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Good time for UK exporters to invest

Ernst Wagner - KastoErnst Wagner, managing director of Kasto UK, the sawing system and automated storage and retrieval system supplier, looks back at the last business year with satisfaction.

Sawing machine sales were 25 per cent up on 2014, while two customers made strategic capital investments in automated warehousing systems, totalling £5 million, whereas in recent years only one was sold per year.

Looking ahead to 2016, while there are various negatives currently in global finance and oil, there is also good news for UK manufacturers that export due to the pound having weakened against the Euro and other currencies. It means that goods are less expensive for overseas customers and are therefore easier to sell abroad.

According to a recent report, only around one-fifth of UK manufacturing businesses export, a figure that Mr Wagner thinks should be higher. For this reason, he believes it is a good time for British manufacturers to keep investing in modernising their machine tool stock and in-house logistics procedures.

He says, “2015 was the year of the KASTOwin, our series-built, modular bandsaw range launched in May 2014 that has dramatically lowered the price point for high quality sawing equipment. Our German parent company has enjoyed considerable success selling these machines around the world and this has been mirrored in the UK, including unexpected sales made directly from our Milton Keynes showroom during open house events.

“The largest capacity KASTOwin bandsaws that we have sold so far are for cutting 560 mm stock, but at the turn of the year we had serious enquiries for the next larger model in the range, an A8.6, capable of cutting 860 mm bar. The largest model is a 1,060 mm capacity A10.6 and interest in these larger machines is definitely growing.

“At the end of September last year, a new model called KASTOwin Tube A 5.0 was launched, on which the blade cuts from the bottom upwards – the reverse of the action on other bandsaws. A demonstration model arrived in our Milton Keynes showroom towards the end of January 2016. It reduces wear on the band and avoids damage to its teeth that often occurs when a blade travels downwards into swarf that has accumulated inside the bottom of the tube.”

Until now, this problem made it virtually impossible to use a tungsten carbide tipped (TCT) blade for sawing tube efficiently, as the teeth were invariably damaged. A bimetal blade was the only option. This is a thing of the past with the KASTOwin tube, on which TCT blades may be used to raise productivity without fear of premature wear.

In addition, a new KASTOrespond feature continuously records the force on the tool, without the need for additional sensor systems that are often fault-prone. An intelligent algorithm continually varies the feed rate so that the force on the blade is maintained, giving an optimised value and constant chip load. This is especially important when cutting tube, as the blade is presented with widely varying conditions throughout the cut, especially at material breakthrough.

While KASTOwin was the star product of the year, sales of other types of saw also contributed to the strong sales performance. Top-end KASTOtec models remain popular for higher volume cutting, particularly of tough alloys. The company’s workshop range of smaller band, circular and hack saws also contributed well to the overall financial performance.

Once again, 2015 saw the sale of a WAM9 production circular sawing machine, this time to a customer in Willenhall for sawing aluminium billet, which they form and press for the automotive supply chain. The machine is capable of production output ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 parts per hour, depending on bar diameter.

Two important exhibitions will take place in the UK this year, each of which addresses the two key areas of KASTO’s business – sawing and storage.

First will be the machine tool show, MACH 2016, to be held at the NEC, Birmingham from 11th to 15th April. On stand 4638, the company will show a representative model from the KASTOwin range as well as the dedicated tube saw, a KASTOtec with the company’s KPC performance cutting package ideal for high volume cutting applications using tungsten carbide tipped blades, and various models from the workshop range.

Later in the year, from 13th to 16th September at the same venue, Kasto will exhibit on stand 10H37 at the three-yearly IMHX exhibition. It will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase the company’s extensive range of high-rise, computer-controlled warehousing and automated materials handling systems for storing long stock such as bar and tube, sheet metal and other flat materials, pallets, stillages and much else.

It is this side of the business that Mr Wagner is convinced has the best potential for growth within Kasto UK. For British manufacturers to remain competitive, prompt delivery of material to saws and other production equipment is key. Automation makes this a reality and at the same time offers the benefit of virtually eliminating damage to the material being handled. Likewise in stockholding operations, efficiency of picking and consolidation of orders ready for delivery are paramount considerations.

There is a further reason that these tower storage systems are gaining in popularity, namely the high cost of land and hence of industrial space in the UK. Saving floor area with vertical storage solutions, which allow more productive use of a building, means that there is more space for additional machines or storage. The approach can postpone or even avoid having to move premises as a company expands.

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