Beyond the manufacture and installation of machine tools, today's builder increasingly faces customer demands for technical support on the process side of the manufacturing equation. Simply making good machines is insufficient to satisfy many of the needs of the metalworking market.
Many prime manufacturing companies have downsized their in-house manufacturing engineering and process engineering staffs in favor of increased reliance on vendor supplied expertise. To that end, suppliers such as machine tool builders have taken up the role of application and process specialists for many of their customers.
This expanded role for builders often extends well beyond the workzone of a given machine tool encompassing activities upstream and downstream of the specific processes occurring in the cut. Consequently machine tool builders have established key partnerships within their vendor communities. These partnerships supply necessary experience in areas of tooling, fixturing and material handling -- areas that fall outside the realm of building machine tools.
In response to this trend, Mazak Corporation, Florence, Kentucky recently opened its National Technology Center (NTC) on the company's Florence campus. The NTC is committed to developing manufacturing solutions for the company's customers by bringing together, in a central location, technologies such as multi-tasking, high speed machining, cellular and flexible machining systems tied together with CAD/CAM automation.
In operation, the NTC will focus on partnerships with suppliers and customers in an effort to develop solutions to manufacturing challenges. Centralizing the process of application solutions, allows the growth of engineering support based on successful and profitable solutions.
"We anticipate and hope that these solutions will benefit the entire industry," says Brian Papke, president. "The key will be in cultivating lasting partnerships and promoting communications links between Mazak and anyone in industry who wants to take advantage of advanced technology."
The NTC is planned as a technology center in all respects. While application development is a prime activity for the facility, plans call for periodic seminars on topics of relevance to the manufacturing industry and daily technology demonstrations.
"We are excited about the opportunities the NTC has to offer," says Mr. Papke. "We believe those who visit the NTC and participate in the facility's programs, will leave with valuable ideas for their companies."
In addition to the NTC, Mazak has rededicated two other facilities on the Florence campus. These are the Agile Manufacturing facility and the National Customer Support and Service Center.