Remaining economically viable is a typical concern of all businesses. This is especially true for A-Line Tech (Binghamton, New York), a diversified automotive industry supplier that was concerned about losing a major contract for proprietary fastener components to competitors.
Company President Alex Boyce and his production team recognized the need to reduce the heavy labor costs associated with the company’s processes. “We were manually feeding 12-foot barstock into two-axis CNC lathes,” recalls Mr. Boyce. “This required nearly constant operator attention at each work station. In addition, using 12-foot lengths of the required barstock material made it impossible to operate at desired spindle speeds.”
The company decided to explore the option of re-engineering the entire machining process. This included upgrading to higher performance lathes that would be capable of machining 3-foot bar sections rather than the traditional 12-foot long stock. Using the shorter lengths allowed the lathes to turn at maximum rpm, reduced waste and provided a safer work environment, according to A-Line Tech. However, the company still needed to reduce labor costs while meeting volume and delivery targets.
To address these concerns, the company decided to equip each lathe with a Quick Load Servo S2 automatic bar feed from LNS America, Inc. (Cincinnati, Ohio). “The automatic bar feeds are so reliable that they allow us to operate unattended during the second and third shifts, says Mr. Boyce. “During the first shift, we need about 4 operator hours to set up a run and attend to all seven workstations,” he continues. “That’s because the operator can change-over the bar feeds relatively quickly with menu-driven programming and barstock magazines.”
The bar feeder incorporates a pusher feeding mechanism, mounted on linear ways; a notched drive belt/servomotor/absolute encoder system that is designed to provide high axial torque and minimize wear; and hardened rollers for reducing friction during the loading cycle—all of which are characteristics designed to promote reliability, says the manufacturer.
By installing the Quick Load bar feeds, A-Line Tech says it has experienced a significant savings in regard to the amount of labor involved. Using the previous system, running the seven lathes required having a full-time operator available for each machine per shift, which amounted to 168 labor hours per day. However, the same production can be accomplished with about 4 labor hours when using the new machine.
“I couldn’t be happier,” says Mr. Boyce. “We’ve had virtually no problems and minimal maintenance on these new bar feeders. The first one we installed has been running 24/7 for 5 years, and we’ve processed millions of parts.”