Investment in precision CNC machinery and technology has been a key factor for three Victorian manufacturers in adjusting to changing market conditions and ensuring they remain internationally competitive.

Hargo Engineering

Since 1976 Hargo Engineering has been providing specialist precision and repetitive engineering services to its customers across a broad industry customer base. Based in Croydon, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, the company specialises in CNC turning, milling and machining delivering precision engineering components to industries such as oil & gas, aerospace, defence, electronics and medical. Since its inception, this now-second-generation family business has invested in its people and the latest technologies.

Hargo was founded in 1976 by Heinz Gogol in response to a need for precision engineering of small and very small components. And with 16 years’ experience in German engineering supplying the watch industry, Heinz soon built up a reputation for high quality and competitively priced components. Today the company is led by Heinz’s son Frank Gogol who, with his management team, continues to service customers to the high standards set by his father.

Frank has also followed Heinz’s lead by continuing to make shrewd investments in technology. Two of the latest acquisitions have been a high-end Okuma LT2000EX-2T-2MY CNC lathe with an OSP-P300L control, and an Okuma MA400HA horizontal machining centre with OSP P200M control.

“The level of technical support we have received from Okuma has been excellent, even when we purchased a second-hand machine,” says Frank. “The knowledge and service from the company’s service engineers provided a clear reason to purchase a new machine.

“Over the last eight or nine years Okuma has always kept our machines going and they are willing to provide training whenever we require it. Our skilled operators are always excited to use the new Okuma machines due to the ease of programming and capabilities.”

Products produced by Hargo on the Okuma machines include aerospace connectors, mining components and high-end automotive parts, going out to the international market. With export sales for the company running at almost 50% and growing, the machines are making the company internationally competitive in the advanced precision engineering market.

“The company is fully accredited to AS9100 Quality Standard and has positive growth plans with an emphasis on export markets,” adds Frank. “The increased capacity on the new larger machines continues to make us more internationally competitive, and this coupled with the recent acquisition of F & J Bushings, a specialist in the aerospace market, plus new representatives in the USA will assist in this growth.”

Total Tooling

Proudly designing and manufacturing precision metal stamping tooling to support its large metal stamping capability and fabricated components, Total Tooling is also a specialist in precision components, headquartered not far from Hargo in Croydon South. With its extensive range of high-speed Okuma machines it produces everything from small items to larger components on its 4m, five-face machining centre. The multiple three-axis and five-axis CNC machines, combined with a seven-axis multi-tasking machine, enable the company to process any machining requirement.

Total Tooling’s Managing Director Slavko Habjan explains that his company is a precision engineering company with more than 30 years’ experience and a workforce of more than 70 skilled staff. The company has had a long-term relationship with Okuma and believes that it is one of the top machine suppliers, with excellent service and back-up providing the ultimate support for his business.

“Okuma’s machines provide us with increased capacity, enabling multiple high-end precision components on the same set-up, making us highly competitive,” says Habjan. “Our skilled staff respect the Okuma brand with its user-friendly controls and ease of programming.”

Total Tooling customers are located throughout Victoria and South Australia and are serviced from the Croydon South plant, with components delivered nationwide and deliveries made to local customers for indirect export. With extensive toolmaking and 3D design modelling expertise, Total Tooling offers technical solutions directly, involving customers in all stages of design and development. The TS16949 Quality-certified company can offer rapid prototyping, facilitating assembly and testing into the development of prototypes. It also has capabilities in areas such as soft tooling, laser cutting and press brake work.

The company has long been and continues to remain a major supplier to the automotive sector in Australia. However, as the last remaining Australian car plants head towards closure, Total Tooling maintains a positive view, looking forward as it diversifies into new areas of precision engineering with the latest in high-end machines and technology.

“We are already producing a wide range of precision components for industries such as X-ray machines, heat shields and packaging machines,” says Habjan. “And having worked within the demanding Toyota production system, we are well ahead of many companies, with systems and disciplines in quality on-time production.

“We are optimistic about the manufacturing future beyond the automotive manufacturing closures,” adds Habjan. “And with our order book filling, we will be expanding our team of skilled machinists and programmers as we diversify.”

McMillan Engineering

Based in Port Melbourne, McMillan Engineering Group was formed to incorporate Industrial Hydraulic Services (IHS) and CP Engineering, bringing together more than 40 years of experience in large-scale hydraulic cylinder/system design and manufacture, with more than 20 years of experience in sheet metal and component fabrication. Utilising the combined skills of both companies and a skilled workforce of more than 50 staff, the group is now successfully embarking on large-scale, complex projects offering turn-key hydraulic solutions, both within Australia and overseas.

The company has upgraded its capabilities beyond low-level CNC machining with the purchase of the latest Okuma Multus U4000-2SWx1500 high-level CNC lathe, with an OSP-P300S Control. And it has taken full advantage of the extended training offered by the supplier.

“The decision to run with Okuma has simply been the best we have experienced bringing in process efficiencies, product design changes and product enhancements,” says Managing Director, Justin McMillan. “At the same time the new machine has brought about a cultural change within the company ,with our skilled staff wanting to operate the machine to further extend their skills. We are taking current processes and looking at ways to use the new machine to improve productivity.”

Components being produced on the Okuma machine include hydraulic cylinder barrels or pistons, rods, and numerous turned and milled components.

“We always considered the Okuma machines to be the best,” remarks General Manager David Slatter. “And following our first machine we are now looking at further investment in the brand due to the experience and service levels we have experienced.”

Looking to the future, the company is aiming to relocate within the next two years to meet its expansion plans. It has appointed agents in Asia, the UAE, Ireland and the UK with an emphasis on export sales in hydraulic cylinders used in the construction industry in particular. With export sales currently running at approximately 40% of overall sales, it provides a solid base to build on. The move to high-end machines is already making the company more competitive through the reduction in machining time, the need for fewer tool changes, and improved quality of the finished products.

According to Justin, there is a cautious but optimistic air of confidence in the Victorian economy, with customers’ orders improving – and a busy year ahead for his company. He adds that he anticipated that some of those manufacturing companies who have not invested in the future may not continue to be as competitive, opening up opportunities for advanced manufacturing.