Since purchasing Parish Engineering from his employer back in 1980, Graeme Sinclair and his family have continually invested in automation, keeping the company at the forefront of turned production parts manufacture in Australia. A large factor of the company’s success comes from the shift to lights-out manufacturing. While Graeme can enjoy a sound night’s sleep, he is safe in the knowledge that things are ticking along just nicely. By Martin Oakham.
Parish manufactures both simple and complex turned components for a wide range of industries including automotive, shipping, airconditioning, security, fire protection, agriculture, mining, white goods and defence. To do this effectively, it uses a wide range of machines including manual lathes, cam-autos, CNC conventional and sliding-head lathes, and multi-axis machining centres.
The company was founded in 1932 by Bill Parish and formed into a limited company in 1944. Production part manufacture has been the focus throughout its history, with Parish investing in the first cam auto lathe in Australia.
“They did a lot of work for the war effort in munitions and were a regional supplier to the first Holden, so it has a long history of doing great work” says Sinclair. “Mr Parish never had any children to pass the company on to, so in 1968 he agreed to sell up to Mr Henbest, a salesman who negotiated the purchase over a five-year period.
“In 1972 the two owners met with their solicitor with regard to finding a replacement for Mr Parish, who was into his seventies and wanted to retire. Mr Parish wanted someone who had a trade and qualifications to fill his shoes. I left school at 14 and did an engineering apprenticeship and studied for a Diploma in Engineering at night school over ten years, so I fitted the bill.
“It just so happened that the solicitor they were meeting with was my brother-in-law and was best man at my wedding. He said ‘I know a guy who fits the bill’. I worked with Parish over the next three years, learning how to quote for jobs and look after various business aspects and dealing with customers.”
Following a disagreement with Henbest over the need to purchase a new machine to keep up with demand, Sinclair decided to leave the company. However, he stayed on for three months while looking for another job. The following five years would see him periodically working nights and weekends to cover engineers who had also resigned. With four children, it was an amicable arrangement for Sinclair, who was mainly doing tooling design and CAM layouts. During this time he also attempted to buy the company out with the help of his brother-in-law Julian, but couldn’t agree on a price.
“Five years down the track, Mr Henbest told me he wanted me to work part-time until he sold the company,” continues Sinclair. “I had been working part-time for a couple of weeks when my brotherin-law phoned saying he had found an advert for an engineering company that would be suitable for both of us to purchase. Of course, the advert was for Parish Engineering. He put the money up and we bought the company on 15 August 1980.”
This was the beginning of a downturn for engineering, but the strategies and continuous investment programmes Sinclair put in place carried them through. The first ten years were a big learning curve for him. Up until 1989 Parish continued with cam-autos – it bought new ones, but they were still essentially cam-autos. That all changed in 1989, when Sinclair bought the company’s first CNC machine, a Mori Seiki SL25. This was later complemented with a further two Tsugamis, a FA45 and FA65.
“In 1990 we made the biggest investment we had ever made,” recounts Sinclair. “I bought a Tsugami FA65 CNC multi-axis CNC lathe with a 65mm bar capacity and Y-axis turret with driven tooling. It cost me a quarter of a million dollars and I didn’t have a job for it. At the time, I thought ‘crikey, that was risky’, especially seeing that this was the beginning of a tough period for manufacturing, but I was convinced that this was what we needed to take the company up to the next level.
“Despite the recession; we soon had the machine running 24 hours a day seven days per week. The one machine paid the total wages for everybody, month after month, keeping us afloat. This was a significant step in the company history.”
At the time the company was mainly producing small turned components with cross holes and flats, used in ratchet spanners, torque wrenches and the punches they produce for Sidchrome. There were also batches of small automotive components that required secondary ops previously machined in several set-ups on a mill or drilling machine.
The company has continued investing in new technology and now has 23 CNC lathes and a single Enshu S400 VMC. It mainly uses Citizen sliding heads, and currently has nine machines. These include E32, L20, L32 and a Citizen M32 – all with automatic barloaders. Other machines include a two-axis Mori Seiki SL25, a Mori Seiki SL15 MC CNC lathe and a five-axis Miyano BNE34 with a bar-loader.
“We’ve also got three Licos. I had been looking for a machine that would replace the cam-autos and I found this machine which is configured like a cam-auto, but is all CNC,” adds Sinclair. “The LICO has three cross slides and a turret. The real difference came from the fact that we could run the Licos all through the night unmanned. For example, a job we used to do took 22 seconds to produce on the cam-autos – we’d be lucky to make a 1000 a day with all the problems associated with changing tools and setting. We put the same job on the CNC machine, using the same approach, and we would be getting 3000 a day simply because we could run it all night.”
Sinclair acknowledges that Parish has been affected by the downturn in automotive manufacturing. However, because 30% of its automotive work was for parts going into gearboxes going overseas, they weren’t affected by the Australian market. These were typically spool valves and slender shafts. In terms of ongoing changes affecting the company and its operations, Parish has seen a big shift in batch volumes over the last few years.
“The automotive OEMs are increasingly adopting ‘just in time’ strategies as part of their lean manufacturing programs,” says Nicole Sinclair, Graeme’s daughter and Parish’s CEO. “So we have had to change our structure to cope with quick changeovers.”
As part of this, Parish Engineering has invested in an optical MicroVu CMM which scans a component placed in a purpose-made jig and finds all the edges for measurement, based on an inspection program written by Quality Assurance Manager Peter Giarentis. It is a bit like using a shadow graph only it’s fully automatic once the inspection program has been written. It differs from a scanning type CMM setup, which can automatically orientate the model datum’s to match up with the component position, before comparing it with the original CAD design model. It’s perfect for the small light components Parish is typically making.
“It used to take us half an hour to measure a part – we now inspect it in a minute,” enthuses Nicole
Parish has two people taking care of quality control, with stringent process control and traceability measures in place. The company employs statistical process control, to assure its customers that its work is 100% accurate. It also has full traceability and can give customers precise information regarding the manufacture of any given component. The company’s current ISO/TS 16949:2002 certification is proof of its commitment to its customers.
“The ‘quality management system’ certification for the automotive industry enables us to demonstrate our commitment to product quality and compliance to customer requirements” said Nicole, “In addition, it allows us to continuously improve our quality management systems and the relevant processes.”
Julian sold his share in the business just over three years ago, so Parish is now truly a family business. And with two of Graeme’s daughters qualified as engineers, the company has a succession plan. Nicole studied Mechanical Engineering and spent five years working in the industry before joining Parish, while Dianne Sinclair works for Deloitte in the USA.
“We are hoping Dianne will join the company and build her expertise into the business,” says Sinclair.
As Parish looks to the future, Nicole is focusing on marketing plans with a view to increasing general awareness of the company. Additive manufacturing such as selective laser sintering is one area that has caught their eye in the search for future markets.