Manufacturer Increases Productivity More Than 300 Percent With CNC

Mac Stripers wants to leave its mark on the world. After ten years in business, the manufacturer of road-striping equipment reports $2 million in sales and is looking to double its 12,000 square-foot facility.

Case Study From: 4/20/1996 Modern Machine Shop

Mac Stripers wants to leave its mark on the world. After ten years in business, the manufacturer of road-striping equipment reports $2 million in sales and is looking to double its 12,000 square-foot facility. One element of that success came with the purchase of CNC milling equipment that enabled the company to keep up with the growing demand for its products.

Owner/President Mac Marcato is no newcomer to the road striping industry. His contracting firm has been striping the roads in the Alabama and Florida areas for 15 years. Mr. Marcato also had an interest in designing, and when he realized that he needed better equipment to meet his own company's needs, he decided to design it himself. His designs worked so well, he began to manufacture and sell the equipment worldwide. Today, Mac Stripers are marking roads in Australia, Colombia, Singapore, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bermuda and the Virgin Islands.

At first, their design capability was limited by their manufacturing situation. Because most of their manufacturing was contracted to an outside supplier, it was time consuming and difficult to correct problems, like leaking guns, when they occurred. Mr. Marcato decided the solution was to bring all the manufacturing in-house.

"Getting the stuff in-house is a lot better because we have a lot better control over it," says manufacturing manager John Bulger. "We can keep the quality up to what we want. We can change the parts quicker, too. If something comes up that you see is wrong, you've got it right there in-house," he added, so problems can be corrected efficiently.

The company decided to invest in a Bridgeport V2XT CNC mill (Bridgeport Machines, Inc., Bridgeport, Connecticut). The V2XT is a 3-hp, knee-type CNC milling machine with a 32-bit control. This was Mr. Bulger's first experience with a CNC machine, and although he had 18 years of experience in machine shops, he had no computer experience at all. The V2XT was easy to use, he says, more than doubling production speed and the three-axis machine gave him the capability to mill in two axes at the same time. Suddenly it was possible for him to do things in-house he had not been able to do before, such as milling around contours and circles.

For example, gun bodies for the striping machines took ten to 12 hours to do manually, and some procedures could not be done in-house. With the CNC mill, these parts can now be produced completely in-house in three hours.

The company was so impressed with the benefits of using the CNC mill that they bought a Bridgeport Discovery 308 vertical machining center and EZ-CAM offline programming software about a year after the initial purchase of the V2XT. "The little V2XT was just loaded all the time," Mr. Bulger says. "Plus I wanted to do bigger and more complex parts."

The Discovery 308 is a 7.5-hp vertical machining center with a 550-pound table load capability. It features an automatic toolchanger, which greatly increased the company's productivity by automatically changing a tool in four to five seconds, as opposed to the 15 to 20 seconds it took to change manually. Plus there is no delay with the machine sitting idle while the operator is busy doing something else and can't get back to the machine to change the tool. "When it comes to that part of the program, it's going to make the tool change right then," Mr. Bulger explains. "It just keeps on going and doesn't slow down. That's one of the big advantages with an automatic."

The software system was a big asset, too. Now Mr. Marcato can do his designs in AutoCAD and give Mr. Bulger the part outlines on a disk, and he can generate the NC file in EZ-CAM. Complicated parts that used to take him two to three days to create manually can now be programmed in two to three hours. "On the simple parts, I've done the whole program in 15 minutes," he says.

Design capabilities have been greatly enhanced by the CNC mills and EZ-CAM software. Previously, the design was limited by what the machine shop could actually make. "It's helped in designing, and it's helped me make parts faster and more accurately," he says. Overall, the purchase of the Discovery 308 has increased Mac Striper's productivity at least 300 percent, according to Mr. Bulger.

Until now, Mac Stripers has relied on word of mouth and trade show exhibits to sell their products. They recently hired a full-time sales person so they can continue to grow at a rapid pace.

Both Bridgeport CNC mills are running eight to ten hours per day, and Mr. Bulger is hoping to purchase another Bridgeport CNC mill in the near future.

Mac Stripers is now a solid believer in the value of CNC equipment and EZ-CAM software. "CNC saves a lot of time," Mr. Bulger says. "And it increases your capabilities. You can just do so much more." MMS

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