A Case Study in Craftsmanship

With some 300 models of machine tools on offer, and new technologies such as the i5 CNC control now on the market, SMTCL is showing aggressive—and impressive—growth.


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Andrew Heath points to our location on a model of the SMTCL campus in Shenyang, China, before an equipment monitoring display that can also be accessed via handheld devices such as tablets. Click here for more photos from the tour.

My recent two-day tour of the Shenyang Machine Tool Co., Ltd. (or SMTCL, a part of SYMG) manufacturing facility in Shenyang, China, and its main foundry in nearby Liaozhong (another is located in Xifeng) revealed a company in control of every stage of production, from mold-making to casting, assembly and shipping. With its own sheet-metal works and paint shop, SMTCL is truly an A-Z operation. 

With service/technical centers in the United States and Canada, and locations throughout Germany devoted primarily to engineering and R&D, the main manufacturing campus in Shenyang employs some 14,000 people (18,000 worldwide) and is said to produce approximately 80,000 machine tools each year. These machines include CNC boring machines, the TPX line of manual boring machines and vertical and horizontal CNC milling and turning centers, including five-axis models. In fact, there are more than 300 models in production.

The company acquired Schiess of Germany in 2004, adding huge gantry-type boring and milling centers to its portfolio. Also, the company recently launched the new i5 CNC control developed at SMTCL’s R&D facility in Shanghai after six years and an investment of some $150 million.

My invitation to tour the facilities (along with another trade editor from Japan) signaled a move toward greater transparency in preparation for expanding SMTCL’s footprint in the global market. I was encouraged to take photographs and ask questions through Import & Export General Manager Andrew Heath, our host and guide.

Beginning in the carpentry shop, where wooden forms are constructed by master woodworkers based on the finished castings so they can be reproduced in the future, the sense of craftsmanship extended through all stages of manufacturing. The foundry was an impressive operation, with the latest technologies producing uniform castings for shipment to SMTCL’s assembly works as well as customers located around the world. The ISO/TS16949:2009 quality management system has been fully implemented at the foundry.

Assembly lines are well-organized, with all necessary tools and materials close at hand. The machines proceed through each station in an orderly and synchronized fashion, with technicians attaching components, running electrical wiring, sealing enclosures and measuring dimensions with laser scanners. Whether smaller VMCs or hulking gantry mills are being assembled, work areas are clean, spacious and well-lit.

After touring the facilities, I asked about the company’s strategic plans for growth. A new manufacturing facility for tapping machines will soon go online in Guangdong, and the search for a manufacturing site in the United States is ongoing, says Jerry McCarty, COO of SMTCL-Americas. It will be interesting to watch this company continue to establish itself outside of Asia, and particularly in the North American marketplace.