Over the last two decades HEL® Performance has proven itself as an industry leader in brake line manufacturing and gained a solid reputation for both their quality and service. However, with machines running round the clock, lights-out and hundreds of orders being despatched daily, HEL Performance was struggling with keeping NC programs safe and organised – and valuable time was being lost having to walk programs out to CNCs on the shop floor.
The ancestor of HEL Performance, Hose-Equip, was established in 1985 – an authorised Aeroquip distributor that quickly made a name for itself in the Industrial, Marine and Hydraulic market thanks to its friendly and collaborative approach to quality and service. Hose-Equip quickly became an authorised MOD contractor and ISO9000 quality-assured.
In 2000 the company was restructured as a strategic means to compete in the performance fluid-transfer marketplace. The name became Hose Equip Limited, shortened to HEL, and the HEL Performance brand was born – along with the now world-famous Devil's Tail logo.
With established reputations and experience in the hydraulics market, Simon Lane and Chris Porter launched HEL Performance's new approach to motorcycle brake lines: The first fully swaged, stainless steel and titanium only, brake line in the UK market. Though more expensive, the new system and choice of quality materials meant safer, more durable break line components. It quickly became a success and the competition soon followed suit – improving the standard of brake lines across the industry.
HEL Performance was also the first in their industry to apply a PVC cover during hose manufacturing to protect vehicle paintwork. Until then, hose covers were applied by heat-shrink, which not only meant a substandard finish, but also made it almost impossible to colour-match future lines accurately. For HEL Performance, this meant a significant investment and vastly expanded stock holding, but it secured the highest quality finish in the marketplace – and the reputation that comes with it.
Today the HEL Performance product line includes Braided Lines, Break Calipers, Thumb Breaks, Oil Cooling and much more.
Since starting their journey 20 years ago HEL Performance's brake lines have spread around the world. HEL Performance pride themselves on the fact that they do not have a single company representative on the road and instead have allowed their products to impress and grow through word of mouth.
Today, HEL Performance brake lines are distributed through local outlets in over 72 countries around the world covering Europe, America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Their brake lines and associated products feature prominently in local, national and international racing competitions.
Based just outside of Exeter, in the South West of the UK, HEL Performance's headquarters boasts an impressive hose assembly centre. All HEL Performance brake line components are made in the UK, including all of their stainless steel braided brake hose and stainless steel brake line fittings.
They are the only company in the UK to manufacture all of their mainline fittings in-house, using their own Star Micronics CNC Machines. HEL Performance has always been about self-sufficiency because it means they can guarantee supply times, and ensure the level of quality and finish their standards require.
Simon Lane (right) at the HEL Performance headquarter in Exeter.
At their site they have invested in an impressive CNC department housing mainly Star Micronics' cutting-edge sliding-head CNC machinery and Brother CNC Milling Machines. With these machines running 24/7 and hundreds of orders being despatched daily, it is key that production runs smoothly and efficiently. However, until recently, this was not always the case.
"We were struggling with keeping NC programs safely and all in order. We make changes to programs and have huge numbers of them for our Star CNC machines, so we desperately needed a better system. We also wanted to be able to upload from a dedicated production Server rather than carry a laptop around."
says Simon Lane who's the leader and manager at HEL.
As a result, HEL Performance reached out to UK CIMCO Solution Provider, Jeremy Sobey of J2com Ltd.
"We have been in contact with Jeremy for many years as he installed our software when we started with our Stars. From this, it seemed to be a natural progression to speak further about the full CIMCO system."
"It was very easy – Jeremy knew us well and knew what we needed. At first we spoke about one solution that would allow us to upload and store programs, but it soon became apparent that if we installed the more advanced system, we would gain access to useful features such as remote access to data and access to numbers, hours running, etc. through machine monitoring."
Installation of CIMCO's program management and machine monitoring systems was completed early December 2020 during the second Covid-19 lockdown period in the UK and with full Coronavirus precautionary measures in place. A total of 17 CNC machines and machining centers were hooked up to CIMCO's system through an expansion and future-proofing of the company's network and machine connections.
An overview of current part production and related KPIs was created as Live Screens (digital signage) for monitoring around the factory. More detailed numbers were made available through reports and machine timelines – all using CIMCO MDC-Max.
Programs were migrated to CIMCO's program management system CIMCO NC-Base to ensure traceability and revision control of all CNC Programs and to enable direct upload to CNC machines.
When asked how the system is running today Simon responds
"Brilliantly well – and it has given us much more than we envisioned. We have screens around our building showing the status of all machines, so everyone knows what is running which helps everyone. We supply many small parts that we manufacture ourselves, so being able to view what's in stock and which machines are running from your PC means a better flow of supply. I can check numbers each night with downtimes for the site and the number of hours the machines have been running – which is very useful to plan batch sizes and work flow."
"Knowing that we have a library of files of our programs safely stored makes me sleep easier and the positive effect on the whole business has been seen throughout. Its brought us up-to-date and offered us scalability in the future."
CIMCO MDC-Max Live Screen (status screen), Web and PC client w/Machine Utilization, Downtimes, Part count, etc.
CIMCO is all about personal, good and honest relationships with our clients. It’s always a collaboration – and we know that we simply don’t succeed if our clients don’t succeed. Just like HEL Performance, CIMCO’s good reputation has been established over decades, through word of mouth and by delivering quality products and service.
We would like to thank HEL Performance for collaborating on this case story and we wish them all the best in the future.
Simon Lane wraps it up this way –
"As always, Jeremy and J2com Ltd. offered us a seamless and easy transition to the new system. Support, as always, has been excellent and second to none. Any questions we have are answered quickly and its allowed us to get the most out of the system. The installation was done with professionalism and speed – Covid safe in the current climate – and the whole system has been seen to help every part of the business and not just the CNC team."
If you want to know more about HEL Performance or Jeremy and J2com, please follow these links: