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A start-up engineering firm has taken the first but vital step on its ambitious journey to become a fully connected digital manufacturing facility, with the support of Made Smarter.

Launched in early 2019 by Darren Martin, an experienced engineer, the Maryport-based business offers precision engineering and site-fitting services to a wide range of local customers.

Using Made Smarter support and advice the business invested in Solidworks (3D Modelling) software replacing time-consuming manual design processes.

A first but necessary step towards achieving its strategic aim of fully connecting its design and manufacturing processes, the investment has rapidly sped up design work, created more capacity for a broader range of work and enabled the small team of engineers to navigate the pandemic.

Now Darren is ready to accelerate the next stage of digitisation, adopting new CNC machinery which can integrate with the design software.

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Before Covid-19 struck we were seeing some significant gains in terms of time, accuracy and efficiencies. During lockdown we were able to remain open supporting essential manufacturing customers and adapt to new requests quickly using the software. As we start to recover and look to the future we want to drive forward our plan and achieve our ambition of a fully connected digital manufacturing facility. Made Smarter has given us the support and confidence to go to the next level as a new business and put technology at the heart of our strategy.

Darren Martin, Managing Director of DM Engineering
DM Engineering's story
  • The Challenge

    As a start-up business with three staff and cash flow limitations, Darren wanted the business to grow organically, secure more customers, and adopt the right technologies at the right time.

    This has meant making do with using manual design and manufacturing processes and older CNC machinery.

    “Precision engineering is an expensive industry to get into,” he said. “The best kit requires a hefty investment. Our initial CNC machines did the job, but they lack connectivity, and required a lot of manual intervention, especially with programming. We also had an old school engineering approach of hand sketching customer designs.

    “For complex parts the design process could take up to two hours, and anything up to three times longer to manufacture.

    “It was an obvious place to start.”

  • The Solution

    Expert advice from Made Smarter saw DM Engineering adopt CAD/CAM software to design and manufacture prototypes, finished products and production runs.

    Solidworks was chosen because of its features, functions and capabilities which enable the operator to rapidly create both complex parts and assemblies on screen in 3D as opposed to ‘flat’ 2D drawings, simulate and assess designs before prototyping, and send 3D models to customers at the early stages of a project.

    The software then quickly creates drawings, cut lists, bills of materials, and manufacturing data for programming our new CNC machine tools.

  • The Benefits

    “I cannot overstate the change we experienced from the new design software,” Darren said. “What used to take us anything up to an hour has been cut down to 15 minutes. That’s a phenomenal saving, making us much more efficient, creating significantly greater capacity to take on more work and ultimately, increase productivity.”

    Processing time has improved, errors and waste has reduced, and profitability increased, enabling the company to become more competitive.

    The solution allows Darren to track a job from beginning to end, with full control over post processing, stock, work coordinates, material and tooling. It also helps to complete perfectly finished parts faster.

    “To be able to take files from our customers and plug them into our software has rapidly sped up turnaround time and has helped build our reputation as a quick, efficient, reliable and quality engineering outfit,” Darren said.

    High-quality service delivery has also reflected back on the team who have embraced the opportunity to upskill to keep up with the digital manufacturing landscape.

    “New technologies can be daunting for some engineers,” Darren said. “But my team is onboard. They’ve seen the benefit of having data at their fingertips, saving time and effort by reusing designs from previous, similar jobs, and having opportunities to do more challenging and highly technical work. I want them to think of DM Engineering as a high-tech, innovative company.”

  • The Future

    Darren has ambitions to become a key supplier to the UK’s nuclear industry, which has a significant footprint in the North West.

    He has taken huge strides, achieving the quality standard ISO 9001 required by the sector, and CAD/CAM has certainly helped lay the foundations to fully integrate design and manufacturing processes.

    The next step is adopting new CNC machines that will connect to the design software.

    “Once we have the new kit, jobs that used to take up to five hours will reduce to 30 minutes. This will pave the way for increased efficiency and productivity. It will also lead to an increase in the smooth integration of our organisation, our customers, and our supply chain.

    “While uncertain times lie ahead, I am confident this new technology will help us achieve our aim of growing turnover by 30% over the next year and take on two more engineers.”

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