The need to succeed

The combination of the CMS mill and hyperMill CAM package has definitely led to a reduction in machine times
The combination of the CMS mill and hyperMill CAM package has definitely led to a reduction in machine times

AGN Composites’ sales director, Alex Mortimer explains how a combination of its competitive motorsport nature and need to succeed has enabled the company to deliver high quality products and service.

 

Proactive, dynamic and hungry – and driven by a need to succeed. Having cut its teeth in the fast-paced and competitive world of motorsport, AGN Composites has transferred this spirit into the subcontract composites manufacturing industry.

The company’s team of three directors have now built a business that delivers high quality composite components with clear project pricing and management and reliable component delivery scheduling. Nearly four years into its journey, AGN has continued to grow sustainably and organically - even through the pandemic.

Q) What are the types of performance demands placed on your company by today’s customers?

AGN started predominantly working in the motorsport sector and whilst we have branched out in a number of other areas, we still complete a large amount of motorsport and automotive work. That sector is a demanding area to work within with extremely short deadlines - whether it’s on car build and development, mid-year upgrades or repair of composite panel work. It’s completely typical to have to turn new component requests from solid model data, through to a pattern model we can mould from, through to machined patterns, composite moulds and a finished component within 7-14 days - and sometimes less depending on the customer!

AGN initially began working in the motorsport sector
AGN initially began working in the motorsport sector

It would be naive in any industry to say that price was not a critical part of our offering, but I would like to believe that by demonstrating reliability and continuity of quality supply that our customers look beyond the last £1 saving on an invoice and view what we offer in terms of open dialogue, site visits, troubleshooting and communication as a larger package that carries a value. Our experience within the motorsport industry also allows us to add value for customers going through the new part cycle.

Our repair department is probably the best example of our hand-in-hand approach with customers. We often have diarised slots to visit teams and competitors especially during the season where we collect panels and components after a race event as the cars go into re-prep. We then take the panels to our repair facility and get them back into shape for race use again, often with turnarounds as short as three days. The modern demands of motorsport means teams will often compete with one car in a number of championships, so it is not unusual to see back-to-back events now.

Q) Why did you select CMS as a supplier and what is your CMS CNC machining centre mainly used for?

When we started AGN, a 5-axis mill was on the radar - as was CMS among other manufacturers. All we needed was the business case to support and justify the investment. That business case came together and we began to reach out to the suppliers. Whilst I don’t think we had any terrible experiences, the communication, professionalism and confidence-inspiring presentation put forward by the CMS team really stood out to us. CMS is a known and respected brand in the industry with huge experience to draw from and they made the step from 3-axis work we were completing previously to 5-axis seamless. Their delivery also matched the sales pitch. Typically, we use the machine for large patterns, moulds and fixtures.

AGN Composites has built a business that delivers high quality composite components
AGN Composites has built a business that delivers high quality composite components

AGN’s latest equipment purchases have been the addition of the CMS Ares 5-axis milling machine and Open Mind hyperMill CAM system for the production of patterns, moulds and fixtures.

Q) How happy are you with the CMS machine tool’s performance?

The combination of the CMS mill and hyperMill CAM package has definitely led to a reduction in machine times. Ignoring the saving from reduction in cycle time, adjusting fixtures and holding strategies, we are subtracting material at a higher rate than we were - and finishing faster with higher precision.

Q) Overall, what kinds of productivity benefits have you derived from the successful implementation and use of the CMS machine?

In essence, for us the CNC machines feed the business as nobody can progress without a pattern or a mould, so projects can stall if processing times go up. Our production team dealing with new projects is governed by how fast patterns and moulds can be created. By reducing cycle times on the machine, we are sending more patterns up for laminating and clearing more projects, which can only be positive.

Q) What have you been doing to get through the pandemic crisis?

Thankfully, after an initial shutdown of two weeks we were back to work quickly. Motorsport condensed the whole of 2020 into about four months, which was eye-opening and the pace of work quite incredible. However, we got stronger and thankfully grew - and have continued to do so since. The bulk of our work operates at the ‘elite sport’ level, so there were limited cancellations of events. We were certainly more fortunate than some other industries.

Q) What particular aspect has helped your company get through the pandemic?

AGN Composites cut its teeth in the fast-paced world of motorsport
AGN Composites cut its teeth in the fast-paced world of motorsport

Without doubt the ability to keep pace with the customer demands. When motorsport did restart, we responded by running evening and weekend shifts so that we absorbed stress from customers who were in turn receiving their annual demand in four months. I would like to think that by being a solid supplier and getting through the hard times with our customers, it’s one of the factors that has led to increased levels of work being placed with us.

Q) Have you used this pandemic-enforced downtime to ‘reset’ and look at how effectively you are running your business?

It did help us take stock of our direction and strategy. We also completed a building move to give us three times more space during the initial phase. That was a plan originally conceived for the close of 2020, but we managed to accelerate it on the basis that we had hoped to be busy again by the winter, so we gambled on a mid-year move which translated to be a good decision.

Q) What kind of industry landscape will we faced now that everything is getting back to normal?

There is no doubt we have felt raw material price increases, which hopefully will return so that we remain competitive against other markets. However our biggest customer - the motorsport industry - has been surprisingly resilient considering its high level of self-employed contractors who undoubtedly felt a lot of pain in 2020. From what we see, motorsport federations are continuing to plan events nationally and globally, which whilst they undoubtedly will have more procedures in place to be Covid-secure, I would hope will mean we won’t see a reduction in events, programmes and projects for our industry. That maybe a ‘rose-tinted’ view I have, but it’s the one I’m taking!

Q) Would you say that your long-standing partnerships have brought huge benefits, particularly as trusted relationships can lead to a better way forward for all?

Without doubt. Our customer base has grown and grown, which I put down to continuity of supply, communication and quality of output. Our aim is not to give them a reason to leave!

Q) What are the most important assets of a company: a defined strategy, its people, its experience, its use of technology, its location or a combination of all these points?

It’s hard to say that without a combination of all of those you could succeed with any scale. I think everyone has heard of the five P’s (prior planning prevents poor performance), which is certainly a mantra we have tried to operate by. We have been diligent in setting an annual strategy and reviewing back to see where we achieved and where we fell short. But in the industry we work, the people are the biggest asset. Without our engaged and enthusiastic work force, there is no way we could have got to where we are today organically as we have. We run the business between 9-5, but we grow the business in all the other hours - and that’s where great staff have pushed us forward.

Q) What differentiates your company from the competition?

Our proactive, dynamic and hungry nature. We are just under four years into the AGN journey and have grown sustainably and organically even through the pandemic. That I believe is because we cut our teeth in a sporting world and have transferred that to the industry we work inside now. There are some incredible composites suppliers in the market place who we admire and in many ways want to emulate but we will do it in our own way by taking our competitive motorsport nature and need to succeed and use that in delivering high quality products and service. If you don’t believe me try us!

Q) Where to next for your company?

We have large growth plans inside the production arm of the business over the next three years which are maturing at a nice rate. Our composite repair business continues to grow and we would like to work with more European motorsport entities, as and when we work out the most efficient route to do so. Without doubt we will be listening to customer demands and follow accordingly. But the aerospace industry is an extremely attractive proposition and one we have been quietly laying foundations to move toward.

www.agncomposites.co.uk

www.cms.it

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