarkable achievement,” comments Managing Director Paul Levett. “In the highly competitive international aerospace market, the machine is already providing a competitive edge and opening up new opportunities for additional jet engine components, where the company has built up a proud record of high precision, quality and reliability for on-time delivery.”

Whilst there have been significant changes in the South Australian component supply area with the demise of the car industry, Levett Engineering, with its advanced manufacturing focus in aerospace, marine and defence, is experiencing huge growth with more opportunities opening up that will require additional skilled staff and further investment.

The company was formed in 1989, and with Paul’s background in defence and aerospace engineering there was a natural focus in these areas for the new company. Some 13-14 years ago a conscious decision was made to go global and today 75% of the company’s business is exported, with the balance primarily in defence work within Australia.

Enabling diversification

Heavy Transport Engineering (HTE) was formed in 1996 with the aim of providing high levels of quality and fast service to the earthmoving and transport industries. Today the company operates a modern workshop and engineering facility in Wingfield, servicing a diverse array of industries such as mining, marine, manufacturing and construction.

The company’s strong business relationship with Okuma commenced some eight years ago, encompassing lathes and CNC vertical machining centres complete with controls. HTE’s continuing investment in the brand over the years has provided the company with consistent precision and quality in component output across casting, pump housings, tow couplings and rail products.

“Performance of these machines is second to none and this has helped our company grow and compete with countries like China,” says HTE Production Engineer Chris Bremner. “The unlimited training and technical support at the end of the phone at any time is also a major factor.”

Diversification has assisted HTE’s robust tow coupling business in the heavy transport market, mobile line boring and repairs being a huge part of the services offered. The company continues to grow with more than 90% of sales in mainland Australia and indirect sales to Peru, Indonesia and New Zealand.

Training brings advantage

EAS Toolcraft Pty Ltd of Holden Hill is a member of the Defence Teaming Centre and is in a positive phase with new business opportunities according to Managing Director Peter Timmins. The company has enjoyed 23 years of reliable and excellent service from Okuma and takes advantage of training where appropriate. Toolcraft’s operators are now very familiar with the systems on these machines, which is a great advantage for the company.

“Reliability is paramount for us and our seven machines are well-made solid machines which hold their tolerances through rigidity, and for aeronautical and defence components this is vital,” says Timmins.

The recent downturn in South Australian manufacturing as a result of the demise of the automotive industry has had a minor impact on this company, which has concentrated on quality precision tooling services and engineering to AS9100C Aerospace standard. The company works closely with the Defence Science & Technology Group (DSTG) on a number of high-tech aerospace projects, often in conjunction with the Queensland University, and is a supplier to helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky.

Toolcraft is a defence-ready Supplier with long term relationships with many prime suppliers such as ASC, DSTO, BAE Systems, Sikorsky and Babcock, concentrating on exportable sales within Mainland Australia. This diversified company is also a specialist in bottling and wine equipment, specialising in parts supply and full machine refurbishments. It provides tooling, wine machines, corkers, rinsers, fillers, jaws, corker jaws, change parts and repairs, successfully combining toolmaking skills with the latest in computerised machining technologies, including custom injection moulding services.

Okuma Australia will be exhibiting at Austech 2017, at stand 675.