Beakbane has invested in new plant and facilities and taken on new staff after winning a contract from Heller UK to manufacture hundreds of heavy fabrications for machining centre tool magazines.

Kidderminster-based Beakbane is producing one magazine fabrication a day for Heller UK – and is already planning for increased volumes.

Beakbane is a leading supplier of machine protection equipment, supplying components such as slideway covers, bellows and armoured aprons for all kinds of machine tools. It complements this with a contract manufacturing service and has been supplying Heller with machine tool components and fabrications such as door sets since the 1990s.

The magazine fabrications had previously been made 100% in-house at Heller’s plant in Germany and the decision to re-source them in the UK came as part of Heller’s move to make Redditch its worldwide centre of excellence for chain-type tool magazines.

Heller’s UK machine tool factory produces four models of four-axis horizontal machining centre – the H2000, H4000, H5000 and H6000. Magazine fabrications supplied by Beakbane will be used on all of these machining centres, which are exported around the world.

In addition, the fabrications from Beakbane will be incorporated in tool magazines supplied from Redditch to Heller’s other machine tool manufacturing plants in Germany and Brazil. Altogether, Beakbane is producing six variants of magazine fabrication, the heaviest weighing 1.25 tonnes.

It is now Heller’s sole external supplier of fabrications for magazines, and only fabrications for the very largest machines and non-standard items are made in-house in Germany.

Beakbane has invested approximately £80,000 on plant and equipment solely to support this project. This includes welding equipment, fume extraction and compressors, as well as the installation of a pit and lift table to allow welding to be carried out at a safe and convenient height without the need for platforms or ladders. Beakbane has also added a new overhead crane in its Number 7 workshop to allow the new work to be carried out alongside existing production.

Five new jobs have been created so that the factory can work a full twin-shift system producing the magazine fabrications.

A magazine fabrication undergoing final assembly at Heller

Heller has supplied Beakbane with a special welding jig and engineers from its fabrication shop in Germany worked closely with Beakbane to qualify it as a supplier.

Components for the fabrications are laser cut and then formed to a high degree of precision before being assembled in the jig. The jig ensures that the required tolerances in terms of dimensions, parallelism and concentricity are maintained without the need for further machining. All assembly holes and additional mating surfaces are then masked off before the fabrications are sent out for wet painting. They are then supplied to Heller for final assembly of mechanisms such as gears, sprockets, chains, tool pockets and so on.

Heller UK’s Logistics Manager Tobias Grimm commented: “We started working with Beakbane over 15 years ago when they supplied slideway covers for a previous range of machines, so we knew they were a good supplier. We started giving them fabrications too, more and more complicated work, and they did a good job for us. Then we at Heller made a strategic decision to have our centre of competence for chain type magazines here in the UK. So we wanted a local supplier for the fabrications and naturally thought of Beakbane.”

Beakbane’s Managing Director Mike Southwell added: “We are delighted that Heller has decided to entrust us with this major project. This adds yet another strand to our portfolio of services and products for machine tool manufacturers and shows that we are prepared to make major investments in time and resources to meet the needs of our customers.”