Machining to the Rhythm: RK Engineering's Blues-Inspired Path to Success

By RK Engineering (Atherstone) Ltd
schedule10th Apr 24

Made in Group CEO Jason Pitt meets withwith RK Engineering to discuss promoting new capacity RK have and their passion fo British Industry.
Based in Atherston, Midlands, lies a testament to British engineering excellence - RK Engineering (Atherstone) Limited operate out of 10,000 sq.ft premises and employe 22 local people. Established over 40 years ago, this family-owned business has steadily carved its niche as a premier provider of subcontract precision CNC machining services. Recently, the CEO of Made in Group, Jason Pitt, sat down with Keith Chetwynd, the passionate force behind RK Engineering, to delve into the company's rich history and its enduring commitment to quality and innovation.

A Humble Beginning in the Midst of Recession

Keith Chetwynd, the founder of RK Engineering, recounted the humble beginnings of the company back in 1981. It was a time of economic hardship, with a recession gripping the nation. Determined to take control of his destiny, Chetwynd ventured into entrepreneurship. "I needed to get out of what I was doing. I wanted to work for myself," Chetwynd reminisced.

The journey began with a chance encounter with a fellow musician from the '60s, which led to the formation of RK Engineering. Armed with a small bank loan of £1500, Chetwynd and his partner set up shop in a modest unit, sharing space with a detergent manufacturing company. The early days were marked by perseverance and the willingness to adapt to new technologies.

Embracing CNC Machining and Growth

In 1985, RK Engineering took a significant leap forward by embracing CNC machining. Chetwynd vividly recalled the transition, "My most expensive machine up to then was three grand. And somebody talked me into getting a CNC lathe. That was £36,000." This investment marked the beginning of a period of rapid growth for the company.

Through strategic investments and a commitment to excellence, RK Engineering expanded its capabilities, eventually adding a vertical machining center (VMC) to its arsenal. Chetwynd's mantra was clear - "Whenever I thought we needed a job, I'd buy the machine."

Quality, Precision, and Innovation

RK Engineering's reputation for delivering defect-free components with on-time delivery is well-established. The company boasts an impressive 99.5% conformity rate on all parts manufactured and a 99.7% on-time delivery record. Such high performance is a result of not only state-of-the-art machinery but also a team of highly skilled engineers trained to the highest standards.

"Our strength lies in our flexibility and commitment to quality," Chetwynd emphasized during the meeting with Jason Pitt. With a diverse portfolio spanning various industries, RK Engineering continues to provide innovative solutions and competitive pricing, ensuring customer satisfaction with every project.

Challenges and the 'Back in Britain' Campaign

Despite RK Engineering's success story, Chetwynd expressed concerns about the challenges faced by British manufacturers. He highlighted the impact of rising minimum wages and competition from overseas markets, particularly from Eastern Europe and China. "We can make it as quick as anybody. We can make it perfect, but UK companies can't always compete on price," Chetwynd lamented.

The 'Back in Britain' campaign resonates deeply with Chetwynd, who is passionate about British engineering. He believes that supporting British businesses through policies that allow for greater control over operations is crucial. "You've got to let me control my company," Chetwynd urged, emphasising the need for policymakers to address issues such as annual increases in minimum wages.

State-of-the-Art Plant List

To achieve these high standards, RK Engineering continues to invest in the latest technologies to improve their machine shop and meet the specialist needs of their customers. Their latest addition to increase productivity is the Citizen Machinery UK L32 Type A LFV.

Here is a glimpse into RK Engineering's impressive plant list:

CNC Turning / Sliding Head Machining
2 x GTC-20 Leadwell lathes with 2” bar capacity
1 x LT-20 Leadwell lathe with 10” chuck
1 x Haas SL30 lathe with 10” chuck
1 x Hwacheon HI-Eco 10 with 8” chuck
1 x Hwacheon high-tech 200 with 2” bar capacity
4 x Leadwell T-7A lathes with 8” chuck (new) (1,= 63mm barfeed)
1 x Leadwell CT 200 lathe with 8” chuck
1 x Leadwell T-7i lathe with 10” chuck
1 x Citizen L32-V111, LFV sliding head
CNC Milling & Vertical Machining Centers
1 x Lead MCV 760R 1000X- 500Y-
1 x Lead TVM-760 900X – 350Y
2 x Lead VMC 25 with rotary heads 800 X 400Y
1 x Roku-Roku Vertimac 11 700 X – 400 Y
1 x Lead V650 700 X – 400 Y
1 x Lead V-30 900 X – 400 Y
2 x Lead V 32i with true 4th Axis (new). 900 X – 500 Y
2 x Haas Mini Super Mills
1 x Lead V20i 600 X – 350 Y
2 x MCH 400 Lead horizontal M.C. 430mm sq. twin pallet

1 x Baty Shadow Master with edge detection
1 x Faro Arm Gauge
1 x Kemco C.M.M. 620X – 420Y – 250Z

A Legacy of British Engineering Excellence

As the conversation unfolded, it became evident that RK Engineering is not just a business; it's a testament to British engineering heritage and resilience. Chetwynd's passion for the craft, coupled with his dedication to maintaining the highest standards, has propelled RK Engineering to success.

Beyond the shop floor, Chetwynd's love for music also shines through. As a member of a blues band, he finds inspiration in the rhythm and creativity that music and engineering share. 

In conclusion, the meeting between Jason Pitt and Keith Chetwynd of RK Engineering is a story of partnership and shared values. It highlights the strength of British manufacturing, the challenges it faces, and the resilience of businesses like RK Engineering in overcoming these hurdles. As RK Engineering continues to innovate and deliver excellence, it stands as a beacon of British engineering at its finest.