Machines are only part of the story at Warren’s Way

Productivity and flexibility are key reasons why this company standardised on Haas machining centres and Takisawa lathes.

“In order to survive in today’s competitive marketplace, general engineering workshops must find ways to cut costs and increase productivity – all without sacrificing quality. People don’t like to accept second best at all. You have to exceed the customer’s expectations, or they’re going to go somewhere else,” said Warren Petersen, Managing Director of Warren’s Way Engineering.

“There aren’t many options for companies our size. If you’re going to stay busy, and continue to meet the customer’s needs, you have to invest in new technology and equipment. It’s like continuing your education. For small companies, the future depends on modernisation.”

“And this is what we have done over the years. Investing in a CNC machine tool shouldn’t require nerves of steel. But, for owners of small to medium sized machine shops with a need for high-productivity CNC machining, that’s exactly what used to be the case. High purchase cost and complexity were usually enough to put off those with anything less than a cast-iron composure.”

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The latest acquisition by Warren’s Way is a Haas UMC-750 universal machining centre, for 3+2 and simultaneous 5-axis machining

However, the heart of every successful business—particularly any growing business—is its leadership. Often, the clear leader is the owner or entrepreneur who founded the company. This is the case with Warren Petersen – a larger than life character who has learnt from the bottom up and regards his father, Cliff Petersen, as his mentor and will always respect him for that.

“At the age of seven I started visiting my Dad’s machine shop during school holidays and was put to work sweeping the floors, to earn my pocket money. I even recall being mistakenly left behind one day and all I was worried about was getting paid for the extra time I had put in, and that was at 20 cents an hour.”

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The management team of Warren Pretorius, Elani Smith with Fiona and Warren Petersen

“From sweeping the floors I was assigned other tasks in the machine shop as I got older. I knew I was no academic and at school I got my N3, which all led to me qualifying as a fitter and turner at the age of 21.”

“That year I also took a big decision in my life. Both my grandfather and father were qualified artisans and had started their own businesses so I wanted to follow in their footsteps. Fortunately my father stood suretyship for me on my first machine – a Takisawa TC 3 NC lathe – and I have not looked back. My father was also a partner in the business until 2005.”

“The first few years were tough in that I did not want to let anybody down, least of all myself. I turned one of the offices into bedroom and often used to sleep at the factory so that I was able to set the machines for the night shift, and along with two other operators we made sure we got the work out, which mainly consisted of hydraulic cylinder components that just required turning operations.”

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Warren’s Way Engineering now have 10 Haas machines on their shopfloor. These include six vertical machining centres with a work envelope from 1016 x 508 x 635mm to 1270 x 660 x 635mm, all with fully intergrated 4th axis capabilities and three Haas EC-1600 horizontal machining centres each with built in 4th axis rotary tables allowing for simultaneous 4-axis milling

“Warren Pretorius, who is a school friend, is my right hand man and the company’s Technical Director. He joined me in my second year of business and has been with the company for nearly 20 years.”

“From the beginning we both believed that the single best way to ensure long-term success in business is to enable your people to be successful themselves. How can I help someone on my team grow? Generally, I’ve found there are four needs that, if met to some degree, will help a person realise their potential: help them feel needed, help them feel important, help them recognise they are contributing to something important, and help them advance professionally and personally.”

First machining centre
“Although this is an important philosophy in the business the machines are a vital tool in the equation. We acquired our second Takisawa CNC lathe in our second year of business and have subsequently acquired a further eight, the last of them being installed in August last year.”

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A selection of the smaller components that Warren’s Way Engineering has manufactured for clients

“CNC turning has been the mainstay of the business and will continue to be so going forward. In 1995 we realised that if we wanted to grow the business we would need to offer more and different machining operations, and this is when we purchased our first machining centre, an Okuma CNC VR40 vertical machining centre.”

“In 2002 we purchased our first Haas VF3 Vertical CNC machining centre, and shortly thereafter Haas CNC toolroom mill with a 4th axis.”

Standardising on one machine manufacturer
“As we had done with our turning department, which has live tooling capabilities, by standardising on the Takisawa CNC lathes we also made the decision to standardise on Haas machining centres going forward.”

“The rational behind this is simple and twofold. We did not want a mixture of machines supplied by a number of different manufacturers on the floor because one, it would mean dealing with a number of different suppliers and secondly, and more importantly, the programming on the same make of machine would eliminate many variables between the different manufacturer’s machines, which you only learn about once you have them on the floor.”

“Working with data in varying formats and machines with various specifications can be a challenge to operators, but by standardising on one manufacturer it helps them better optimise productivity and our profitability. Of course an added advantage is that the operators can easily be moved from machine to machine without having to go through a learning curve.”

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One of the three Haas EC 1600 horizontal machining centres, all of them having fully integrated 4th-axis capabilities

“Standardising on the Takisawa lathes is historical but if you want to know why we chose Haas when we needed another machining centre, then service, back-up and reasonable pricing are as significant as reliability for adopting that brand.”

