After completing an apprenticeship, Alistair Cook began his engineering career at a heritage railway company. As the only engineer on-site, he soon saw the full potential of starting his own business.
AJ Cook Engineering has come a long way in a short time. From a standing start in 2016, the company found business by simply cold-calling potential customers. His reputation grew quickly along with his order book and he now caters to a wide range of industries, including the heritage railway company he began with.
When a friend suggested that his company would benefit from a CNC machine, Alistair began to shop around. The first supplier advised him that he would need both a mill and lathe, but he became doubtful and gave Haas a call.
“The salesman came out straight away,” recalls Alistair. “He really listened to us rather than going for the hard sell. He advised us to go for the Modular Mini Mill and we haven’t looked back. It was the perfect machine for our work.”
With Haas’ help Alistair chose the coolant module and software module to increase the flexibility he could offer his customers. “We needed the machine quickly and just ten days after the salesman’s visit, the machine was installed and we were cutting metal!
“I had operated a CNC machine in the past but had no experience of programming. We attended a training course at the Haas F1 Team facility in Banbury which helped enormously, and the machine’s Next Generation control is incredibly user friendly. We were up and running straight away. My partner, Caitlin, also operates the machine and has started learning the programming side as well; it’s a very intuitive system.
“The salesman put us in touch with an existing Haas user, Velocity Precision, who helped us with tooling and gave us tips. They fed us work during the early days and we now pass jobs to them as well; that relationship has been invaluable.”
The factory, based in Soham, Cambridgeshire, now prides themselves on machining just about anything. Sub-contract work covers numerous industries including R&D, medical, and printing as well as the manufacture of bespoke vintage and classic car parts, recently completing the design and production of aluminium rocker covers.
“We also work with stainless steel. The pieces we’re machining are 30mm long and have some very intricate detail; it’s been a huge challenge, but we’re proud of the results.” Alistair has even built his own traction engine; a 6” scale model of the Savage Little Samson Model, which is over two metres long and can be seen at local steam and vintage rallies.
Since the Modular Mini Mill was installed in late 2018 AJ Cook’s turnover has doubled and profit margins have almost trebled. “The machine has flipped the business on its head,” says Alistair. “It’s been a total game changer. We’re excited about our future; it’s Haas all the way for us.”