§ 32. Mr. Wellbeloved
asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement about the large pre-production order for machine tools which he has placed with the Molins Machine Company.
§ Dr. Bray
Under its pre-production order scheme the Ministry of Technology has placed an order valued at £585,000 with the Molins Machine Company as part of the first installation of the firm's "System 24" which is believed to be the first-ever integrated computer controlled system of batch manufacture in the world. Further details are as follows:
The purpose of the machine tool pre-production order scheme is to reduce the gap between the completion of development of new and advanced designs of machine tools and associated equipment and their acceptance in industry on a scale sufficient to justify the laying down of adequate production lines. This is aimed at assisting the industry in competing in home and export markets in the future and also to get advanced machines into industrial use more quickly.
Under the scheme the Ministry of Technology purchases advanced machines and places them with suitable users for appraisal under industrial conditions and for reports on their economic and technical performance. The information thus arising will be disseminated by the Ministry as a guide to other prospective users.
The contract with the Molins Machine Company valued at £585,000 is expected to cover the manufacturing cost (excluding any profit) of seven machine tools and their associated equipment as part of the first installation of System 24 now being 3W installed at the firm's own pilot plant at Deptford.
The system is aimed at the manufacture of light alloy components within the size range of 12 ins. by 12 ins, by 6 ins. which are milled, drilled, tapped, bored or reamed and it is designed to finish these components efficiently and automatically. Manual labour is avoided except for preparing the blanks and fixing them to the pallets used in the system.
The Company itself is investing a substantial sum in the pilot plant at Deptford and the further development, manufacture and marketing of System 24, which it has developed as a Company-funded private venture.
The system represents an important advance in numerical control and exploits all its advantages and provides an automatic, integrated small batch production facility which has enormous potential implications for future methods of production in the engineering industry in this country and overseas, and is a major step forward in the evolution of machining methods. It points the way towards the fully-automated machine shops of the future and certainly gives this country a great boost in our efforts to improve productivity and exploit British technology in home and export markets.
The machine tools and equipment should be installed early in 1969 and be fully operational after a 12-month working-up period.
Molins will use their plant at Deptford for the manufacture of components for their own tobacco machines and on a variety of sub-contracting work in the precision engineering field. It is intended to prove the efficiency of the system in a wide range of applications and to make full use of its capacity, flexibility and unique characteristics.
As users under the Ministry's scheme, the company will make available comprehensive economic and technical information which will be published for the benefit of other potential users in assessing the merits of the system.