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Press Brakes

Nice & precise

By Lynn Stanley

With highly accurate, repeatable bending technology, fabricator supports diverse field of customers

July/August 2013 - For Jimmy Phillips a keen sense of timing was just one of the by-products of a 30-year corporate career with a national consumer products company. In 2009 when struggling Brooks Machine Co., Columbia, Tenn., caught Phillips’ attention, his intuition, experience and opportunity converged, leading him to buy the company despite a recession.

“My golfing buddies said, ‘Phillips, are you crazy?’” he recalls. “But I thought the timing was perfect.” A year earlier Phillips’ employer asked him to relocate to Chicago, but family ties had prompted the Tennessee native to choose the Volunteer State over the Windy City. Having made that decision, the opportunity to turn around a machining and fabrication company presented an interesting challenge. Phillips renamed the business BMC Metalworks and updated its three machining and fabrication buildings totaling 70,000 sq. ft. And as the saying goes, for Phillips, the proof of the pudding has been in the eating.

“The first year we experienced a 30 percent sales revenue increase,” he says. The company has since expanded its footprint to operate in several southeastern states, more than doubling its workforce and adding a second shift to its machining and fabrication divisions. Over the last four years BMC Metalworks has continued to report a double-digit uptick in sales and a growing number of satisfied customers.

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Diverse capabilities

The secret, Phillips says, is in having experienced managers, skilled employees, a process-driven approach and turnkey operations for machining, fabrication, press repair and rebuilding, and field maintenance.

“We’ve really branded ourselves,” Phillips says. “We’ve crafted an image built on substance. There are a lot of fabricators, machine shops and erection companies out there. We attract customers because we provide all of the components their jobs require from product development and prototyping to delivery and everything in between, including 24-hour emergency service.” The company’s solutions-based approach allows BMC Metalworks to serve a diverse group of North American industries counting more than 300 customers in government, defense, aluminum recycling, mining, agriculture, aviation, paper and perimeter security barriers.

Heavy plate and bump forming are essential to BMC Metalworks’ capability to fabricate large capacity structures, structural shapes and assemblies for these markets. To keep pace with its growth and customer demands for tighter tolerances, BMC Metalworks needed to replace its aging press brake with high-precision equipment. “Companies that survived the downturn are busy, so there’s a lot of work right here in our area,” says Phillips. “To support those jobs we needed press brake technology that could give us repeatability and reliability.”

Phillips says he considered several press brake manufacturers. “We also visited customers that owned the press brake models we were looking at but we were consistently impressed with the robust construction and overall performance of Fab-Line Machinery’s Baykal APHS multi-axis press brake. The positive feedback we received from other end users of the Baykal APHS press brake also influenced our decision.” Fab-Line, St. Charles, Ill., is an importer for Baykal and specializes in press brakes, shears and plasma machines for the fabrication marketplace. The company provides full service and support with the capability of demonstrating equipment at its St. Charles facility.

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Forming heavy metal 

BMC Metalworks installed a Baykal APHS 480-ton, 14-ft., 7-axis hydraulic press brake in 2013. The company runs heavy plate, stainless and carbon steel from 12 gauge to 1 in. on the press brake to form a wide range of parts. Bump forming and heavy plate forming are used to create liners for buckets and tanks used in coal and zinc mines. BMC also forms buckets for bulldozers; slag tubs for recycling and aluminum processing plants; liners for tub trailers; hoppers for the resin industry; tube and pipe weldments; filter and cleaning tanks for the filtration industry and components for perimeter security barrier systems. The press brake, one of a number of machines used to turn raw stock material into finished products, takes patterns developed by BMC Metalworks designers, cones and square to round transitions from a CNC plasma burn table. Once parts are formed they are fitted and welded before receiving the specified coating.  

“This is very difficult work,” says Patrick Canning, president of Fab-Line. “Many companies cannot do what BMC Metalworks is doing.” In addition to a rigid frame, the press brake has been designed with a repeatability of ±0.0004 in. CNC crowning helps to eliminate the need for shimming during part forming which saves substantial time. Phillips adds that the feature removes the potential for human error from the equation and allows the operator to achieve a consistent uniform bend. The press brake’s four-axis heavy-duty backgauge is equipped for bending plate. The operator enjoys the speed and accuracy of a sheet metal backgauge but is able to put a 90 degree bend in plate from 1 in. to 8 ft. long in one stroke. “This is significant,” Phillips adds. 

A Fab-Line V laser allows the operator to quickly align scribed parts. “With cone work or bump forming, parts have to be scribed on the plasma cutter,” says Canning. “It can be very time-consuming to align scribe lines on long parts in the press brake. You have to make sure the scribed line is perfectly centered in the middle of the vee opening to ensure the bend is exact. If alignment is off, the part will be scrapped. The laser shoots a beam down the center of the vee opening making it easy for the operator to quickly align the part.”

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Reducing setup time

 

By producing accurate parts and speeding setup time, companies like BMC Metalworks become more competitive. “On average the Fab-Line V laser has allowed us to reduce setup time by as much as 50 percent,” Phillips says. “With some jobs setup time reductions might be as high as 60 to 70 percent. We’re able to pass those cost savings on to our customers.”

In addition to reducing in-house forming time, Phillips says the APHS press brake provides the precision forming and consistent quality demanded by applications like barriers for perimeter security applications.

The ability to fabricate this product has pushed BMC Metalworks ahead of other manufacturers in this market. The company makes several types of barriers for use by the Department of Defense, military installations, embassies, data centers, airports, corporate headquarters, federal agencies and Fortune 500 companies. One provider announced successful testing of its perimeter security barrier to ASTM standards. An independent third party crash test demonstrated the barrier’s ability to stop a 15,000 lb. truck traveling 50 miles per hour with zero penetration.  “The first prototype we fabricated for the customer also had to pass this type of testing at the Texas Transportation Institute, College Station, Texas,” Phillips says.

High-precision Givi Misure scales, which are bed referenced on the APHS press brake, help ensure angular accuracy for critical parts fabricated for applications like BMC Metalworks’ security barrier systems. “The press brake has improved quality and productivity for both our downstream processes and our ability to meet shipping deadlines for parts with shorter turnaround times,” Phillips says. “We also use the press brake to form parts in-house. Our press repair, rebuild and press maintenance division is really growing. Our repair team has over 100 years of combined experience in this area and is able to tackle mechanical, electrical and hydraulic issues for all brands of stamping presses and forging equipment. We’re using the press brake to form press slides and crowns, processes that are common to our rebuild services." 

Quality and service remain important ingredients in Phillips’ business model for successful growth—elements he says he has found in common with Fab-Line Machinery. “The key to growing any successful business is consistent quality production,” he says. “Fab-Line’s APHS press brake technology gives us that. But the success of a company also rests on its employees.” 

Phillips has established employee incentive and recognition programs along with benefit packages to attract and retain the industry’s highest skilled workers. He also has established goals and objectives that include training and development for individual areas of expertise. “Quality is the result of intelligence, skill, dedication and perseverance,” says Phillips. “These are the hallmarks of our products and services that we strive to make available to our customers.” FFJ

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