Three Western Australian advanced manufacturers are successfully adjusting to a changing economic climate in the state, helped by the latest high-tech equipment from Okuma Australia

‘No Till’ farming is a new crop planting technology that gained momentum in the early 1990s. Brothers Geoff and Mike Glenn were instrumental in developing this cutting edge technology that revolutionised and brought significant changes to the industry. In 1993 Geoff and Mike founded Agmaster, a company dedicated to the manufacture and distribution of advanced No Till seeding systems, press wheels and rotary harrows for larger-scale crop production farming enterprises across Australia.

With extensive farming backgrounds, Geoff and Mike both embarked on an extensive education/seminar program, initially throughout Western Australia before expanding their activities to the cropping regions in the eastern states. From the initial ‘No Till’ concept there has been a continuous stream of agricultural innovations emanating from AgMaster such as Star Harrows, Steel Coil Harrows, Slip and Clip Points, Presswheels, precision seed placement boots and more recently kwik fit systems.

Located in Welshpool, in Perth’s inner south-eastern suburbs, Agmaster remains a privately owned family business. Its workshop is equipped with some of the latest manufacturing technology enabling the company to carry out advanced production processes with automated machinery including robot welding, CNC plasma cutting and other technology.

Castings are also predominant throughout the company’s extensive range of products. Agmaster press wheels has adopted 3D printing in plastics for the production of prototypes prior to committing to casting patterns and moulds, with the expression ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ proving itself time and again for the company. All 3D printing activity is carried out in house, and has been instrumental in the rapid development of prototypes. This process has also fast-tracked developments enabling new products and modifications to existing components to be brought to market faster, providing a distinct edge over competitors.

Nonetheless, despite such innovations, Agmaster also depends on more traditional subtractive manufacturing processes, and in this area the brothers do not hesitate in stressing the importance of its line-up of state-of-the-art machinery from Okuma Australia.

“Okuma machines have played a significant part in the success of Agmaster,” says Geoff. “Their reliability, along with outstanding consistent quality and the precision of components over the last 17 years, has seen the company to now invest singularly in Okuma.”

Indeed the company has just added a sixth machine, with the recent commissioning of an Okuma Millac 800VH machining centre with OPS-P3000MA control.

“The machines, product support, service and training offered by Okuma are excellent and go well beyond reasonable commercial expectations,” Geoff adds. “There may be a lot of good machines out there, but for us, it is all about what stands behind the machines. It has been a fantastic experience, hence the loyalty to Okuma, with Agmaster considering Okuma to be more a business partner than a supplier of machines.”

Parts produced or processed on the Okuma machines include press wheel components and associated products, castings, ground engaging equipment, seeding points, seed placement tools as well as fertiliser compound and liquid fertiliser componentry.

According to Geoff, the Okuma machines’ capabilities have enabled Agmaster to further redesign/refine components to meet market-specific needs, consolidating its status as market leader. Furthermore the company has been able to develop more sophisticated products, providing a distinct market advantage over its competitors, particularly those trying to copy or imitate Agmaster’s developments. Geoff goes on to say that, in his and Mike’s experience, the Okuma machines have opened their manufacturing processes up to fast, extremely reliable and very complex machining capabilities.

Whilst the economy in Western Australia overall is making conditions tough for some businesses, the agricultural market is very good for this progressive company. Heavy investment in sophisticated advanced equipment to gain a strong market advantage have been instrumental in the company being recognised as a national leader in the agricultural industry. Approximately 30% of sales for the company are achieved within Western Australia and 70% across the southern parts of Australia. While export sales have not been a focus for the company it has product in South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

ALL-Go Engineering – Investing in capacity

Based at Naval Base, a heavy industrial suburb south of Perth, ALL-Go Engineering is a quality assured specialist in the supply and repair of a wide range of mining and oil and gas components with more than 28 years’ experience. Key services provided for the oil and gas industry include drill tool refurbishment, restriction nozzles, pump parts and frames, heat exchanges, orifice flanges, spectacle blinds/spades, ring type joint (RTJ) and custom-made flanges, and fittings and manifolds. For the mining industry the company’s services include the repair and manufacture of cone and jaw crusher components, conveyor pullies and shafts.

The capacity and range of machinery, particularly large capacity machines, enables ALL-Go engineering to complete jobs that competitors cannot undertake. This, combined with highly skilled tradesmen, makes the company a one-stop shop for large and small mechanical engineering work.

Over the last 10 years Okuma machines’ quality output have been fundamental to the development of the business, and the commissioning of the latest CNC MCR-A5CII double column machining centre with OPS-P300M Control has resulted in machining times dropping by up to 30-40%, along with drastically reduced set-up times.

“Our 30-plus staff at ALL-Go consider it a privilege to work on the Okuma machines which are user-friendly, easy to program and have unparalleled service back-up,” says ALL-Go Managing Director Phil Vergone. “Whilst the economy in Western Australia has been negative there has been a marked turnaround in business confidence due to increased iron ore prices and new naval and defence contracts.”

Such is the confidence within this company in servicing the West Australian market that a new building is underway that will further lift capacity by more than 50% with further investment in heavier and larger machines.

Future Engineering – Expansion ahead

Currently based in Cockburn Central, 24 kms south of Perth’s central business district, Future Engineering is another precision engineering company with confidence in the economy, with relocation plans set to double the size of the plant and take on more staff. Future Engineering has been servicing a wide range of industries for more than 26 years and has invested heavily over the years in up-to-the-minute high-performance CNC machinery to keep abreast of industry standards.

The diverse customer base for this company covers industries such as oil and gas, railway maintenance, mining, building , food, automotive and defence, all of which are reliant on accuracy and reliability, catered for with skilled operators and a range of Okuma machines. The company offers CNC milling, CNC turning, wire cutting, welding and fabrication, engraving and surface grinding from one-off prototypes to large production runs.

Future Engineering has achieved Quad Certification and is certified to the new ISO 9001:2015 Quality Assurance Standards. It has recently commissioned new computerised laser CMM inspection equipment to meet any inspection requirements and offers quality document packages for traceability. Future Engineering is increasing investment in new technologies to ensure it meets and exceeds future manufacturing standards.

“Future Engineering has enjoyed a wonderful business relationship with Okuma over the last 20 years and new business has grown as a result once our customers know that we have invested in high-precision plant such as Okuma machines,” says Future Engineering’s Managing Director, Alex Ardizzone. “I have visited the Okuma factory in Japan, and the solid and rigid construction provides us with consistent precision results in fine-tolerance outcomes. The technical expertise of the company flows down to Australia where service is excellent and modern advances in software programmes continually move ahead providing further advantages.”

The latest Okuma machine installed by the company is the multitasking Multus U4000-2SC x 1500 model CNC lathe with OSP-P300S control.

“There has been a noticeable improvement in the Western Australian economy and we are experiencing increases in production and have a busy year ahead with upward trends requiring extra shifts and additional skilled staff,” says Alex. “Whilst the bulk of our business is in Western Australia, we are also enjoying indirect export business and new defence contracts as we head into the future on a very positive note.”

Examples such as Agmaster, ALL-Go and Future Engineering reflect the experiences of Okuma users in other states. Highly successful Australian manufacturing companies are enjoying benefits such as the strength of the machine builder and its continuous development; the long-term quality the equipment achieves; local partnership support above and beyond the usual “buyer and seller” relationship; and the clarity of operation of the equipment. These factors put these owners in the prime position to build and grow their businesses. Since 1991 Okuma Australia has followed a path of customer engagement, consultative support, and a policy of attracting and keeping high-level experienced engineers within its ranks, reinforcing the importance of the business partnership between supplier and customer.