March 21st, 2024 - Beth

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Adam Jones, engineering supremo at UK tooling and machinery maker Jade Engineering, says that factory owners investing huge sums in expensive machinery are often surprisingly uninformed. There is a solution, he tells GGP.

There will hardly be a frame manufacturing unit anywhere in the UK that does not have at least one CNC (Computerised Numerical Control) machine in its factory and more than likely, several. In fact, the first machines to be controlled by a computer were patented in 1958, with the technology applied to a milling machine developed by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The giant Cincinnati Milacron became the first commercial manufacturer of machines thus equipped. Today, however, we take such technology for granted.

Today’s CNC machines are of course incredibly sophisticated by comparison and used quite literally to control machinery used in every manufacturing environment. They increase productivity, improve quality and repeatability, producing reliable and safer parts whilst also reducing the dependence on skilled labour. In turn, this presents markets with products of higher quality and, whilst some might argue the point, at lower cost.

However, despite broad familiarity with both the concept and the specific applications of CNC machines for the frame-making sector, engineer Adam Jones, who with Sean Mackey owns frame production specialist Jade Engineering Ltd, says that there remains considerable naivety amongst framemakers when specifying and purchasing such equipment: “Choosing such machines requires specialist knowledge of course, especially of the production needs of a company. This of course you would expect of the production management of a firm. But how many truly understand the complexity and potential of the equipment that is available to them,” asks Adam. “The conundrum is: who do you turn to for advice?”.

Adam continues: “You would be surprised how often fabricators decide to invest a large sum of money to step up their output and improve quality – and increasingly to place less reliance upon the recruitment of effective employees – and then base their decision on parameters and claims that are provided solely by the manufacturer. Neither will they have a broad knowledge of alternatives, often relying upon the same companies for repeat purchases – not necessarily a bad thing if support has been good – but ignoring the fact that there may well be much better options out there.”

The potential for making a purchasing decision that if not wrong exactly, could very well be less than optimum, is considerable. But what is the alterative? Perhaps unsurprisingly Adam believes it lies with Jade Engineering, and specifically the firm’s Jade Consult division: “Of course you would expect me to have a point in saying all this,” he says with a smile. “But we have proved the value of talking to an independent consultancy like ours over and over, from solutions to simple but highly disruptive bottlenecks in a factory, to full turnkey production lines that we have set up for a number of fabricators.”

Rather than being the result of a strategic objective, Jade Consult evolved from the informal queries that the firm received through their core business of manufacturing tooling for every brand of CNC profile processing machine operating in the industry: “We have a long reputation for supplying tooling to every fabricator of PVC-U frames and now most of those producing aluminium windows and doors.  And that has given us unique knowledge and perspective. This involves us regularly talking to hundreds of fabricators who would often comment on an issue they were facing, which we would then resolve for them, quite informally,” explained Adam.

Soon, however, the number and complexity of enquiries grew to the point at which the partners had to formalise a response, to enable appropriate resources to be allocated: “When you are asked to design and supply turnkey production lines it can no longer be done through a sketch on a notepad,” says Adam. “We now have engineers and staff that work on such projects with me, on a full-time basis and Jade Consult is now the fastest growing division of our company.”

Business is brisk, despite the pessimism that continues to pervade society currently: “We all read the news,” says Adam, “and it is perhaps surprising therefore that so many fabricators are continuing to invest in their businesses. Whilst the retail sector is down currently, with some pundits claiming as much as a 20% dip in sales year-on-year, overall firms are continuing to invest in their infrastructure. This is because whist retail sales, are reportedly slower, other segments of the window and door industry such as commercial work for example, remain buoyant. And of course, the constant battle to recruit and retain good people, presents framemakers with the need to continuously invest in new plant.”

Jade Consult includes design, development, machinery specification and supply, commissioning and even training: “It’s tremendously satisfying,” says Adam,” because it’s at the heart of what we do as engineers. We have a section on the Jade website called ‘Problem? Solved’. It’s a gallery of what we do best, some of the solutions we have achieved for customers. I get immense satisfaction from that.”



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