A FAMILY manufacturing firm has invested in a new machine that is changing the way it does business.

The equipment will mean the business has to sub-contract less work and can turn out high quality work quicker.

RJW Sheet Metal Ltd, based on the Ferndown Industrial Estate, has bought an Amada EML3610 NT punching/laser combination machine – its biggest investment to date.

It is the only sub-contract sheet metal company in Dorset or Hampshire to have one.

The machine can punch holes at a rate of 1,800 per minute and laser or punch through 6.4mm thick steel, stainless steel and aluminium in sheet sizes up to three metres by 1.5 metres. It can also add forms and folds and tap threads into the jobs before removing them from the sheets using a chute and conveyors.

Director Andy Weight said the uses of the company’s work included medical equipment, air conditioning, the electronics and telecommunications industries and bracketry for cars.

The ability to punch through thicker steel will mean the business can do more work for itself. “It’s automated a lot more processes in-house,” said Mr Weight.

“On jobs where we’ve had to tap holes as a second operation, now it’s all done on one machine, so we can take the job more or less off the machine, fold it and turn it over to the finisher.”

He added: “It’s impressed the customers when they come and see what you can do and the quality of work that comes off the machine.”

The firm was started in 1966 by Mr Weight’s late father Fred.

It is run today by Andy Weight and his brother and fellow director Chris.

When they took over in 1988, the company consisted of four people, but today it employs 22-23, and over the years it has bought two more units near its head office on the Ferndown Industrial Estate.

The list price of the Amada machine is nearly £1m, although the company reduced that by part-exchange and preferred to set money aside for the purchase rather than borrow heavily.

“We’ve had to work it into our budget. Sometimes it will take six months or a year before you see the benefit of it and if you’re not prepared and financially sound, it can turn a business upside down and make it so bust,” said Andy Weight.

“We’ve seen companies expand and do fantastic things and a couple of years down the line, when they can’t afford the finance, they disappear. Sometimes we’re a bit over-cautious but it’s better to be that way than risk the jobs of your employees and your business.”