As it ramps up capability in its new heavy machining division, Eilbeck has completed a major acquisition with its investment in a new heavy-duty Hwacheon CNC vertical lathe, supplied by Applied Machinery.

If one was to nominate an Australian company that epitomises success in manufacturing, Eilbeck would have to be a lead contender. With close to 115 years of experience in the manufacturing sector, the family-owned company is currently managed by its owner/director Tom Eilbeck. Today the company’s staff numbers have increased to around 300.

Initially starting as a foundry on the Swan River in West Australia, the company evolved into a machine shop and eventually into designing and building overhead cranes. Today Eilbeck Cranes has around 65% of the local overhead crane market, supplying to a diverse range of industries including civil and industrial developers. In the bespoke crane market, the company’s market share has increased to around 75%.

The company is now into its fourth generation of the Eilbeck family and has grown through sheer hard work, an ability to capitalise on market opportunities, and an overarching commitment to producing the highest quality equipment. This high level of quality has been reflected in the repeat orders it receives from many clients – both from the public and private sector.

Eilbeck Cranes has now come full circle, building a state-of-the-art CNC machining workshop in 2015 to complement its existing engineering, fabrication and welding skills – gained from manufacturing components for the standard crane range. This bespoke new machining shop operates as a separate division under the banner of Eilbeck Heavy Machining, and is managed by Tom Eilbeck’s son Charlie.

Up until 2015 all the components for the company’s bespoke cranes had been contracted out to local machine shops. The new machine shop will enable this work to be brought back in-house; importantly it will also provide the opportunity to tender for large-scale machining work.

“One of the key attractions for customers is that we can offer a full turnkey solution given our capabilities extend to design and engineering, fabrication, painting, welding and the mechanical side of any job,” says Charlie. “This capacity makes us an attractive proposition to the contract engineering and manufacturing sector.

“We have purposely targeted large-scale work where there is less competition in the market; essentially big projects that were previously tendered out to overseas suppliers. We can handle work up to 200 tonnes and have some of the largest, most advanced CNC machines in Australia. And we only ever purchase the very best brands.”

The mining industry, shiploader and rail-mounted machines, rail equipment and other major projects are just some of the sectors in which Eilbeck Heavy Machining’s expertise is utilised. Such has been the success of the CNC machine shop that the company has recently completed a second CNC heavy machining facility. This 6,000sqm block incorporates a 3,000sqm factory, which houses some of the newest, largest and most precise CNC machine tools in Australia. This is complemented by dual 160-tonne overhead travelling cranes. Along with the existing facility, this has made Eilbeck Heavy Machining one of the largest machining shops in Australia.

A big investment for a big opportunity

“We saw a big opportunity in the large vertical turning market and that’s where our hunt for a heavy-duty CNC vertical lathe started,” says Charlie. “Like many of our machine purchases we didn’t have work lined up – we bought it anticipating we would secure work. That’s the way we do things, and it always works out well for us.

“Applied Machinery had tendered for some other machines, and we found they always presented well so we gave them the opportunity to quote on this large new lathe with the Hwacheon brand they represented. We already have a couple of conventional manual Hwacheon machines, so we knew the brand. They’re quite renowned for their vertical lathes and have a good reputation in the market which is why we ultimately ended up opting for the Hwacheon brand.”

The Hwacheon model selected is a heavy-duty VT-2000 model – a ram-type vertical lathe with an 80-inch chuck that provides optimum machining conditions and performance for large-sized heavy-duty workpieces.

“I take my hat off to Applied Machinery,” adds Charlie. “They did a really good job throughout, from managing the whole purchase process from machine selection, agreement on specifications through to training and commissioning. Their staff were always available to answer any question or fix any issue.”

Charlie was also impressed with Hwacheon, who sent a team of engineers and technicians overseas from South Korea to undertake the entire installation and commissioning over a period of weeks. This was made even more challenging given the COVID-19 situation and the need for 14 days quarantine.

“As an OEM they excel in their support,” comments Charlie. “I was very impressed with the fact that after the commissioning they kept one of the key engineers with us for three weeks to iron out any teething issues whilst we trialled different jobs through the machine. It’s actually been one of the smoothest commissioning of any machines we’ve had.”

The Hwacheon is being used to machine a variety of different parts including rope drums, mining equipment and brake discs for global OEMs.

“We’re very happy with the performance of the machine so far,” says Charlie. “It’s actually been one of the smoothest commissioning of any machine we’ve had. Given the quality of their advice and excellent service, I’ll certainly look at using Applied Machinery again for any future machine purchases.”

Investing in Australian manufacturing

One of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic is the recognition of the importance of nurturing and assisting local manufacturing. This is reflected in the significant support that the Federal Government is providing Australian manufacturers to encourage greater investment and the push to ensure major projects remain in the country – something that is benefitting Eilbeck.

A new block of land has been purchased in Wollongong that will house a factory that will be dedicated to heavy fabrication, painting and assembly. This will complement the company’s eight existing factories around Australia. With the extensive support the Government is providing to Australian manufacturers, ongoing investment in new factories and machines and a can-do attitude to taking on all kinds of large projects, the future for Eilbeck Heavy Machining looks bright.