Irish Construction Company Excavates Productivity Gains With Kerf
When BSK Engineering opened its doors for business in 2001, the family-owned subcontract manufacturer was primarily serving the architectural steel industry with the design and production of gates, railings, staircases and other innovative design structures. However, a change of direction in 2012 propelled the Dungannon Company onto a path of exponential growth; something that has been supported by plasma cutting machines from Rochdale based Kerf Developments Limited.
For an area with relatively few quarries, the County Tyrone area in Ireland is home to around 70% of the world’s largest quarry plant manufacturing businesses. In the local area, BSK Engineering was realising the quarry industry was absorbing all the skilled staff, making it difficult for BSK to employ skilled staff. Something that was restricting company growth. With a huge quarry industry on the doorstep and a pool of suitably talented engineers, the company changed its business model to generate growth. To implement the strategy to serve the quarry industry, it was essential that BSK Engineering invested in cutting technology.
Commenting upon the 2012 arrival of its first Kerf plasma cutting machine, a 3m by 1.5m RUR2000P, BSK Engineering Managing Director, Mr Barry Kerr says: “When buying our first machine, we looked at three suppliers. We looked at what other local companies were buying, and they were all investing in Kerf. The feedback we had from local businesses regarding Kerf was extremely positive. One element that stood out was that Kerf Developments were the only supplier with locally based engineering support that could be on-site in a matter of hours to resolve any maintenance or service needs. This gave us the confidence to buy our first Kerf machine.”
The Explosive Growth
With a 2000sq/ft factory area, the 3m by 1.5m Kerf RUR2000P was the only machine that would fit into the small three employee company. Purchased to undertake small component cutting for the quarry industry as well as structural steel parts for existing customers, the Kerf machine was initially the perfect fit. The first Kerf machine was 75% committed to structural steelwork, cutting small parts through the nesting technique in quantities up to 150 out of a single sheet of 3m by 1m steel. However, the machine was soon at capacity – running 24 hours a day. Then came the growth!
From 2012 to 2016, BSK Engineering was repeatedly turning away larger scale quarry work. The company opted to take the plunge and invest – expanding the facility from 2000sq/ft to 13,000sq/ft and installing its second Kerf machine in August 2017, the RUR3000P plasma cutting machine with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II 275amp UltraSharp plasma cutting system. The 8m by 2.5m bed machine provided the much-needed capacity for cutting quarry parts such as 7m by 2m screen slides that are commonly produced. It also gave added capacity to take the company away from 24-hour shift production. However, this proved a short lived reality, as the company almost doubled turnover from £600,000 in 2015 to £1.1m in 2017. With two machines running 24 hours a day and operating at weekends, the company needed a third machine – and Kerf duly obliged.
In August 2018 the third Kerf machine arrived, another 8m by 2.5m RUR3000P plasma cutting machine with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II 275amp UltraSharp plasma cutting system. “We bought the third Kerf machine to alleviate the capacity issue and once again move from 24-hour production to single shift manufacture. We have grown our staff from 3 to 15 and our turnover has almost quadrupled to £2m in just three years. It is the reliability and service of Kerf that has given us the confidence to grow whilst ensuring we can still meet the short lead-times of our customers. We can order parts or consumables from Kerf and we are guaranteed next day delivery; likewise an engineer can be with us very quickly – as Kerf appreciates how essential the machines are to meeting the needs of our customers.”
Kerf Is Critical In Growth Strategy
Identifying the competition in the area and why BSK Engineering has grown so rapidly, Mr Kerr says: “Most of our competitors have a 3 to 4 week lead time on parts, we deliver within 7 days. This is why we are winning more and more business from our rivals. Furthermore, the Kerf machines ensure we maintain a lower cost overhead when compared to our competitors.”
Referring specifically to this point, Mr Kerr continues: “All the work we cut on the Kerf machines is steel plate between 2mm to 40mm thick with 70% of sheets over 10mm thick. This is where we win out over our competitors. Competitors with expensive laser machines will be faster cutting plates up to 8mm, but anything above that and the Kerf machine is considerably faster than laser. Added to this, the purchase price and consumable price of the Kerf is considerably less than a laser, enabling us to be more price-competitive. When cutting plates above 10mm thick, many of our customers are finding our edge finish is equally as good as or sometimes better than that of laser. So, we can offer the same quality finish as laser cutting but with reduced costs, improved lead-times and a significantly better service. This means that customers previously buying parts from laser subcontract suppliers are now moving over to us and our Kerf UltraSharp plasma solution.”
In conclusion, Mr Kerr says: “We now have a very competitive business and this is largely built around the quality of our staff and the three Kerf machines. 60% of our work is relatively small and with the large bed machines, we can cut one 4m plate whilst another is being loaded. This pendulum loading method reduces our cycle times by 50% whilst we still have the facility for cutting large parts. This capacity helps us to maintain industry leading lead-times whilst the service and support from Kerf ensures we are always running. Kerf has been so reliable – the machines will run all day, every day. We couldn’t be happier with our machine supplier.”