The city of Burnie in northern Tasmania has taken a few blows in recent years. Local manufacturing has shed many jobs due to offshore moves and a downturn in forestry and mining. Meanwhile, aquaculture has expanded rapidly in Tasmania since the 1990s and is now one of the State’s major industries. One Burnie-based business is thriving on the transition to manufacturing for aquaculture.

Locally owned and operated, Maltec Engineering is a family business providing cutting-edge engineering solutions for clients across multiple industries including mining, construction, forestry, agriculture and aquaculture, in both Australian and international markets since 2001. The company’s modern workshop offers a full range of services, including CNC and manual machining, fabrication, profile cutting, robot welding, sandblasting and painting, utilising Lean advanced manufacturing principles.

Maltec’s General Manager, Lindsay Malley, identified improved growth opportunities in manufacturing for the aquaculture sector three years ago through his involvement in a local industry networking group, where he was invited to submit a tender to a Tasmanian-based aquaculture company looking to manufacture its own components due to problems they suffered with the quality of imported parts.

The parts required by the customer are for use in extremely corrosive environments and require machining to high tolerances. Drive shafts, mounts and enclosures made from a mix of plastics, stainless steels and aluminium form the main components of the final assembly.

“Once we knew what parts were required by our prospective customer, we were able to increase our competitive advantage by relying on John Hart to help us create a world-class solution with the most efficient machines for the task,” Malley explains. “Once the installation and training had been completed by John Hart, we were able to jump straight into the production and dispatch parts.”

Maltec invested in two new Mazak machines. The Mazak Variaxis i-500 is a five-axis machining centre designed for multi-surface machining, delivering reduced in-process time, high accuracy and unrivalled machine ergonomics. It features a maximum spindle speed of 18,000rpm and a table diameter of 500mm. The high-speed spindle and an optional pallet changer deliver faster material removal and reduce part changeover times.

Although Maltec already has two Mazak Variaxis 730 BT50 machines on the workshop floor, it was decided that a smaller BT40 machine would be far more efficient in machining the smaller components in large quantities required for each delivery.

The Mazak Quick Turn 200MY CNC turning centre with multi-tasking capability brings together advanced technology, productivity and value to deliver exceptional performance. As an MY configuration, the machine features milling capability and Y-axis functionality along with a standard through-hole chuck package, and integral turning spindle motor to process a wide range of parts in a single set-up. The Y-axis functionality has reduced the number of machining operations needed to make a single part, and increased machine utilisation.

Both new machines have provided an increase in efficient manufacturing and have accelerated rates of production for complex parts in a single set-up, allowing Maltec to meet ever-expanding demand to fulfil growing orders to strict delivery schedules. The company runs two shifts to keep up with customer demand for parts.

“Utilising the full potential of both these machines has helped us to realise our production goals whilst maintaining adequate staffing levels to cover both shifts,” Malley adds. “By investing in quality machinery, we have ensured that we will have maximum machine production availability both now and into the future.”

Today the shop boasts nine Mazaks, including the VTC 200B that the business started with in 2001.

“Two of the main reasons we started with Mazak back in 2001 was the ease-of-use and the reliability of these machines. This is still the case today,” Malley explains. “The controllers are quick to learn and easy to use, which has always made training new users an easy task. It also allows us to move our operators around to other Mazak machines as required, as they are quickly able to understand and operate the other types of machines at other stations.”

In addition, Malley cites another important benefit: “Moving programs from the older machines to the newer machines is easily achieved. This allows us to make full use of the improved features on the newer machines and reduces the need to completely reprogram these jobs without wasting valuable time and resources.”

When asked about the relationship with John Hart, Malley responds: “Operating from Tasmania can sometimes be frustrating with the Bass Strait an obstacle for outgoing goods and also for receiving timely service. This has never been an issue in our 18-year relationship with the John Hart team. Be it via phone or in person, they have always provided prompt and knowledgeable service from our first machine purchase and installation, right up to our last.”