Founder Will Vickery and his team at Blackdown Shepherd Huts have been designing and building iconic luxury shepherd huts since 2011. The Ilminster based company supplies leading hotels such as The Fish, Another Place in the Lakes and Lympstone Manor. It also has many private customers, including Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis.
“The quality and attention to detail really sets our shepherd huts apart,” claims Blackdown’s design engineer, Ross Colenso. He continues, “We get inspiration from the original shepherd’s hut concept and create bespoke designs for our trade and private clients.
“Our craftsmen take the best of the old and combine it with the experience of the new to create a unique space. It could be a living or working space, a kitchen, bedroom or even a sauna, whatever the customers’ heart’s desire.”
The challenges of expansion
“As a company, we are known for high quality shepherd huts and making all our joinery in-house. This means we can customise to our client’s requirements and maintain the finish we are known for.
“As the business grew, we found ourselves needing repeat pieces more often, in addition to the specialist joinery skills for the more complicated bespoke items. For us, therefore, the obvious choice to increase throughput was to use our joinery skills to craft the specialist pieces and to look at investing in CNC technology for the repeat items.
“It has always been our dream to invest in a CNC machining centre as part of our growth plans. So, with order books full, we decided the time was right to address this and purchase a 5-axis CNC. Our managing director, Will Vickery, carried out the initial research and settled on HOMAG as the best company to approach, given the heritage and reputation of the brand.
“At this point, I was assigned responsibility for the selection process which meant liaising closely with HOMAG UK’s CNC product manager, Phil Pitchford. Phil arranged for us to visit Ahmarra Door Solutions, a Hampshire based company who were already operating a couple of HOMAG CENTATEQ 5-axis CNCs.
“Seeing the 5-axis HOMAG CENTATEQ P-310 in action and talking with the operators was extremely helpful. In fact, it influenced the specification of the model we eventually opted for. There was a great deal of productive ‘back and forth’ between Phil and I to nail down the right specification for our needs.
“Phil’s knowledge of CNCs combined with his understanding of our production processes meant that together we created a solution that would serve our needs both now and in the future.”
A well organised installation with first-class training
“The installation procedure for the CENTATEQ P-310 was very well organised by HOMAG. They took all the weight off our shoulders, leaving us to get on with our day jobs. Before the machine was delivered they carried out a site survey. This highlighted the need for a new concrete slab to be laid to give the machine a solid, level foundation; this we were able to arrange prior to the CENTATEQ being delivered.
“Once on site, the HOMAG engineers worked tirelessly to install the machine. In total they were with us for around eight working days; the first three days were spent installing the CNC and getting it operational.
“The engineers then concentrated on training our team on site and I have to say they did an excellent job. They took time to ensure our guys understood each and every aspect of the machine so that when they finished the training we were able to start producing on the CNC straightaway.
“We also had training on HOMAG’s woodWOP software; this was done online with Ryan Beard and that was great too, he is a really good trainer.”
Increased throughput with no quality loss
“The 5-axis HOMAG CENTATEQ P-310 has delivered significant time savings to the business as well as giving us the consistency of quality that we were looking to achieve. From the outset, it has created time for us as a business, allowing us to harvest efficiencies and use our existing skills to help us grow the company further.
“Another advantage of the CENTATEQ is its robust build quality which is exceptional. Despite it being a cutting-edge CNC, it is totally reliable and as a consequence, we have little or no downtime.
“That’s one of the great benefits of dealing with HOMAG, we hardly ever need to talk to them. I mean that in a very positive way – when you partner with HOMAG you have the peace of mind that not only does the company have a nationwide network of service engineers, but also there are engineers at the Castle Donington head office who can remote-in online and fix issues quickly,” concludes Colenso.
If you would like a demonstration or further information on HOMAG woodworking machinery or software, please contact Adele Hunt at HOMAG UK on 01332 856424 or email: [email protected]
T: 01332 856500