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Located just 17 miles south of John O’Groats and a four-hour drive north from Aberdeen, Wick and Kongsberg Maritime Ltd are slightly off the beaten track. However, the timing of a visit by Jemtech’s Craig Wieland proved beneficial to both parties.
Kongsberg Maritime’s location in Wick, at the northern most tip of mainland Scotland, is due to the two founding directors originating from there. They started the business some 37 years ago, which was then purchased by the Norwegian Kongsberg Group in 1996, and they saw no good reason to relocate the specialist underwater camera manufacturer. With the involvement of Kongsberg the business has grown consistently and now supplies cameras and housings, mainly machined from titanium, for use in some of the harshest environments in the world, with customers ranging from offshore exploration companies to the world’s leading military powers.
Its range of waterproof cameras and housings are used on remote operated vehicles (ROV) to investigate the ocean depths, monitoring subsea structures that are inaccessible to divers. A recent contract was for observation cameras that will be used at the bottom of the Marianas Trench at depths of over 11km. Other applications for the cameras are the remote monitoring of oil rig and pipeline installations around the world.
The geographic location of the business means that they are rarely troubled by passing sales representatives, but this hasn’t prevented the 47 employee business from expanding and investing in new machine tool technology. The recent purchase of a four axis machining centre brings the machine inventory to 16, including another recent investment in a diamond turning lathe, which has allowed Kongsberg Maritime to open up its design criteria. A result of this is the recently developed Omega Dome, which allows the Kongsberg pan and tilt camera a 220 degree field of view (as opposed to the more normal 180 degree). The ability for underwater cameras on ROVs to see behind them is a major breakthrough in collision avoidance while at great depths.
With a relatively small machine shop the use of cutting fluids didn’t appear to be an issue for Kongsberg Maritime’s Mechanical Workshop Supervisor Donald Miller. “We used about three drums of oil in a 12 month period so the outlay and potential savings didn’t put it at the top of our agenda. Added to that we didn’t think we had any particular issues with our existing cutting fluids, so when Craig asked if he could visit I did my best to put him off, thinking an eight hour round trip wasn’t worth it.”
However, Donald agreed to see Craig and he arrived at Kongsberg Maritime ahead of its annual maintenance period, just before Christmas 2011, and convinced Donald to try the Blaser Swisslube product. The machine sumps were cleaned and refilled With Blaser’s Blasocut 935 Kombi, which is a water miscible, universal, cutting fluid that good tool life and has excellent compatibility with human skin. The initial fill was at eight per cent concentration with on-going top ups at one per cent.
“Since we have switched to Blaser we have noticed significant increase in tool life and a marked improvement in surface finish. While the latter isn’t critical to the finished product we recognise that we are selling expensive items of equipment, some as much as £30,000, and customers expect them to look like they could go on display, while still being serious bits of equipment,” says Donald Miller. “Our consumption has also fallen quite dramatically, where we used to go through three drums of cutting fluid in a 12 month period, we have only just ordered our second drum of Blaser, 10 months after the first. So while the Blaser product may have a higher purchase price, the economics brought about by lower consumption fully justify the switch.
Another benefit that Kongsberg Maritime has seen, or rather smelt, is the improvement in the machine shop environment. After six months with its previous cutting fluid a noticeable odour developed from the sump. With the Blasocut Mr Miller states that it is ‘as fresh as the day it was put in the sump’.
“Kongsberg Maritime is fairly typical of our new customers in that initially they could not see the benefits, improvements that could be made by switching to Blaser, but they quickly became apparent once they had made the change. The fact that they are at the far north for Scotland and are using relatively low volumes of metal working fluid makes no difference to Jemtech, as we are committed to providing the support and service to customers, wherever they are and however much they spend,” says Craig Wieland. “We have reduced their oil consumption by up to 50 per cent, tool life and surface finish are improved and areas around health and safety are also better, with the aroma in the machine shop disappearing.”