St. Paul, MN (July 24, 2018) — (Reprint from Production Engineering Solutions)
Founded in 1976, family owned Roscomac has navigated the ups and downs of the precision subcontracting market to survive as a modern, lean manufacturing operation, proud of its engineering tradition and talent.
On the face of it the prospects for a typical UK precision engineering subcontractor may seem tough: rising overheads, skills shortages, increasingly demanding customers and industry certifications, as well as cut-rate foreign competition make it a difficult environment in which to win business.
In fact, a few years ago it seemed as if every new machining contract was being outsourced by OEMs to Far Eastern job shops made up of thousands of pressganged employees, working 24/7 for a pittance and never being far away from a health and safety disaster.
However, one company is demonstrating that despite these barriers UK manufacturers can still be competitive. Worthing, West Sussex-based Roscomac supplies a diverse range of high precision parts and sub-assemblies for blue-chip, top tier companies and OEMs involved in sectors such as aerospace, medical, oil and gas, automotive and general engineering.
Founded by company chairman Fernando Martello, who began his engineering career in Turin, the AS 9100 certified company has grown to employ more than 90 staff, producing around one million parts per year.
The company’s plant list reads like a compilation of every prevailing metalworking technology available, with CNC machining centers, turning centers, sliding head lathes, grinders, deburring, finishing and washing equipment, CMMs and other inspection systems.
Joseph Martello, Fernando’s son and managing director for the last 19 years, comments: “Our machining capacity has grown organically to accommodate the total solutions we provide for our customers. It also means that by bringing that capacity in-house we have more control of the whole process from start to finish.”
Roscomac describes itself as being able to take the pain away from its customers’ manufacturing requirements with advice and input from the initial design, through early part batches, right through to full scale volume production. It machines most types of metals and has the capacity to hold stock so it can ensure constant supply, direct delivery and other just-in-time/Kanban delivery needs and manufacturing practices for its customers.
Tim Ede, key account manager at Roscomac, explains: “We try to be a one-stop-shop for our customers. We offer CAD/CAM input on the design for manufacturing, we can mill, drill, turn, grind, deburr finish, assemble and test, as well as source any specialist finishing treatments from our partners. This is a real advantage when I visit a new customer and can offer a whole package for what might be a very complex component made with many different processes.”
Roscomac continues to evolve and transition itself. Mr Martello has just taken delivery of a new Matsuura MX-520 5-axis machining center and this is soon to be joined by two more Matsuura MAM72-35V machines with a 32-pallet loading system.
Furthermore, under the guidance of operations director Stuart Burdock, the company has adopted lean manufacturing management systems to ensure OTIF (On time, in full) performance indicators are consistently above 95%.
The aim of the investment in manufacturing technology and working practices is to consolidate the company’s machining capability into its Worthing facility. This comes after Joseph Martello decided the company could be just as competitive as a sole UK operation as the rest of Europe.
In 2008 the company established a manufacturing facility in the Czech Republic but after seven years of operation Mr Martello concluded that having another sizeable manufacturing operation abroad was becoming a drain on the company’s resources. Although the company still has many Czech and European customers, manufacturing is now carried out predominantly in Worthing.
He says: “We can do everything here just as efficiently as we can in the Czech Republic. I was spending more time in airports than being productive. I want to focus on making our UK operation a world-class facility. The brand and reputation of British manufacturing still counts for a lot internationally.”
This confidence in UK engineering know-how and talent is shared by Mr Ede.
“British manufacturing’s reputation is still very strong in the worldwide market,” he affirms.
“There is plenty of work out there and UK companies are also bringing a lot more business back to these shores. We have one customer who was fed up with the supply chain issues using an overseas supplier caused. Delivery was slow and costly and quality was unreliable. When transportation and other factors were included, the price benefits were very marginal and created a lot more hassle.”
Invest to thrive
Joseph Martello admits that winning work is always challenging but if companies are prepared to reinvest it will always prove beneficial in the long-term. The company for some time has operated a Fastems manufacturing cell linked to six machine tools and 104 pallets and it is carefully considering further automation.
He says: “It is difficult to make healthy margins but you do have to keep investing – if you sit on your hands you are only going to make things tougher for yourself eventually. We have a regular financing cycle that means our investment levels always remain the same. Also, if you have the latest technology you can attract the right kind of hi-end work. You have to create the right image for certain customers, and that’s not only about shiny new machines. They are just one part of the equation but just as important are the people. If you have the latest technology then it is easier to retain staff. It’s more interesting for them and something they challenge me about regularly.”
Mr. Ede adds: “New technology costs but it speeds throughput and that makes us more competitive. We also have blue-chip customers that expect similar levels of systems and capabilities that they have themselves. The fact that we are a 90 strong, 50 machine tool company demonstrates that we have a substantial amount of resources and capability and can offer a highly professional service.”
So in many ways Roscomac seems to be a UK engineering subcontractor that other homegrown companies could learn from.
Mr. Martello says: “The solutions we give our customers are very different than they were just five years ago. You have to be able to react a lot faster and make your processes more efficient across the board. It is also very important to have a two-way flow of communication in the organization, from the management to the shop floor and vice versa. I like the fact that our staff feel they can talk to me about anything. That’s why we have a team brief with the whole company every quarter, so we can let everyone know what is happening and they can feed back to us too.”
And there’s no doubt that Messrs Martello senior and junior have created a family atmosphere in the company.
Joseph says: When I started as an apprentice I would get a lot of stick because I was the boss’s son. If I did something it had to be twice as good as anyone else but if the guys on the shop floor feel they can help to come up with solutions to make things more efficiently then all the better.”
And Mr. Ede says Fernando Martello’s Italian passion for engineering is something that runs right through the heart of the company.
He says: “The great thing about Roscomac is that the senior staff are all very capable time served engineers. We have the knowledge and skills when we sit in a customer’s boardroom to not only sell our services but also provide confidence in our ability to give them a complete solution.
“That skill and knowledge is something that travels right down through all levels of the business. Joe’s passion, comes straight from his father and even though Fernando speaks with an Italian accent he is proud to be English and proud of British engineering. That’s a philosophy shared by all the management team. We want to continue to make the company succeed and move on to the next level.”
Joseph Martello concludes: “We are being proactive and working ultimately with our investment decisions to make everything easier for the company as a whole. It is a tough market out there but I think customers are realizing that local sourcing and the quality of British engineering are actually things that make a big difference when they are looking for suppliers.”
Learn more about Roscomac at www.roscomac.com. Image above: Tim Ede, key account manager at Roscomac, with the company’s new Matsuura MX-520 5-axis machining center.
Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc., located in St. Paul, MN is the U.S. subsidiary of Matsuura Machinery Corporation in Japan. Since 1935, Matsuura has been the forerunner in designing innovative technology and manufacturing solutions to a variety of industries around the globe. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. delivers unmatched excellence in 5-axis, vertical, horizontal, linear motor, multi-tasking CNC machine tools and machines with a powder bed metal AM platform with machining capability. Matsuura Machinery USA, Inc. provides the service, applications and technical field support that have always been the Matsuura standard for business. For more information on Matsuura products, contact: [email protected] or visit: www.matsuurausa.com.