Established in 1995, Delta Laminates designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of bespoke laminated furniture and components. It supplies leading building trade customers with washrooms, special contract furniture, reception desks and other laminated products. End users include hospitals, dental surgeries, schools and universities.
“Our business is quite niche,” explains Garry Rowland, Delta Laminates’ managing director. He continues: “We work closely with leading construction companies such as, Balfour Beatty, Carillion and the Kier Group, so it is vital for our business to maintain the highest quality and service standards.
“This has been a major driver in our decision to invest in the best woodworking machinery available. We find that all the Homag Group equipment is outstanding. The innovative German engineering and attention to detail means you can rely 100% on the machinery to consistently produce the very best results, time after time.”
Need to increase capacity
“We’ve relied on Homag equipment for many years and so when it came to looking for ways to increase the capacity of the business, my first port of call was Homag UK.
“One of the bottlenecks in the business was our old saw, so naturally we began by looking for a replacement and possibly a new edgebander that would allow us to increase our capacity. We arranged to fly over to Germany to visit the Homag Treff to see the latest models and it was there that we saw the automated storage system in action.
“I didn’t even know such a piece of kit existed, let alone seen it working. Robotics used to be the reserve of the big car manufacturing plants; a small laminate fabrication company near Wigan could never justify the costs of such a fully automated and computerised piece of kit.
“I was stunned at what it could achieve and how it would transform our business. Furthermore, I was amazed to discover that a small company like ours could afford such a wonderful robotic system. It was like, why would you not have it?
“I was so excited by the prospect of introducing this system to our business that I had done the number crunching before our return flight home left the tarmac in Germany. It was a no brainer; it was a case of how soon can I have one.”
Homag Automation storage system
“It’s a great piece of kit. It’s created output far beyond what I imagined. It drives the production, giving the operators the next job as soon as the previous job has been processed.
“Prior to the new system, we had a traditional beam saw and a fork lift truck which used to pick the materials out of a rack, if we had them in stock that is, and if they weren’t scratched or bowed because they hadn’t been stored properly.
“All those issues have been eliminated with the Homag Automation system; I know how many boards I’ve got, I know what job they’re allocated to; the system knows where they are, they don’t get scratched because nobody touches them and they don’t bow because they are stacked neatly and flat.
“I just send the next job to the system and tell it what tomorrow’s cutting is. It puts it on order and it keeps one operator busy instead of two as before. What’s more, the one operator is now producing twice as much.”
New HPP 300 Holzma beam saw
“The replacement saw we bought is the new version of the Holzma we had previously, but it is much improved, with better software. The new HPP 300 saw fits inside the Homag Automation storage system; so where I once had storage area for materials I now have my saw that fits in the middle of that. This has saved me massive amounts of space and increased the efficiency.
“We did evaluate other equipment before we committed to Homag, but we’ve always used Homag because I just think they are the best. They may not be the cheapest, but I consider their quality of machine, the German engineering, the backup and the service have always been the best.”
Increase capacity led to a need for a new edgebander
“With the new storage system and saw we anticipated an increase in our capacity and felt that 12 months down the road we would need a bigger and better edgebander to cope with the output.
“When we discussed this in more detail with Homag, however, it became clear that the volume of work the new system would create meant we would need the new edgebander from day one.
“Our Brandt edgebander had done us proud over the years, but there was no way it could keep up with the volumes the new saw would create, so we decided to invest in a Homag Ambition 2264. The new edgebander is twice the machine; the quality of finish, speed and robustness are outstanding. If we wanted to run it 24 hours, I’m sure it would cope.”
Reduced overtime working “The new equipment has enabled us to significantly reduce the amount of overtime we need to do to get the work completed. In fact, we’ve incentivised the team by saying that if they can get the week’s work completed by Thursday night, they can have the Friday off. The good news is that, with no impact on quality, they are having Fridays off on a regular basis.
“When it came to the finances, Homag couldn’t have been more helpful. Their specialist finance division, Homag Finance brokered an arrangement which was structured over five years to give us the best deal. The whole process was very straightforward and they even helped us with a European Growth Fund grant which reduced the cost further.”
A smooth installation with excellent training
“As you can imagine, with so much new kit to install and old equipment to either move or remove, the installation had the potential to cause massive disruption. In reality, however, the whole process was managed superbly by Homag and, given the number of different engineers and installation people on site at the same time, it couldn’t have gone any better.
“The installation was completed within three weeks and we were immediately up and running. Nobody left until the work was done, the German engineers made sure everything happened when it should, our guys worked tirelessly with them.
Everyone pulled together to make it happen.
“During the installation the engineers were training our operators on the new equipment. I must say, I thought we’d have serious teething troubles, but I have to hand it to our lads for how they’ve adapted to it. A couple of our operators went over to Germany for two days training on the storage system, but it speaks volumes for the simplicity of the system that the chap in our office who runs the system did not go on the training and has managed to learn on the job.
The best investment
“The new system has taken us to the point where we can concentrate on growing the business; we couldn’t have done this before, we’d have struggled to increase capacity.
“We’re now planning the next three years of growth and considering which pieces of kit we’ll need to support that growth. The new equipment has given us the ability to produce 60% more with the same hours. The impact on the bottom line is even more impressive, it has given us a massive financial benefit and real flexibility in our production processes.
“We’re planning an open day to bring customers down to see the system in operation because with everybody that has come to date, their jaws just drop and they say, “Wow!”. They just can’t believe what it can do; it is such an impressive piece of kit. They can’t quite get their heads around how such a relatively small business like ours can afford such advanced automation.
“By the virtue of the efficiencies it creates, the system pays for itself straight away. We are now in the process of restructuring the rates we charge for various activities because we can now cut twice as fast.
“The system has also enabled us to reduce labour by eliminating the need for a forklift truck driver. In addition, because nobody has to touch the full-size boards anymore, health and safety has been significantly improved.”
A happy workforce
“It’s really rewarding to hear our workforce say, ‘How on earth did we manage before we had this system?’. That back-breaking two man operation of having to lift big, massive panels onto the saw is gone; the machine automatically loads the correct panels onto the back of the saw and the operator only has to lift off the cut-down-to-size panels from the front of the saw. Nobody has to lift a full sheet anymore.
“Working with Homag is a pleasure. The machines are amongst the best in the world, but we tend to take that as read. It is the service that makes the difference to us. The machines rarely breakdown, but if they do, the service from Homag is fast and professional.
“I can’t recommend this system too highly,” concludes Garry.
For more information or a demonstration of the Homag Automation storage system, Holzma saws or Homag edgebanders, contact Adele Dixon at Homag UK on 01332 856424.