Advanced Technology’s Trickle-Down Effect

Investing in new machining technology not only can help grow a business, but it can also spur shopfloor personnel to consider ways to improve operations performed on more conventional equipment.

I recently happened upon a piece that Robert Pernice, president of Duonetics Corp., posted to LinkedIn titled “Five-Axis Projects Lead to Greater Knowledge.” Here is one line that stood out to me in his article: “What I learned as we progressed through the process is that not only did we get very good at five-axis machining, we also found that our peripheral vision for two-, three- and four-axis work became sharper, and our skills and efficiency increased throughout the shop.”

Mr. Pernice’s Corona, California, shop has experienced steady, healthy growth since purchasing its first five-axis machine 10 years ago. That said, he and his employees continue to look for ways to take better advantage of the features in the shop’s five-axis CAM software, use more high-end or custom cutting tools, and investigate more capable workholding strategies to get the most out of full-five-axis machine motion.

A side benefit to the critical thinking required to more effectively use the five-axis equipment and the knowledge gained from that experience have provided insight as to how operations on more conventional machines might be improved. This is one reason why all shopfloor employees at Duonetics Corp. are trained on the company’s five-axis machines.

For example, Mr. Pernice points to a new parabolic cutting tool it now uses on three-axis vertical machining centers (VMCs) that can perform additional preparatory milling work for certain parts so those parts require less time on the five-axis machines. (Nearly every workpiece run on a five-axis machine first has some initial machining work performed on a turning center or VMC.) Changes like these enable the five-axis machines to be devoted to the tricky contouring work they are designed to perform.

As Mr. Pernice points out, everyone wants to run the five-axis “Ferraris” at Duonetics Corp.

Although the advanced technology highlighted in Duonetics Corp.’s case is five-axis machining, any leading technology could have the same effect. Of course, implementing new technology generally requires a larger investment and comes with a learning curve. It might also cause some trepidation. In fact, Mr. Pernice says it wasn’t until after a month of walking around his first five-axis machine that he finally turned it on and started getting to know it. However, he advises shops to take the plunge and immerse themselves in learning the new technology.

It’s also important to consider the message adding advanced technology sends to employees. Investing in technology that boosts a shop’s capabilities or efficiencies demonstrates that the company is focused on growth and is in it for the long haul. Plus, it shows that the company is committed to giving employees the tools they need to more effectively perform their jobs (i.e., make their lives simpler on the shop floor). In addition, it can serve to boost morale and bring a little excitement to the shop floor. As Mr. Pernice points out, everyone wants to run the five-axis “Ferraris” at Duonetics Corp.