NTMA Members Spotlight Shop Additions

While traveling with some members of the National Tooling and Machining Association, a few highlighted recent improvement efforts from which their operations have benefited a good deal.

I recently got the chance to visit Japan with a handful of National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) members as a guest of the organization. This provided the opportunity to visit Okuma and Big Daishowa (Big Kaiser) production facilities and take in technology presentations from those two companies as well as Blaser Swisslube. You can find a slideshow highlighting some of what I learned during the visit here.

What I also appreciate about these NTMA-sponsored tours (this was my second) is spending time chatting with the shop owners and managers traveling with me. I always come away with a better understanding of what their current pain points are, their operations in general and recent changes they have implemented to grow their businesses. During this trip, I asked the members to share with me one technology, process or strategy that has made a big impact on their company. (This is similar to an open-ended question that is included in each Top Shops benchmarking survey.) Here are some of the replies I received:

Committing to robotic automation. MetalQuest Unlimited Inc. President Scott Harms says his shop has hired a person who previously worked for a robot integrator, meaning his company has its own in-house integrator. The goal is not to replace employees. In fact, the shop continues to challenge and develop its employees with ongoing training and advancement opportunities. It has also developed a mobile, candy-throwing robot with vision system that it takes to local schools and events to boost young people’s interest in manufacturing.

Adding five-axis machining capability. Bill Barcikowski, production planner for J&F Machine, says that even though the shop is performing 3 + 2 positioning and not full-five-axis contouring operations, reducing setups from as many as six to one saves a tremendous amount of time. He notes that as a production planner, he is always watching the clock, so anything that decreases total setup and run time on a job is great in his book.

Adding a 12-pallet flexible manufacturing system (FMS). Brandy Tidball, president of Axxis Corp., says adding the FMS to a horizontal machining center (HMC) has resulted in multiple hours of unattended machining. Overall spindle utilization for that machine is higher, too.

Adding a bar feeder. Tom Hilaris, president and CEO of Ergoseal, says his shop should have added a bar feeder to one of the shop’s turning centers years ago. However, it is now reaping the benefits of long stretches of unattended machining for parts used in its mechanical seal products.

Investing in CAM software training for an eager employee. Mike Faltermeier, shop supervisor for C&R Manufacturing, says that adding another programmer means other programmers will not become overloaded with work. Plus, it makes good business sense to offer such opportunities for young employees who are hoping to grow their skill sets.

Hiring a sales person. Gillen Young, president of Custom Tool, says that although hiring a sales person does come at a price, removing sales duties from his plate enables him to concentrate on other areas of the shop. He also knows that one person is focused solely on drumming up new business.

What has your shop recently added to become more efficient or effective? Let me know (dkorn@mmsonline.com). I’d love to hear about it (and maybe write about it).