WNT UK Ltd.
Having spent the early part of his engineering career in Japan working for Fujitsu, before returning to his native Ireland to manage the companies machining operations in Dublin, Gerry Reynolds gained good experience of global manufacturing operations, which he has now put to good use in developing Takumi Precision Engineering.
While in Japan Gerry learning to program using G-code, no CAM facilities back then and on his return he managed Fujitsu’s machine shop, which at the time had excess capacity and the decision was taken to bring in sub-contract work. This experience of operating a sub-contract business from within a global manufacturing company became the lightbulb moment for Gerry and the seeds of an idea were germinated. The result was Takumi Precision Engineering, the name translating from Japanese as Artisan. Formed in 1998 Takumi supplied precision machined parts to the semi-conductor and automotive sectors as well as providing general toolmaking capacity from its 3000 ft2 premises. Within three years this was full to capacity and expansion and a change of direction were called for.
The booming medical device industry in Ireland presented the next opportunity for Takumi and in 2002 it relocated to its current premises in Limerick and focused its attention on developing its expertise in the medical sector, gaining ISO 9001 along the way. “”This move to the first phase of our current location was a major step and gaining ISO 9001 was the first step in our journey along regulatory controls that would lead to future business and the momentum in the medical sector gathered pace for us, with companies like Stryker, Boston Scientific and Donovan Medical (Tornier) and Medtronic. At this time we began to see ourselves as we developed into what I saw as a medical device company. This was enhanced in 2005 when we gained ISO 13485 the medical device accreditation,” says Gerry Reynolds.
The medical side of the business grew and the machining capability continued to develop, but with medical representing 80-90 per cent of the company’s turnover, Gerry Reynolds and his team recognised that this left them exposed and that medical couldn’t meet the company’s ambition to grow by 10- 20 per cent year-on year. Therefore in 2012 attention turned to the fledgling aerospace sector in the Republic of Ireland. Initially work came via other, larger, sub-contractors, but this brought Takumi to the attention of Bombardier for approval purposes, which eventually led to it working directly for it on its C-series commercial aircraft project. “Bombardier needed new suppliers and we responded. It was a steep learning curve, but the more we learnt the more we could take on and through investment in five-axis machining, training and technology, we were able to take on up to 20 new parts per week, building a portfolio of not only C-series parts, but legacy components as well.”
The investment included 20 new machine tools in a five year period, half of which were five-axis machining centres. Takumi Precision Engineering also gained AS9100 and SC21 Bronze with plans to achieve SC21 Silver in 2018. Turnover now stands at 6.3 million Euro, with 60 per cent of that coming from aerospace. Gerry Reynolds now sees the majority of the growth potential for the business as an aerospace specialist rather than a medical device company, even though medical remains an important part of the business. The next phase is to further expand the factory from its current 25,000 ft2 to 35,000 ft2 during 2018.
The move to aerospace production brought new challenges, with typical batch sizes of 5-10 off efficiency was key. “My driver was simple, in that we needed to reduce the number of times the machine door was opened by maximising the table capacity and multiple part loading on machines, we also spent time on cycle time reduction and here we relied on our tooling suppliers to assist us.” WNT became a supplier to Takumi Precision initially due to its ability to guarantee next day delivery of cutting tools, but this relationship quickly developed into a partnership with WNT’s Technical Sales Engineer Jerry Warren and Applications Engineer Shane O’Donnell willing to work alongside Takumi’s engineers to develop new machining strategies to improve cycle times and processes, as well as provide training for its operators. “Training and education are a key to our success and we encourage progression from within and as a result we have never advertised for a manager as we have accelerated people into positions of responsibility,” says Gerry Reynolds. “The fact that WNT are willing to come in and spend time training our people on the fundamentals of tooling, both in the classroom and at the machine is a bonus for us. This is just one of the strengths of WNT, which combined with their logistical solution, which includes the tool vending machines we hold our consignment stock in, from which we get detailed reports on who has used what, on which jobs that helps manage project costs, and we still rely on the next day delivery of tools that we need unexpectedly. This combination of people, tooling and logistics are the strength of WNT.”
There is now a concerted effort among a small group of sub-contractors within the Republic of Ireland to make the world aware of the aerospace capabilities of the manufacturing sector there. Takumi Precision Engineering is a founder member and instigator of Emerald Aerospace, a group of like-minded engineering businesses that are working together to promote Ireland as a centre of excellence for aerospace manufacturing. Emerald Aerospace will be the point of contact, with customers receiving one invoice, irrespective of which member carries out the work, which is a different model from other aerospace alliances. “For many years Ireland has had limited exposure to the aerospace sector, making growth hard to come by, but with Emerald Aerospace we have a cluster of companies with accreditation and amazing capability that means we can make the world aware of Ireland’s aerospace capability.”