Westbridge Furniture Invest For The Future
Westbridge Furniture Designs have recently completed a two year investment plan totalling in excess of £750,000 covering new machinery for their 3 frame manufacturing sites in North Wales. Part of the £200m Belfield Group of companies, Westbridge now employ 1150 staff, manufacturing over 9,000 units per week with a customer base including Ikea, M&S, Next, Sofology, Furniture village, JLP plus a number of independents spread across the UK and Ireland. Other companies in the Belfield Group include Tetrad Furniture, Duflex Foam, Design Studio and Leisure Division. The investment plan was put in to place to help increase productivity of chair and sofa frame parts to keep pace with their customers requirements.
MZ Project Pluris CNC Working Centre for sofa / chair frame parts
The task of identifying suitable equipment capable of meeting these demands went to Works Director Paul Myerscough and Production Manager Neil Rogers. Existing machines used for producing these parts included a beam saw, twin table CNC router, sliding table panel saw and number of manual bandsaws. Paul and Neil could see output was significantly limited due to a number of these processes, but mainly due to the fact they could only machine single sheets on the CNC, plus a significant number of parts still had to be manually cut on the bandsaw as the CNC was not suitable. As a result Neil contacted several machinery suppliers to see what alternative solutions were available. One of these companies was JJ Smith who were invited to come and give a presentation. The item of machinery they proposed was new to the UK, but had been available for several years on the continent. The MZ Pluris is a CNC working centre that has been specifically designed by specialist Italian Manufacturer MZ Project for the volume production of sofa and chair frame parts from OSB, Plywood, Chipboard, MDF and Solid Wood. Unlike conventional CNC routers, the Pluris does not need any vacuum as grippers are used thus meaning it is possible to stack / machine several panels at the same time. Another unique feature of the machine is that in addition to the standard router head, the Pluris is equipped with a CNC bandsaw that can automatically angle through the program +/- 90 degrees. This enables it to cut shaped parts that can not be produced by the router alone.
Possibilility to cut multiple sheets together to maximise production output
The next step was to arrange a machine demonstration at the MZ Factory located just outside Milan. MZ Project prepared 3 different nested programs of the parts Westbridge particularly wanted to see. Paul Myercough says “After seeing the Pluris in operation we were further convinced this was the machine we needed, it was then just a case of finalising a machine specification and presenting my justification plan to the board.” Following a meeting with Guy Stanley from JJ Smith and MZ Project MD
Alvaro Mazzola, a detailed specification was confirmed. The machine was configured to accept a maximum panel size of 3100 x 2100mm (standard 2500 x 1250m), fitted with a 4 post lift table for automatic loading and transfer of the panels on to the machine carriage. Other options to be fitted included automatic setting of the panel grippers and table rails, automatic tool changer for the router head, a CNC point to point drilling group and outfeed conveyor that takes away cut parts whilst the machine is still in operation.
Router head in operation
Following the initial presentation, Paul & Neil could see straight away some of the advantages this machine could offer. This was later supported by the estimated production times MZ calculated for a selection of different parts that Westbridge produce. Neil comments “Once we reviewed the production output, it was clear we were on to a winner with the Pluris. For example it previously took around 0.75 mins to produce a front scroll on the CNC. The Pluris machine took 0.25 mins. Another significant advantage of this machine is the potential material savings. When working with the bandsaw, the kerf of the blade is only 1.3mm compared to say 14mm with the router. Westbridge made some calculations on this and estimated they could make a 5% material saving, which is a lot when you take in to consideration they process over 16,000m2 of sheet material per week.
As the justification case was so strong, the Westbridge Board decided to purchase 4 machines spread over a 2 year period. The first machine and last machine were installed at factory 3 in Deeside, with others going to factory’s 2 and 1. Neil Rogers comments” It is now almost 2 years since the first machine went in and it has worked double shifts ever since, machining a stack of 4 or 5 panels together every cycle. As a result we have eliminated the need for 2 manual bandsawing operations, dimensioning of some sheet material on a panel saw and lastly the twin bed CNC has been moved to another factory in the group. The second machine was installed a few months ago, complete with some specific additions we requested and this is also operating on a 2 shift basis. We have been delighted with the performance of all the machines and they have more than lived up to our expectations. In addition we have had great support from both JJ Smith and MZ Project in Italy”.
4 screw lift table to automatically load sheets on to machine
Guy Stanley says “It has been a pleasure to work with such a forward thinking company as Westbridge Furniture, who from the very start of this project new exactly what they wanted to achieve. We are delighted that we have been able to assist and we look forward to working with them again in the future”. Paul Myerscough adds “We feel that with these investments in some of the latest CNC machine technology we are very well placed to meet the on going requirements of our increasing customer portfolio. The Belfield Group have a long term plan to continue in their investment in the company, which will further strengthen our position as the UK’s leading manufacturer of quality upholstered Furniture”.