One of the UK’s largest sheet metal subcontractors uses the world’s most powerful sheet metal CAD/CAM software to drive a variety of CNC machines across a wide range of cutting technologies. In addition they have also integrated Radan e2i into every aspect of their office system to keep track of, and manage, costs throughout the design and manufacturing process from estimate to invoice.
Hydram Sheet Metalwork uses Radan, from Planit Software, to program and drive Trumpf and Finn-Power punch machines, a Trumpf combination punch/laser and three Bystronic lasers, along with two Bystronic and five Amada press brakes.
Bystronic Bysprint Pro laser, driven by Radan
“We’ve always embraced new ideas and invested in people, machines and state-of-the-art software, with an eye to the future,” says systems and technical manager Andrew Jordan, pictured, right. “With both flatbed and tube laser cutting, together with CNC punching, folding, machining, robot welding, powder coating and assembly, we’re widely regarded as a one-stop-shop for the sheet metal marketplace.”
Operating out of a 70,000 square foot factory in County Durham, Hydram produces components for many UK manufacturing sectors, including construction, electrical and electronics, shopfitting and display, defence, public transport, aviation and earthmoving equipment. Hydram’s customers include Bosch and BAE, and their work can be seen in Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Royal Mail and on projects including the Royal Opera House, Heathrow Terminal 5 and in Boeing 737 aircraft.
Manufacturing diverse components in a variety of ways for many different sectors, Hydram needs to be flexible and responsive. “Having used Radan since 1989, it has become a completely integral part of our manufacturing process and is now absolutely key to our flexibility and efficiency,” says Andrew Jordan.
“Undoubtedly, Radan has saved Hydram money, from the benefits of the integrated programming system across our machine tools through to efficient nesting and time saved with offline programming. The levels of automation in Radan make our programming tasks more straightforward and less prone to human error. It’s difficult to know how we’d manage without it now.”
Radan gives Hydram the option of seamlessly switching from one process to another, or from one machine to another. Whether to punch or laser a part depends on several different considerations, such as the shape, the edge finish required and even how many are in the batch. “More regular shapes – mainly rectangular components with rectangular slots or holes, or a lot of holes – lend themselves to punching. But for components with irregular shapes, large radii, fewer holes, or the need to have a perfect edge finish, we’d go to laser cutting. Also, larger batch sizes can be processed more efficiently by punching, while smaller runs, including prototyping and proving designs, are better carried out on the laser.”
He says Radan is also invaluable when breakdowns occur. “When we have a machine breakdown or a broken tool, we need to transfer the job extremely quickly; Radan gives us the high degree of flexibility and efficiency we need to achieve this. If there are any special tools involved and a tool is being used on another machine, then we need to substitute several smaller tools. Radan does that brilliantly.”
Programmers Kevin Mullen and Neil Aldworth work full time on programming the laser and punch machines. Andrew Jordan says the fact that Radan enables them to use the same programming environment to program different machine tools is a massive benefit. “There’s a big saving in training and a big saving in time as parts can be programmed for more than one machine without an export/import cycle.”
Radan’s powerful nesting capabilities are another major plus. “Given the volatile cost of sheet metal, our programmers are under instruction to ensure they achieve as high a level of material utilisation as possible. We’re confident we’re making the best possible use of our raw material all the time. Radan’s Nest Projects interface streamlines the whole nesting process, meaning we can be more productive.”
With Hydram working on increasingly more complex metalwork assemblies, the company now employ a team of four who work full time on improving designs and producing manufacturing drawings using Autodesk Inventor. Inventor produces their flat blank developments from 3D computer models, which are imported into Radan for programming with just two mouse clicks. “The process from design to program is very slick indeed.”
Very often, before a new part is cleared for production, it has been created on the press brakes using Radbend (pictured left) to ensure that it can be produced with existing tools. If it can’t, the production team use the information to make the decision to produce new tooling. “Radbend also gives us a central database for keeping all the programs together in one place. Before we started using it, our programs were on floppy disks.”
The Benefits of e2i
Helping Hydram to maintain efficiency throughout the whole business is Radan e2i. “As the name suggests, this literally runs our whole process from estimating through to invoicing. It provides the sales team with current status data, and gives our management team all the information they need to make decisions.”
Having seen the developments of Radan and e2i going hand in hand, Hydram now makes full use of Quote Nesting. This links the two systems, giving the company a streamlined and highly efficient process. It begins with all estimating and quotations being created using e2i. “With Quote Nesting our estimators have direct access to Radan’s powerful nesting engine, ensuring we can quote quickly and competitively.” Once the customer places an order, e2i creates the acknowledgement and all the route cards for production.
The goods-in module ensures that each delivery of raw material is given a traceable bar-coded ID, updates stock levels and tracks the status of the purchase order. Operators use Shop Floor Data Capture to record work from start to finish, which provides an accurate report of current order status. This information is used to prioritise and schedule work going through the factory, which is particularly valuable for large assemblies, as all the components are tracked, ensuring no processes are held up.
Office staff all use e2i
Shop Floor Data Capture is also linked to Stock Control. “We can monitor live stock levels as materials are used, so our purchasing team can forecast stock levels. As this supply and demand information is ‘live’ it ensures we don’t run out of material and are able to reorder on a just-in-time basis.”
Finished parts are booked into e2i and are then available for delivery. Andrew Jordan says: “e2i ensures our whole process from estimate to invoice is seamlessly integrated.”