Established in 1982 and located in Newcastle Australia, Melvelle Equipment Corp is a second generation, Australian owned family business that manufactures specialised rail maintenance equipment.
Andrew Melvelle (right) with his Machine Shop Leading Hand in front of their Mazak Integrex i-200S with a Mazak GL-150F gantry loader plus a Hydrafeed MSV 65 bar feeder.
Melvelle has built an enviable reputation in the rail industry, here in Australia and overseas, for the unique rail track maintenance equipment they design and manufacture locally.
Recently Melvelle has developed battery operated equipment to replace some of the internal combustion engine powered equipment, to satisfy the demands of the rail industry.
One of these products is the “Trackpack” system which is a modular platform with multiple capabilities, designed to reduce initial capital outlay and overall maintenance costs.
The Trackpack is a complete hydraulic power unit with boom arm and rail trolley, designed to allow the use of multiple hydraulic work heads without the need for numerous power supplies. A quick-change boom allows easy change over from one head to another, with adjustable counterbalance positioning so the weight on the operator handles never exceeds 3-5kg.
The system is powered by two lithium battery cells, and can be coupled with nine different work heads or other hydraulic hand tools. Traditionally, engines were either petrol or diesel powered to drive the heads hydraulically. Now with the battery cells, the system can run a full 8 hour shift (work head dependent) and the batteries can be recharged in 2-4 hours. Charged batteries can swapped out to extend shifts.
The work heads include an ‘E’ Clip inserter/remover, Fastclip inserter and remover, steel sleeper clip inserter and remover, spike puller for removing dog and lock spikes or screws, spike driver, sleeper drill and screw inserter/remover, dedicated E clip remover, Safelok clip inserter and remover as well as a variety of other tools including dedicated units for grinding, shearing, drilling, clipping, pulling and driving rail fasteners.
Melvelle’s machine shop has always been equipped with Mazak machine tools, and the company has recently made an investment in the latest generation of Mazaks to become more globally competitive.
We spoke to Andrew Melvelle, the CEO of Melvelle Equipment Corp, about what these latest Mazak additions will mean for his business.
Q: What were the reasons behind these additions to your machine shop?
A: We are chasing efficiency as we need to compete in the global marketplace with our products.
The Australian market, our main market, is very small compared to where our competitors operate from. This means that their “economies of scale” allow them to manufacture in greater batch quantities, sometimes having dedicated machines set permanently to produce one component.
To run against these competitors, we need to extend our shifts and run “unmanned” as much as practically possible.
Q: Why did you choose the Mazak Integrex i-200S?
A: When we analysed our production, sometimes we would set up at least 3 times to complete a component on up to 3 different machines. Turning and milling operations would occur on 90% of our products. We realised, that if we could load a raw blank and unload a fully finished component, we would make huge competitive gains.
We considered many brands, but the Mazak was the only one with a proprietary gantry loader not an external added product.
The other consideration was the programming of the machine. It is simple compared to the other brands. I found that the other brands relied too much on programming with CAM software which takes the operator away from the machine. I like my guys to understand what the machine is doing, not just be button pushers.
Finally Mazak have renowned reliability built into them. I have used many Mazak machines over the years as a machinist and have always regarded the Mazak machines as my No1 pick. They have always given me years of trouble-free running.
Q: What benefits have you achieved?
A: The Mazak Integrex i200S, due to its multi-tasking capabilities has allowed us to save many machine hours. On one part, we reduced our component time from 5 hours and 6 setups to 40 minutes and only 2 setups.
We have utilised unmanned operation for the first time in our history, with the machine gantry loaded or bar fed, over nights and whole weekends. It is amazing how much pressure is taken from the operator when they don’t have to be at the machine to load blanks. They are able to plan new jobs and monitor the work as it comes off the machine as the machine is performing tool checking and measuring items before they are unloaded.
Q: Why did you order the Mazak HCN-8800 horizontal machining center?
A: It was time for us to upgrade our old Mazak H20 twin pallet machine, and we needed to extend our machining envelope for future product developments.
The HCN will have one pallet permanently setup for machining one of our components. Currently this component has 2 setups, on 2 pallets to allow completion, but with the new machine we will complete the component with 1 setup, thanks to a suggestion from John Hart. As the machine has 2 pallets, we now have the option to duplicate jigs to allow higher production levels of this component or move work from our other machines.
Q: What benefits will this machine deliver?
A: The new machine will have probing to allow measuring, as well as Mazak’s Orbiturn function. We are really looking forward to utilising this function, reducing the number of fixed boring bars and setups needed to produce many of the bores in our products.
We have also ordered the full NC rotary table allowing infinite positioning. There has been many jobs over the years where we have had to manually setup for a special angle or had to decline jobs that needed 4th axis work.
Q: What are your thoughts about John Hart opening in Newcastle?
A: During the purchasing phase, having John Hart people available and local to discuss face to face is invaluable. They came to our facility and took the time to understand our products and made suggestions on the machine configuration. This allowed us to select the ideal machine for our needs.
The John Hart team is very responsive when it comes to helping with problems and being local gives me confidence that we will have a technician quickly if we really need one urgently.
Yes we can all trouble shoot over the phone, but being able to have a representative at my door in 20 minutes is gold and adds considerable weight to all our future purchasing decisions.
John Hart has provided us with world-class manufacturing technology and support.
Melvelle's Trackpack system is a modular platform with multiple capabilities, designed to reduce initial capital outlay and overall maintenance costs.