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JJ Hardy addresses skills gap with new Mazak turning centre

A Hartlepool-based company is hoping that a new machine investment will help overcome the chronic skills gap for CNC machinists in the North East.

JJ Hardy is investing in the new Mazak technology, a QTE-200 SG turning centre, as a way of plugging the skills gap for CNC machinists and introducing an unmanned shift as a way of keeping up with demand for its machining services.

Andrew Pailor, Managing Director of JJ Hardy, says the new machine will increase turning capacity at the company’s Hartlepool site. “Our plan is to get more out of what we have. We will use technology, including new machines and, in time, additional automation, to increase our machining capacity with one manned shift and one unmanned shift each day.”

He continued: “We have an older Mazak turning centre machine that has been a good solution for us and it has outperformed some of our more expensive competitor machines. However, it doesn’t have some of the equipment we need to get it to run unmanned.

“The new QTE machine is an affordable solution that will be equipped with a Hydrafeed Barfeed, a parts racking system for finished components and an automatic tool eye for inspecting the tooling. Most importantly, we will also have the ability to monitor its work online, while it is running unmanned.”

JJ Hardy was founded in 1856 in Hartlepool with the Pailor family taking control in 1929. Andrew Pailor took over from his father, the third generation of Pailors to run the company, in 2002.

The company now has an eight-strong machine tool shop, concentrating on automotive and energy work, with a particular specialism in the rail sector, manufacturing a wide range of components, including bogie parts, hangar bolts, shackles, suspension links and impellers.

Andrew also believes that Mazak technology can help him address the skills gap. “My mother and father who ran the company before me were committed Mazak users with one of the key reasons for their loyalty being the Mazak conversational programming CNC that has always been very easy for operators to learn.

“The new QTE is equipped with Mazak’s latest MAZATROL innovation, SmoothEz, a touchscreen CNC that takes easy programming to another level. It’s now so easy to program that we can put CNC operators with much less experience onto the machine and they can be running it, unsupervised, very quickly. SmoothEz will help us address the chronic skills gap for CNC machinists in the North East and across the UK.”

Described as a simple and compact machine design, the QTE is equipped with a high torque spindle and 12-position drum turret, along with capacity for 12 different tools. “The QTE is the latest stage of our journey. We started 165 years ago as a foundry, then became a machine shop before developing into a CNC machine shop. Now we are upskilling again with the latest technology to give us a competitive edge.”