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It is rare to find two companies that are literally ‘fishing in the same pond’ openly sharing premises, but this is the situation in Irvine, Scotland, where sub-contractor i-Tek Engineering, a specialist machinist for the oil and gas sector, has moved in with the more well established Fastnet Developments Ltd.
Founded in August 2011 by Mark Mclean, a former Service Director for one of Scotland’s leading machine tool agents, i-Tek Engineering is developing a reputation for high quality machining from the Irvine premises that it shares with its collaborative partner Fastnet Developments Ltd. Initially i-Tek was simply a provider of freelance service and support for machine tools; however it was always Mark’s ambition to start to offer sub-contract machining services.
That process began with the arrival of a Yamazaki Mazak Integrex multi-tasking machine, which was soon followed by the installation of a vertical machining centre. Initial investments in high performance machining technology underlined i-Tek’s commitment to invest in the best equipment from the outset. Shortly after the arrival of these machines i-Tek took on its first employee as a setter/operator for these machines and has since taken delivery of its third machine, a turning centre. This expansion is being driven by increased demand from the oil & gas sector for precision machining capacity.
“It has long been an ambition to run my own sub-contract business and my exposure to the oil and gas sector through my previous job provided me with the contacts and the confidence to make that step-change. The first six months were spent preparing the groundwork and now that the three machines are in place we are starting to see the fruits of our labours,” says Mark McLean. Investing in machines of the size and capability of these is a statement from i-Tek that it means business and also reflects Mark Mclean’s commitment to purchase the best available products to provide the service he is offering.
One of the biggest issues for new manufacturing businesses is locating suitable premises and here Mark had a stroke of luck as his best friend Adam Cairns ,who he was best man for, offered the opportunity to share premises with Fastnet, where Adam is a director and shares similar ambition, providing a wide range of services including product design for a varied group of clients ranging from the Ministry of Defence to the Scottish Football Association. Fastnet also has a thriving manufacturing facility producing products as varied as disabled access systems for taxis and high speed warp and weft knitting machines, as well as a varied portfolio of products for the oil & gas sector.
Robert Cairns, Fastnet’s founder and managing director is the driving force behind the development side of the business and is driven by a desire to design products that are lighter, stronger, and smarter. One such product that came about after the illness of a very good friend is the Fastnet range of fishing landing nets. “A very good fishing friend was diagnosed with cancer and had to have muscle removed from his left hand side. While he continued to go fishing he had difficulty landing his catch, so using my knowledge and design experience I developed a perfectly balanced, lightweight, extremely strong trout landing net that could land trout up to 12lb in weight without much exertion. This design led to other things and I was challenged to come up with a design that weighed less than a kilo and had the capability of landing a 30lb plus salmon. The resulting net weighed a mere 780 grams with the potential to land a salmon in excess of 40lb, and was the start of Fastnet Sports” says Robert Cairns.
Now Robert concentrates on designing and developing products while his son, Adam, runs the machine shop. Robert’s desire for the best has been passed on as Adam ensures that the machine shop is operating at optimum efficiency and this extends to his choice of metalworking fluids, with Blaser Swisslube being the coolant of choice, a situation that has seen i-Tek also switch to Blaser’s Blasocut BC25MD as well.
“When it comes to metalcutting fluids the Blaser product is certainly not the cheapest on the market,” says Mark Mclean. “However, while the price is important, especially to a start-up business like mine, if the benefits of a product outweigh the price differential then the cost becomes irrelevant. My experience from working in a wide variety of machine shops in my previous role, showed me that there is a wide range of metalcutting fluids available, but a high proportion of the people I dealt with, including Fastnet, had switched to Blaser and were excited about the improvements that they were seeing in tool life, component quality and the general working environment. I took their experiences on board and in the relatively short space of time that we have been using Blaser products we have experienced nothing but good results and have been well supported by Jemtech along the way.”
i-Tek is using Blaser’s BC25MD, which is a water miscible, chlorine free, mineral oil-based cutting fluid that contains special additives making it ideal for non-ferrous materials, as well as being able to be used for general machining of cast iron and steel. “The use of a product such as Blaser’s BC25MD indicates what forward thinking businesses Adam and Mark are running,” says Craig Wieland, Jemtech’s Sales Manager in Scotland. “BC25MD will not only provide i-Tek and Fastnet with exceptional tool life and component surface quality, but its lack of bactericides, and EP additives make it a very mild formulation and, as a result, will provide extremely good human skin compatibility.”