Formed in 1960, Chilfen’s roots were established in the specialist industrial packaging market making softwood and plywood bespoke packaging solutions for the engineering and manufacturing industry. Since those early days, the business has experienced consistent growth and now encompasses three divisions – joinery, contracting and export packaging – with a joint annual turnover in excess of £6m.
In the last couple of years, the group has achieved significant success in the commercial and retail sectors working directly with blue chip high street retailers plus several high end interior fit-out contractors.
One of the cornerstones of the group’s manufacturing processes is the cutting of stock.
“Both the export packaging and joinery companies rely on material being accurately cut to size as, and when required,” explains Chilfen’s joint managing director, Russell Childs. He continues: “Historically, we had five employees undertaking this operation processing for both the export packaging and joinery businesses.
“This was done autonomously for each company, making it not only labour intensive, but also inefficient as a production process. In addition, it was a difficult system to control and greatly slowed down the entire manufacturing procedures for both businesses.”
Looking for an efficient solution
“Our old saw, purchased around 13 years ago, was tired and we were concerned that the operating software was outdated. This nervousness was the catalyst for us to evaluate our entire cutting operation. Our key goals were to find a system that would automate the loading of the saw and give us far more control over the manufacturing processes of the export packaging and joinery businesses.
“Ideally, we wanted to stay loyal to either the Italian or German brand equipment that already existed in the business. From our initial market research it soon became clear that, for this complex system, we were more comfortable with the reliable, advanced German engineering.”
A visit to Homag UK and its German parent company
“The cutting process being such an important element of our manufacturing operation, we knew we had to take our time to get the right solution for our business. We began discussions with Homag UK and were immediately impressed by their helpful approach. They got to grips with our unique production requirements extremely quickly, giving us lots of hints and tips to help us achieve the exact specification for our needs.
“Seeing is believing, as they say, and so Homag UK arranged a visit for us to go up to S W Watson in Preston who had installed a very similar solution with a Holzma beam saw and Bargstedt storage system. The visit confirmed to us that this was the way to go, but we wanted to be absolutely certain and so Homag UK also arranged for us to travel out to Germany to see several ‘Store ‘n’ Saw’ installations and visit the Holzma and Bargstedt manufacturing plants.
“The whole specifying and buying process took three to four months. Roger Wilks, the Homag UK sales consultant, was excellent throughout and never once did he try to over-sell us, despite the fact that we were constantly adjusting the specification to get exactly what we wanted.”
Delivery on the dot
“As you’d expect from such a professional German operation, the delivery and installation process went like clockwork. A meeting was scheduled four weeks prior to delivery when they gave us very specific start and completion dates. True to their word, the equipment and engineers arrived at 8am on the specified Friday and the installation was completed plumb on schedule.
“Throughout the installation, Homag were always on hand to provide guidance and help so we could get back up and running as quickly as possible. Clearly, with an installation like ours, it wasn’t going to be the work of a moment, but thanks to Homag and Chilfen senior staff’s meticulous planning, it couldn’t have gone any better.
Getting up to speed
“To ensure we were able to get the best out of the system Homag had arranged comprehensive training. Two of our team went to Castle Donington for training on the Cut Rite software that controls the Holzma saw. Cut Rite is a much more flexible system than our old software and it required very little adaptation to integrate into our systems.
“For the detailed Bargstedt training, two operators went over to their facility in Germany and this proved to be vitally important in preparing us for the step change the system would bring to our business.
“Final training was done by Homag engineers on site during the installation process. Naturally, a complex project like this needs time to become fully integrated and productive within a manufacturing process, but the results we have achieved since its installation have been outstanding.
Total control with supreme efficiency
“We now have total control over the cutting process in our manufacturing cycles. Work is cut for both the export packaging and joinery companies using just two operators rather than the five previously required. That gives us a saving of up to 120 hours per week alone which is pretty incredible.
“More importantly, perhaps, the automated stock control system means we know exactly what stock we have at any given moment. This enables us to control the work flow for both businesses accurately and efficiently. From our customers’ point of view this translates to us being able to consistently deliver product at precisely the right time and to the high quality they have come to expect from us.
Reliable product. Friendly service
“In our business we can’t afford downtime; our customers are very demanding and rightly so. With the Holzma saw and Bargstedt storage system we can rest easy because, like all Homag products, they are totally reliable. It really is German engineering at its best, complemented by great UK manufacturing attitudes.
“For total peace of mind, the system is linked via the internet to Germany, so that any occasional incidents that might occur can be quickly sorted. I have to say though, that we’ve never had any major issues. So, whilst servicing is minimal, we have taken out a 12 month service plan which gives us total confidence about the machine going forward.
“Coincidentally, the five months since the ‘Store ‘n’ Saw’ system was installed have been our busiest ever. There is no way we could have coped with the volume of business going through our factories without this outstanding system. It really has changed the way our business is run and it is delivering outstanding financial returns just as we were told it would.
“From Roger Wilks on the sales side to the technical servicing team, the people at Homag are professional but very friendly, open and honest. They provide exactly what you want from a trusted supplier and they have given us the total confidence that the Homag Group is the partner with whom we want to drive our business forward in the future,” concludes Russell Childs.
For information or a demonstration of Homag products including the Holzma saws and Bargstedt storage systems, contact Adele Dixon on 01332 856424.