A significant challenge facing manufacturers of timber and alu-clad doors and windows is the move towards smaller batch sizes and greater variety of products. Forward-thinking producers are therefore looking for solutions that enable them to handle these smaller runs without having to interrupt the main production process.

With over a century’s experience of timber door and window manufacturing, Glasgow based Russell Timber Technology was confronted with this very situation. “The foundations of the business were built around our insulated hardwood timber door sets which established the benchmark for timber door engineering in the UK,” explains John Russell, managing director for Russell Timber Technology.

“In 1999 we expanded into timber and alu-clad windows and façades. This created a comprehensive product portfolio offering total supply and install solutions for large or small scale new build, refurbishment or regeneration schemes and city dwellings, eco-builds, and private and public housing projects.

“Over the last few years, however, the demand for a wider variety of doors and windows in small batch sizes has meant we have had to re-think our methodology. This led us to look for a CNC solution that would give us the ability to slot in small batches of doors and windows without interrupting the main production workflow.

“Choosing the right partner for us was critical. We had never bought any Homag machinery before but, after researching the market for a suitable solution, it was clear that the Homag BMB 812 offered the best all-round package.

“We needed a machine that would improve the quality of our production across a broad mix of products and which used software that was compatible with our existing systems and future requirements. It was also important to us to have a reliable UK support network on hand so that any issues could be sorted out quickly and cost effectively.

“As part of the purchasing process, Homag UK invited us out to Germany to see the facilities and discuss our requirements. We also took the opportunity to visit two UK sites that were already running the Homag BMB 812. This process was invaluable in working through the specification of our machine and Homag were happy to involve the tool manufacturer in the conversations as well.

“With the machine installed we now have so much more flexibility and can respond to individuals needs as required. The Homag BMB 812 enables us to offer a better, higher quality service to our customers and that is crucial to the long-term future of our business.”

David Smith St Ives supplies and manufactures engineered timber products and associated fittings through four product divisions – commercial projects, public sector projects, residential developers and self-build homes. Its range of timber solutions includes roof trusses, joists and staircases alongside its door and door sets product.

Over the years, the company has established its own unique production process at its 165,000ft² manufacturing facility in St Ives, Cambridgeshire.

“The way we manufacture door frame sets is slightly different to the rest of the trade,” explains Simon Wadsworth, a director at David Smith. “We machine multiple frame pieces at the same time and so we were looking for a machine that could do that and process the doors themselves.

“It was a very important investment decision for the business and so it wasn’t something we were about to rush. It’s not the type of machine you change very often, hence you’ve got to get the decision right first time, because it’s going to be a cornerstone machine in the factory for the next ten years.

“Given the importance of the choice, we were prepared to invest six months in evaluating the options in the marketplace. It warranted the effort to find out what was out there and our initial research focused on six machines of which three, it turned out, fitted the bill.”

“Our final decision rested with the 5-axis Homag BMG 512 because it offered us the best long-term prospects for David Smith. As well as it being technically a good solution, we were able to specify it with the ‘speed pack,’ the twin tables and the 72 place tool changer plus a 73rd place for the large circular saw.

“We were particularly impressed with the ‘speed pack’ which features a laser scanner that sits underneath the machine and detects if anybody or anything gets too close to it whilst in operation. In layman’s terms, it allows the machine to work faster if there’s nobody about. So, if the operator is loading one of the machine tables whilst the head is working on the other table, the operator can work comfortably without any safety fears whatsoever.

“The laser will sense he is there and slow the machine down to a ‘safer’ speed. Unlike other systems, however, it does not rely upon the operator to reset anything before it goes back up to full operating speed – this happens automatically when the scanner senses the operator is out of the way.

“Most other systems rely on the operator to press a button to reset the machine before it will continue at full speed. That can be very time consuming – the ‘speed pack’ eliminates this and maximises productivity without compromising safety.

“The 72 place tool changer is another time-saver – it means we don’t lose productivity changing tools. All the tools we need for door and frame sets processing are loaded in the tool changer permanently. The operator can therefore process doors and frame sets without having to compromise production changing tools around.

“The Homag BMG is also faster because we can load more components on the tables at once – consequently, the machine hasn’t got to change tools as many times. This makes the whole process significantly faster, particularly if we’re using eight or nine tools in one program.”

“From specifying the machine, to installation and training we have worked closely with Homag’s sales and technical product specialist to ensure that we ended up with a solution to meet our precise and unique requirements.

“There are so many options on the BMG 512 that it was vitally important we liaised diligently with Homag’s team – after all, they are the ones with complete and extensive knowledge of all the options available. This cooperation enabled us to specify a machine that would do everything we wanted, in a format that would fit in with our production processes.

“Since its introduction into our facility, it has pretty much done exactly what we expected because both Homag and our team put the effort in at the front end. It’s interesting working with Homag. They don’t just cross their fingers and say, “Yes, our machine will do that for you.” They want to understand why you want to do something.

“Once they understand why you want to do it, they ask questions to make sure that it is the right way to do it – it’s the German way. Some manufacturers, on the other hand, will say “Yes” to everything and just hope that it can be achieved later – the Germans make sure it can be achieved before committing to delivering it.”

“The Homag BMG 512 is crucial to our business and so it is vitally important to us to keep it running with minimal downtime. I’m a great believer that if you don’t maintain a machine, then don’t be surprised if it breaks when you can least afford it.

“Ongoing maintenance is therefore essential and the best organisation to maintain it is the manufacturer. For this reason we took out a five year maintenance contract with Homag UK – this gives us the peace of mind that our 5-axis BMG 512 will run consistently, improving our productivity and flexibility day in, day out.”
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LED clamping system

Unusual doors are easily produced on the Homag BMG 512