Like many machine tool builders, Mazak touts the flexibility and efficiency of its equipment as aids to adopting “lean” manufacturing processes. However, in this case, this isn’t just a sales pitch. The company says a look at its Florence, Kentucky-based manufacturing operation—in which it uses many of its own machines—can illuminate the benefits of practicing what it preaches. “We are convinced that manufacturing in North America is practical and profitable with the right manufacturing concept and the implementation of technology that supports this philosophy,” says company president Brian Papke.
For Mazak, that philosophy is its “production on demand” concept, which calls for minimum lead times, small lot quantities, improved throughput and minimal inventory levels. During the past two years, the company has invested nearly $13 million to refine and integrate this concept by expanding its Florence facility and adding new equipment, including many of its own machine tools.
As a result of these investments, the company can more easily accommodate the frequent shifts in demand that characterize the modern manufacturing industry, Mr. Papke says. “Our experience in past years has shown us that it is no longer feasible to plan production and build inventory according to forecasts,” he explains. “The needs of American manufacturers are constantly changing, and adequately meeting those needs requires the ability to adapt instantaneously.”