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William Cook Rail // Smile 420


The William Cook Group is a Yorkshire-based British steel company and the UK’s largest manufacturer of steel castings. Operating at the cutting-edge, William Cook manufacture and overhaul components for safety critical applications. The company specialise in the manufacture and fabrication of steel products for the rail, defence and industrial sectors.


Andy Wilkins from the ZOLLER team made a visit to William Cook Rail in Leeds to see how they were getting on with the new Smile 420 system purchased from ZOLLER under the guidance and recommendation of ZOLLER UK sales manager, Andy Dyche.

Project Brief:


William Cook Rail approached ZOLLER looking to update their tool presetting technology. Having previously used a shadowgraph system, the company were looking for a more accurate solution. William Cook Rail also had designs on beginning a tool library to increase speed and repeatability. Producing around 2000 components a month, and around 24,000 each year, William Cook Rail aimed to increase accuracy and reduce downtime with advanced tool presetting technology.

Shivan Morkar, Machine Development Engineer at William Cook Rail

“William Cook’s been around for nearly two centuries now. We’ve got three main divisions, which is defence, cast products and rail. We design, manufacture and overhaul components, and our main customers are companies like Siemens, Skoda, Alstom, Dellner and London Underground. On average, we produce around 2000 components a month, which equates to about 30 tonnes of steel.”

“William Cook has 15 CNC milling machines. We’ve got three vertical borers and a lathe. We wanted to update our presetting technology, but also we want it to start to collate a tool library as well at the same time.”

“In my final year at university, I was tasked with an industrial project to look at some kind of improvement at William Cook. And the biggest thing that we’ve always had an issue with is tooling. Through investigation and research, I came across ZOLLER.”

Shivan Morkar, Machine Development Engineer at William Cook

The Solution:


William Cook Rail’s brief was met by ZOLLER UK offering an “all in one package” suited to the existing and future needs of the business. The Smile 420 tool presetter was recommended due to the range of features to solve multiple problems, offering advanced speed, accuracy and repeatability over previous processes, as well as tool management solutions to build the tool library they had planned.


“ZOLLER was offering us one all in one package, so we chose the Smile 420. This was recommended by Andy Dyche from ZOLLER, and I think his expertise would really help pick the right machine that suits our needs.

“The experience from ZOLLER was great. I think everybody that I’ve dealt with was very keen to understand William Cook’s needs and requirements, and to provide multiple solutions.

The service team as also have always been on hand. And when we experience some minor technical difficulties, I would recommend ZOLLER as the service is excellent, the machines are reliable and allow a lot of customisability. The technology they offer is cutting edge.

“At William Cook, we continue to machine highly complex and precise components, so speed and accuracy for presetting will always be an advantage. Looking at the future, I think we will look at ZOLLER for either automated tool storage and automated tool management.”

Shivan Morkar, Machine Development Engineer at William Cook

The Benefits:


William Cook Rail experienced noticeable gains just weeks into using the Smile 420 presetter, in terms of higher accuracy, speed and ease, in addition to a time saving of around 50% on their previous shadowgraph machine.

“Our customers expect us to deliver high quality machine castings to a schedule. The ZOLLER machine has helped this process, particularly when it comes to changeovers, because the tool data from the previous batch can be compared to the current batch which makes checking tools much easier, much quicker.”

Shivan Morkar, Machine Development Engineer at William Cook

“We used to set our tools on the CNC machine using slip blocks and setting rings. We also used to have an old shadowgraph tool setter, which wasn’t very accurate. The main benefit I’ve seen with the ZOLLER Smile is when setting a boring bar. It’s within 0.5 (50 microns) which is a lot better, a lot closer than it was on the old shadowgraph.”

Alex Horner, CNC Machinist at William Cook

“Going from the old shadowgraph to the ZOLLER has probably saved us about 50% time wise, it’s been a great help to us and it’s very accurate and exactly what we need. I’ve worked 45 years in engineering. So it was quite a change for me, but it wasn’t all that difficult after I got used to it.”

Alan McGhee, CNC Programmer/Supervisor at William Cook


Watch the Full Case Study



Challenge Us


If you, like William Cook Rail are looking for a solution to save time and increase the repeatability of your tool setting process, get in touch with ZOLLER UK and challenge the team to showcase the full capabilities of ZOLLER tool presetters and tool management solutions bespoke to your business.


Download the tool presetting brochure