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Ryan and Sophie Woodward with their CENTATEQ P-310 CNC from HOMAG UK

A game-changer for timber window manufacturer French & Westcott

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2024/01/31   |   United Kingdom

Based in Canterbury, Kent, high end timber windows and doors specialist French & Westcott has invested in a HOMAG CENTATEQ P-310 CNC processing centre. The husband and wife team, Ryan and Sophie Woodward, launched the business in 2013. From the outset they followed traditional manufacturing methods using spindle moulders and planers.

“It became clear to us that this traditional business model was really not working,” explained  Ryan. He continued, “It’s just too time consuming; it also relies on expensive, skilled and difficult to find people All in all, it’s no longer a profitable model and I think this realisation is happening across many small joinery businesses.

“With our existing setup, it was only possible to make money doing large batches. As a small independent, however, it was almost impossible for us to win bigger jobs. To overcome the issues, we realised we needed to invest in some new, technically advance machinery that would speed up our processes, improve our accuracy and make us less reliant on traditional craftspeople.”

The dawning of new possibilities

“We began our search for the right solution by visiting the UK facility of a European CNC machine manufacturer. Seeing this machine in action really opened our eyes as to what could be achieved. At that point, however, we realised we would need to undertake a more thorough due diligence exercise to make sure we found the solution that would be able to handle all our needs now and in the foreseeable future.

“One of the potential partners on our list was HOMAG and when we went up to Castle Donington to see its CNCs in action we were blown away by the performance, accuracy and build quality of the machines. HOMAG also arranged for us to visit a leading door manufacturer in Southampton and a premier window manufacturer in Colchester, both of which were running HOMAG CNCs and other HOMAG machines too.

“Committing to investment in a technically advanced machine such as the CENTATEQ P-310 was a massive decision for us. It could have the potential to terminally damage the business if we got it wrong. Those visits, however, gave us the confidence to proceed with HOMAG. At the time, we were novices as far as knowing how to specify the CNC to best meet our needs. That meant we had to put our faith in HOMAG’s people to be honest and truthful in guiding us through the process. 

"I must say, they were brilliant; never once did we feel we were being ‘sold to’ or pressured into ordering things we didn’t need, such as fancy add-ons we’d hardly ever use. In fact, it was us who at one point had to convince HOMAG we needed to invest in a 5-axis, rather than a 4-axis head.”

Selecting the right options

“We explained to Phil Pitchford, HOMAG’s CNC expert, our ‘must haves’ for the machine: it had to last us at least 12 to 15 years, so the build quality had to be first class; it had to have high levels of repeatable accuracy to meet our customers’ quality expectations; it had to be versatile to cope with the different sized jobs, from bespoke to larger batch work and it had to be able to do all this quickly. And, of course, it had to be relatively easy to operate so we didn’t need to employ specialist staff. 

“Having listened to our ‘wish list’ Phil recommended the CENTATEQ P-310 and after further consultations we finalised the options we needed. These included the three-stage clamps which we’re really pleased we opted for as opposed to the power clamps; the small part clamp that has proved very useful and the longer 4.2 m table,”

Installation and training

“The installation process was incredible. Access to our facility is not the easiest – our yard is small and down a narrow lane, so it’s tricky to say the least. The delivery truck had all the right gear on the back to successfully unload the machine and locate it in the new small out-building (11 m x 10 m) we had constructed especially for the CNC.

“They delivered the machine on the Monday morning and once the electrics were wired up later that day, the HOMAG engineers had it running and commissioned by the end of Tuesday.

“HOMAG then sent along a specialist trainer, Rob, who was absolutely brilliant. There was nothing Rob didn’t know about windows and door manufacturing and he was able to impart his knowledge to us in an easy and clear manner. We can’t speak more highly of him.”

Delivering speed, efficiencies and accuracy

“We were asked the other day what was the key benefit of the new HOMAG CENTATEQ P-310 to our business and I blurted out: “You can make money using it!” And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about. We now process almost every component of a window or door on the CNC because it is so much more accurate and quicker.

“Previously when the parts were made on different machines, they didn’t necessarily fit together well at first. This necessitated hand finishing, such as filling and sanding little gaps here and there, but now we don’t have gaps, every component fits perfectly, so we save a huge amount of time eliminating hand finishing before the windows are painted.

“Now we use dowels rather than finger joints which required slicing the fingers off once the unit had been glued; dowels eliminate all those extra processes. Prior to getting the CENTATEQ P-310, we would have to refuse small one-off  jobs under the £5,000 mark because we just couldn’t make them pay. With the new set up we can not only do the bespoke small jobs profitably, but we can also easily handle the bigger projects that architects can give us.

“It’s hard to explain what a risk we took investing in this CENTATEQ P-310, in fact, I’m not sure we’d have made the leap had we not had the confidence in, and support of the HOMAG team,

“From the outset, we felt that the team at HOMAG were looking to build a long-term relationship, rather than just selling us a machine. We are so happy we took the leap, it has transformed our business in every way. The fact that we now do a lot of bespoke conservation restoration work profitably, all on the CNC, speaks volumes as to what this machine can achieve. It is a real game-changer, without a shadow of a doubt,” concludes Woodward.

If you would like more information or a demonstration of any of the HOMAG machinery and software, please contact HOMAG on 01332 856424.

“It's hard to explain what a risk we took investing in this CENTATEQ P-310, in fact, I'm not sure we'd have made the leap had we not had the confidence in, and support of the HOMAG team. From the outset, we felt that the team at HOMAG were looking to build a long-term relationship, rather than just selling us a machine.”

Ryan Woodward, Founder

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