Saxon Engineering - Creating Skills
Based in the Medway town of Gillingham, Kent, Saxon Engineering have been producing high standard precision metalwork engineering since 1989. The company has steadily grown and supplies to an expanding customer base mainly in the aerospace, scientific research and printing industries.
Continued investment in not just technology but its staff has enabled the company to maintain its high quality and keep its competitive edge in sub-contracting.
“Our highly skilled workforce can tackle anything; from a one-off copy of an existing part through to a large quantity of complex CAD components,” explains company owner Bill Wilkinson. “Our aim is to ensure complete customer satisfaction by producing accurate work of excellent quality, getting it right to tolerance and finish.
“We’ve earned an impressive reputation throughout Medway and the whole of Kent for our professional and honest attitude and friendly ‘can-do’ approach to engineering.”
Saxon Engineering currently employs 13 staff, of whom 6 are fully skilled CNC programmers that mentor the company’s apprentices. Two apprentices are on a release scheme at Medway College and another is full time.
“Finding skilled staff is next to impossible,” states Bill Wilkinson. “By offering training to young people from local schools and colleges we’re investing in our future, the future of the kids and the future of the area. Engineering is still thought of as a dirty job; we try to show school kids that actually it doesn’t have to be.
“We’re heavily involved with the Medway Education Business Partnership and regularly take in work experience kids for one or two week periods.
“They really enjoy it and learn a huge amount, including how to make a proper cup of tea! Also, being able to pass on their knowledge gives our skilled staff a real sense of fulfilment.
“It’s vital to have the right skills, we’re lucky to have guys who are in perfect harmony with our machines- they can make them sing.”
“This gives us a confidence in our capability, and our customers have confidence in us. We don’t have any salesmen; we get all our work from our website, repeat business and word of mouth.
“I can attribute a lot of our success to the fact that we have heavily invested in Haas CNC machines. Saxon bought the first one 15 years ago and we’ve never looked back.
“We’re currently running 12 Haas machines, comprising a couple of Haas lathes including an ST-20 Y-axis lathe, equipped with full live tooling. Our 10 Haas verticals range from Mini Mills up to our latest investment, a 5-axis VF-5TR, which was installed in 2014.
“It’s important to remember that 5-axis machining involves the whole system – the CNC machine, cutting tools, workholding, and control must work together in harmony.
“Having the bigger 5-axis machine has meant we can take on work we couldn’t have done before. In fact, recently I was out walking my Jack Russell who began pestering another dog. I got talking to the other dog’s owner and discovered he runs an aerospace company.
“To cut a long story short, we now have a contract supplying them with aluminium baseplates, because of the larger envelope and 5-axis capability of the Haas VF-5TR.
“We’re glad we invested in that first Haas when we did – and the rest since then. We’re expanding into the unit next door, and have plans to fill it with more equipment.
“When we do,” Bill Wilkinson concludes, “we’ll increase our capacity with Haas machines, because they’ve served us well over the years – and we’re very happy about that.”
Photographs & Story by Matthew Chedgey.