Pemberton Engineering is enjoying 25% more throughput since investing in the latest Sodick wire EDM technology. The introduction of a VL600Q from Sodi-Tech EDM at the company’s Wolverhampton facility is driving greater productivity in the manufacture of automotive press tools, jigs and fixtures.
Founded in 1984, Pemberton Engineering has been specialising in toolmaking ever since. Initially focusing on small press tools for the lock industry, which was still flourishing in the Black Country during that time, the company soon shifted its emphasis to the automotive sector. From large tools for truck and tractor components, Pemberton Engineering has evolved into an established supplier of high-precision press tools, including complex progression tooling, to tier-one and tier-two automotive manufacturers.
“Apart from a short six-week closure for the initial UK lockdown due to COVID-19, we’ve been busy all year,” states Managing Director Darren Pemberton. “In fact, buoyant is the word I’d use to describe business right now, which is exactly why we needed more wire EDM capacity.”
There are three core elements to business at Pemberton Engineering: toolmaking, CNC machining and wire erosion. However, heavy investment in the former two disciplines had left wire erosion lagging slightly behind, creating a bottleneck in production.
“Although we were already running two wire EDMs, we knew that another would deliver a major boost to operations and allow us to provide our customers with even better service and support,” explains Mr Pemberton. “Having looked around at the leading wire EDM models in the capacity range we required, the Sodick VL600Q was the obvious choice. Particularly attractive was the 25% increase in speed it would offer over our existing machines.”
The VL600Q houses Sodick’s latest LN2W series power supply unit, which is capable of high-speed, high-precision and high-efficiency machining. Linear motors also feature, providing high-speed axis motion and quick response times. Installed at Pemberton Engineering in October 2020, the Sodi-Tech EDM team had the machine commissioned and running in 1½ days. Following three days of training, the company was set to go.
“Beyond our single shift pattern, the VL600Q is already running lights-out overnight and at weekends,” says Mr Pemberton. “At present, the machine is dedicated almost exclusively to punch and die work, as well as forming steels for press tools – all for the automotive sector. Everything is a 1-off and made from tool steel, and although we do some repair and modification work, the vast majority of what we produce is new development tooling that we trial in-house on our 350-tonne try-out press. This capability means we can offer a turnkey production route service to our clients.”
The tools that Pemberton Engineering tasks its Sodick VL600Q with producing are both complex and precise, meaning there is no margin for error. Mistakes might lead to reworking or even scrap tools, which can prove costly.
“I’m pleased to report that we’re really impressed with the Sodick machine’s performance, which has been faultless to date,” says Mr Pemberton. “We regularly load it up with four or five jobs and leave it to cut by itself. It has totally eliminated bottlenecks within our workflow.”
Such is the company’s success that it is now looking to achieve higher sales in a number of other sectors outside of the automotive arena, including aerospace, renewable energy and rail. Pemberton Engineering purchased its neighbouring industrial unit in 2018 – which is where the new Sodick machine is located – doubling the size of its production facility. This development helped Pemberton Engineering get away from the “clutter and disorganisation” of traditional toolrooms and create a much sleeker process at every stage. The company has also recently completed AS9100 accreditation for the aerospace industry, which it hopes will put the business on a pedestal among its peers.
“We used to sell on price alone and, although we remain competitive, professional service, reliability and our design and manufacturing skills are what set us apart these days,” concludes Mr Pemberton. “We go above and beyond expectations to get customer products completed to a high level of quality within the required timeframe. As we work in the very fast-moving automotive sector, customers need high levels of support and flexibility. Across the industry our clients deem us ‘a safe pair of hands’, which is not dissimilar to how I would describe our new Sodick wire EDM.”