"The Hard-Milling Imperative" is meant to focus on this technique and its value to moldmaking. However, Hard Milling Solutions, the shop that is discussed in this article, is unusual and interesting for several other reasons. These differences give us some useful insights into the nature of today’s machining technology.
For example, the inherent capacity for highly automated (unattended and lightly tended) operation makes it possible for Corey Greenwald and Kevin Hunter to run two machines almost around the clock. It’s a two-man shop, but that used to mean a couple of guys with a knee mill, a lathe and a surface grinder in a garage, or maybe with a basic CNC machining center or two in a bay off another shop. These two men are getting hours of machine output that are more like the numbers you’d expect from a shop with many more machines and many more people. Shop head count simply doesn’t represent a meaningful basis for comparison anymore.
It’s also telling that a high level of automated operation is not only possible, but is also necessary. The capitalization required to start up a shop such as this demands a high rate of return. To earn their keep, so to speak, these machines have to be highly utilized. Automation both poses and meets this challenge.
This kind of operation calls for a different set of skills than dictated in the past. A person with Mr. Greenwald’s non-machining background and experience can start up a high-tech shop such as his and succeed. Not long ago, his original training and education would have made him an unlikely candidate for this role. In this case, not being a machinist or toolmaker is an advantage because Mr. Greenwald did not have a lot to unlearn. Today’s machining technology creates opportunities that are likely to attract a new breed of machining entrepreneur, the kind of person Mr. Greenwald represents.
His shop is not only pioneering the process of hard milling, but it is also pioneering a rather different business model. It’s based on the premise that the more other shops adopt this same technology, the more work will migrate to Hard Milling Solutions. To succeed as a technology leader, this shop wants to develop technology followers. Most shops with a process specialty want to keep other users out. Mr. Greenwald clearly has a different strategy.
The face of machining and the face of machine shops are changing. We get a glimpse of some of these changes at places such as Hard Milling Solutions. I like what I see.