From starting out with a single machine manufacturing spectacle screws, Victorian manufacturer Australian Precision Technologies (APT) has successfully evolved into a leader in the production of precision components and assemblies, utilising the latest CNC technology and manufacturing software.

At one point APT was the preferred supplier for automotive components manufacturer Robert Bosch; its business with Bosch accounted for 86% of the company’s turnover. However, like many automotive suppliers faced with the imminent closure of the local car industry, APT needed to diversify into other areas. In APT’s case, the market it targeted was the defence industry.

To say the company has been successful in this transition is something of an understatement. Today APT’s key customers are a veritable who’s who of leaders in the defence industry, to whom APT supply a diverse range of specialised components. These include parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and components for the Steyer rifle, radar systems, remote weapon stations, submarines and munitions. APT also supplies a variety of products to customers in the electronics and security industries.

However, APT’s Founder and Managing Director Richard Weinzierl is quick to point out that it is the assistance of the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) and its Supplier Continuous Improvement Program (SCIP) that has been a crucial part of their success.

“The SCIP program gave us the tools we needed to ensure we moved successfully into the defence arena,” says Weinzierl. “The business coaching, which included the development of a strategic plan and staff engagement programs, really has been the key to our success and transformed the business. We have also been fortunate to be the recipient of a number of government grants which has greatly assisted the transition and our continued expansion.”

For its part, APT has dedicated significant resources to ensure its processes and operations meet the stringent requirements of the defence industry, including increased security and putting a cyber-security plan in place.

“My wife Nicola has also been a key driving force in our transition and success and my daughter (a project management graduate) has joined us recently in a support role,” Weinzierl adds. “This will ensure APT remains a family-focused business.”

The ‘one large family’ theme at APT is clearly evident with the commitment and support Weinzierl has for his team of 30 staff, and this ethos is reflected in APT’s core values of teamwork, honesty and value.

Getting to grips with advanced technology

APT was the first company in Australia to purchase Lang Technik’s range of workholding products. These were initially acquired direct from the manufacturer in Germany, but more recently they have from been obtained from Dimac Tooling, which took over the sales and distribution of Lang products in Australia and New Zealand.

“One of the key benefits of Lang Technik is their patented Quick Point zero-point clamping system,” explains Weinzierl. “This allows for a one-time installation – once the base plate is mounted and aligned to the machine tool table, and the zero point is defined, you can build workpieces and fixtures quickly and accurately. This provides a huge boost to productivity reducing changeover time from one or two hours to five minutes.

“The zero-point system is super fast and accurate, which is essential given the nature of our work. We use Lang vices on all our milling machines – the quality is first class. Their Makro-Grip five-axis vices are the perfect solution for all challenging clamping tasks and are simply unbeatable in five-sided manufacturing.

“The flexibility of Lang vices are another key benefit. Because it’s an easy-to-use modular system, we can swap vices around machines easily and quickly knowing that the quality and accuracy will be the same.”

APT also uses Lang’s Makro-Grip stamping technology, Weinzierl adds: “This stamping technology, also called pre-stamping, involves the workpiece being stamped outside of the machine tool with up to 20 tons of hydraulic pressure, providing the highest holding power for five-face machining worldwide. Makro-Grip stamping technology provides tremendous material savings due to minimal clamping edge requirements.”

Another unique product in the Lang Technik range that APT makes use of is its Cleaning Fan. This fan automatically cleans the machine table, pallet and/or workpieces after the machining process is complete, saving time and reducing workload.

APT has had a close association with Dimac for more than 20 years. In addition to Lang Technik products, other products that APT has purchased through Dimac including the Mitee-Bite workholding tools, Dimac’s own Australian-made soft jaws, and high pressure coolant equipment.

“Dimac’s service and advice is second to none – it’s fantastic,” says Weinzierl. “We can ring up and have stock delivered same day, and crucially they hold stock for us, which is very helpful. Without the support of Dimac our CNC machines just wouldn’t run. They’re a one-stop shop; everything that we need to support our production we buy through Dimac.”

APT is currently working towards gaining ISO 9100D accreditation. This will open up new markets including the aerospace industry, and APT is already in discussion with a number of leading companies in this specialised sector. Given the expertise and knowledge that APT has, defence will continue to be APT’s main focus, but in the future other markets such as renewable energy are also likely to be part of the company’s portfolio. One thing’s for sure: APT will continue to be a leader and a dominant force in precision manufacturing far into the future.