“But I Don’t Machine Custom Camshafts!”

Why should you read a story about machining billet racing camshafts when your shop doesn’t do that type of work? There are a few reasons why it makes sense.


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This article profiles Comp Cams, a leading automotive aftermarket company that specializes in high-performance valve train components for street and racing applications. The story explains how the company has become more efficient and effective machining small batches of custom, billet camshafts for race teams using a complex twin-spindle/twin-turret turning center.

There’s a strong chance that your shop doesn’t machine camshafts. Heck, your shop might not even have any automotive customers. That may lead you to think that there’s not much to gain by reading such an article.

However, let’s take the camshaft out of the equation. Instead of focusing on the specific type of workpiece a company is machining, let’s step back and consider some of the general strategies, techniques and approaches it is applying. These might spark ideas that could ultimately lead to process improvements on your shop floor.

You should use this approach when reading any article—take a scan and discover some takeaways that might be right up your alley. Here are some general tidbits from the Comp Cams story:

• Your shop doesn’t machine camshafts, but it machines shaft-type workpieces. Might a different type of turning center, perhaps one offering more capabilities than yours, enable you to create these types of parts faster/better/cheaper? Or, could such a new type of machine enable you to go after additional work for a customer currently using another shop to produce those parts?

• There’s value in standardization. Tool standardization can enable you to minimize the number of tools that must be touched-off for a new job while reducing change-over times. It also enables programmers to quickly and easily determine if any additional tooling is needed for a new project. Be sure to take advantage of all the tool stations your machines offer.

• Have some patience when implementing new technologies. Shops are well-served to recognize their manufacturing limitations, especially when considering the addition of an unfamiliar, complex machine. It’s best to devote time to learning the ins and outs of such a machine before depending on it for production. Oftentimes, this approach can make all the difference in the world.

• Make use of the knowledge that’s out there. It’s hard to keep up with advances in machining technology. There are a multitude of machine tool platforms, cutting tool alternatives, workholding methods and so on. That’s why it’s important to build solid relationships with equipment manufacturers, distributors and sales representatives. Consider their expertise and advice not only to establish an effective machining process, but to continually improve upon it.