Introducing the Haas UMC-750 universal 5-axis machining centre
“We now have 10 Haas machines on our shopfloor. These include six vertical machining centres with a work envelope from 1016 x 508 x 635mm to 1270 x 660 x 635mm, all with fully intergrated 4th axis capabilities and three Haas EC-1600 horizontal machining centres each with built in 4th axis rotary tables allowing for simultaneous 4-axis milling.”

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A gear box that is machined on six sides in two operations on the Haas EC 1600 horizontal machining centre

“What is interesting with these machines is that the specifications are generally bigger than we need for the type of machining that we are currently carrying out for our clients. It is something that my father taught me. Rather have a bigger machine because it is a lot easier to put a small component on a bigger machine than a big component on a small machine. And because we have the bigger size machines we can activly canvass for this type of machining.”

The latest acquisition by Warren’s Way is a Haas UMC-750 universal machining centre, for 3+2 and simultaneous 5-axis machining.

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Warren’s Way Engineering has developed its own pneumatic clamping system for the jigs when machining

“The flexible 5-axis machining centre, which was only installed by Haas in March 2014 and is the first one to be installed in South Africa by them, offers reduced set-up times and increased accuracy for multi-sided and complex parts. It comes with travels of 762 x 508 x 508mm and an integrated dual-axis trunnion table. The machine is equipped with an inline direct-drive, low-heat 40-taper spindle and comes standard with a 40+1 tool side-mount tool changer. The trunnion can position parts to nearly any angle for 5-sided (3+2) machining, or provide simultaneous 5-axis motion for contouring and complex machining. The machine provides +35 and -110 degrees of tilt and 360 degrees of rotation for excellent tool clearance and large part capacity.”

Reducing set-up time and machining time
“Warren (Pretorius) and myself went to visit the Haas Automation facility in Oxnard, California, USA two years ago and we were introduced to the UMC-750, which at that stage was still in a protype and testing phase.”

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All CNC machines have their own Renishaw probe

“We have always adopted measures to keep the company viable and competitive, hence most of the machines have 4th axis capabilities and now we have invested in our first 5th axis machine. Included in our efforts in this area are special jig manufacture, compressed air clamping and the Haas Visual Quick Code Probing System, which includes both a high-resolution spindle probe and a contact tool setting probe.

“Reducing setup time is essential to reducing lead times, batch sizes and work-in-process levels. The company has worked hard to adopt quick change-over procedures in its machining operations. What sets this effort apart is that the company has exercised extraordinary discipline and persistence in this pursuit, striving to maintain a sense of urgency despite the lack of a glaring emergency. The results have been impressive.”

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Warren’s Way Engineering has installed the Iscar automated tool dispensing (ATD) system, MATRIX, and standardized on Iscar tooling

“Reducing set-up time and machining time is a constant challenge but ultimately a must for any machine shop.”

“The UMC-750 fitted our requirements and the culture of the company so it did not take us long to make the decision to purchase one.”

Warren’s Way Engineering, established in 1994, have specialised in finished precision components. Customers operate in varying fields in idustry. This includes mining, electrical, transport and general engineering. The components machined are too numerous to mention but some to highlight include chain components, pump components, gearbox components, bushes, bearing housings, drive shafts, electrical motor components, air tool components and mining spares, for a variety of underground machinery.

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A continuous coal cutting T drum that has been roughed and milled by the company

The components vary in size and weight and although they are restricted to the size of their machines, they can be assisted by associated family companies that are located in the same complex as Warren’s Way.

The company machines most materials and machines from solid or castings. Castings are supplied by the client or the OEM company they deal with.

Warren’s Way can now also proudly announce their recent achievement of obtaining ISO 9001 rating for their manufacturing facility, which was awarded to them in February 2014. They are also a Level 6 BBBEE verified company.

The company, based in Wadeville, Gauteng, has grown from leasing a 500 m² factory in the current complex to becoming landlords and now occupying 2000 m². The associated family companies that are located in the same complex include Cliff’s Way Aerospace and Engineering, Try Bar Engineering and Delmas Drum and Engineering. Although Warren’s Way has its own inspection and quality capabilties more complex measuring can be carried out at these companies, which have 3D measuring capabilties.

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The company has two vertical boring machines

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Aluminium components that Warren’s Way Engineering has finished machined

Warren’s Way does not do any designing but does use high-end machining software such as EdgeCam and is about to purchase the Vericut simulation software as well as a 5-axis maching software.

“Like our machines we have also standardised on our tooling supplier. We use Iscar tooling for this requirement.”

Wisdom in maturity
“Although we are a relatively young company – this is our 20th anniversary year – and Warren and I are in our early forties, growing with our customers and keeping up to date with technology has always been our motto. We also realise that, although machines are important in our endeavours, it is the people that work here and how we treat them that make it successful. We have matured over the years and will continue to do so,” concluded Petersen.

For further details contact Warren’s Way Engineering on TEL: 011 827 1921 or Warren Petersen on 082 606 0280 or visit www.warrensway.com