Having manufactured push bike parts for over a decade, Works Components was well positioned to take advantage of the recent UK cycling boom. With an expanding product and customer portfolio to address, it required new machinery to keep pace with the growing demand.
Here, we take a look at how the introduction of a FANUC ROBODRILL has increased productivity, and laid the foundations for an automated future.
Based in Cannock, Staffordshire, Works Components has gone from strength to strength over the last decade. It has specialised in providing parts to push bike users, selling core components such as headsets and chainrings directly to consumers. However, with more people than ever before getting on their bikes, its customer profile has widened, meaning even greater demand for the family-run business’ services.
Rick Hughes, Owner of Works Components, explains: “Lockdown resulted in a boom for cycling, not only in the UK but across the world. Huge numbers of people took it up as a hobby having never owned a bike before, while many existing cyclists were shopping for new bikes and components.
“As a result, we have witnessed a massive increase in orders, and not just directly from end-users – which has historically been our route to market. We are now working with a number of shops and manufacturers to provide parts for full bike builds, which on top of existing orders has necessitated an upgrade on our production capabilities.”
Froome for improvement
It is widely acknowledged that one of the single biggest challenges associated with increasing output is navigating floor shop space. With the Works Components facility already at capacity, the decision was made to opt for new machinery that would be capable of delivering increased output, without taking up significantly more room in the factory.
Owing to its high capacity yet small footprint, Works Components decided to invest in a FANUC ROBODRILL α-D21LiB5 vertical machining centre, with a 24,000rpm spindle and FANUC DDRiB fourth-axis rotary table. Rick continues: “We identified the ROBODRILL as being a machine that could be fitted into our fairly tight space, all the while delivering the performance levels we needed to keep pace with large orders that were coming in.
“We made contact and visited FANUC UK’s HQ, which was great for getting hands-on with the machine in order to fully understand its capabilities. From there, we worked with the FANUC team to ensure we reached the correct specification, and that it was installed in the most ergonomic position in our facility.”
Nigel House, Sales Manager at FANUC UK, comments: “Owing to its small footprint, we could locate the ROBODRILL right up against a wall, which really helped to maximise the potential output of the available space. As Rick has outlined, the machine needed to hit the ground running in terms of producing parts accurately and efficiently, so the 24,000rpm milling spindle was critical in delivering a good cycle time.”
Going up a gear
With the new ROBODRILL in-situ, Works Components are now able to produce parts at twice the speed of their previous machine. This has proven vital in meeting large orders from its new commercial customer-base, all the while continuing to supply directly to end-users. Crucially, the new machine will also facilitate the production of a new component, a push-bike pedal that further increases Works Components’ portfolio.
Rick comments: “We purchased the ROBODRILL with one eye very much on the future. For now, it is helping us to catch up with an influx of orders, but the intention is for it to produce our upcoming new pedal. Its rapid cycle times and versatility, especially in how the CNC is able to facilitate precise part creation, are fundamental to our development as a business.
“Aside from the core features of the ROBODRILL itself, we also knew that FANUC is a company steeped in automation expertise. It means that if we do decide to automate some of our processes down the line, it is a straightforward integration with a provider that we already have a good working relationship with.”
Leading the charge
With the UK cycling boom continuing to increase demand for Works Components services, the future looks bright for Rick and his team. He concludes: “The training we have received so far from FANUC has been ideal, with genuine flexibility to ensure we can get the most out of the sessions. This bodes well for any future automation, and indeed our growth as a business
“Expanding into new markets is always daunting, because you’re moving away from a tried and tested formula. But we’re confident in our products, and that stems from confidence in our machinery.”