For brothers Darren and Ashley Churchill, going to work each day is more than just a job. Their company, JC Engineering, based in Reading, was started 51 years ago by their father John Churchill who is still very active within the business.
“We are still a traditional small family business,” says Darren. “It is very rewarding when we get awarded with more orders from our customers. We have a good team of people here at JC Engineering who take great pride to ensure customer satisfaction."
Two years ago, the company acquired a local competitor, Just Precision Sheet Metal, and it has recently invested in a new LVD Phoenix 3015 4kW fibre laser machine. Along with the new laser, JC also invested in a complete refurbishment of its 10-year-old Easy-Form® press brake, bringing it up to the specification of a new machine with the latest CADMAN® TOUCH-B, intuitive touch-screen control.
Darren Churchill explains that the decision to buy Just Precision was partly driven by the difficulty of finding skilled staff. He adds that the upgraded press brake also helps here as it allows a less skilled operator to be deployed on the machine.
“We hadn’t bought a laser before because we felt that the technology wasn’t right for us,” says Darren. “We were carrying out a lot of second and third operations on the punch – countersinking, forming, and putting on part identification, and so on. This meant we could keep the parts on the punching machine for all these operations and keep our labour costs down.” He adds that the company undertakes a lot of work in aluminium, which again suited the punching technology.
“If stainless steel had been a big part of our business then we would probably have bought a laser 10 to 15 years ago, but until now we felt that the technology and running costs for cutting aluminium was not going to give us any benefit over what we had.” With the laser now up and running this is no longer a problem!
He continues: “We are generally working with materials up to 6mm-thick, with the majority 3mm or below. The fibre laser is cutting it at such a rate that I don’t see how you could do it any other way more cost-effectively. We realised that now was the time to invest in a fibre laser, the technology was ready for the work we do.”
When it came to buying a laser, Darren was initially attracted to LVD’s Electra, a high-speed machine for fast cutting of thin material. But because LVD knew the type of products JC Engineering manufacture, it was able to suggest that the Phoenix might be more suitable and cost-effective.
He says: “For us, quality is the priority rather than pure speed. The better the part that comes off the machine, the less time we have to spend ensuring the customer gets a good product."
JC’s LVD Phoenix laser can cut up to 12mm-thick aluminium, 15mm stainless steel and 20mm steel, as well as copper and brass, which the company couldn’t previously offer. With both punching and laser cutting capability, the company can select the technology best suited for the job.
“Having both the laser and the punch presses gives us the flexibility to decide what is the most cost-effective way of making any part,” says Darren. “The laser is best at complex profiles, while the punch is best at internal details and formed features. The point is that we can choose to do it how we want so that we can get it out of the door in the most cost-effective way.”