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Laser Technology

Walking the talk

By Lynn Stanley

Manufacturer educates by example and applies lean strategies

April 2012- In a business landscape where companies can ill afford waste, one manufacturer is practicing what it preaches. Mazak Corp.’s North American factory, National Technology Center and North Central headquarters, Florence, Ky., is applying the same lean strategies that it educates its customers about.

The manufacturer of CNC chip cutting machine tools replaced an older laser system with three new Optiplex 3015 laser fabrication centers in a flexible manufacturing system to improve processing of sheet metal machine components. The manufacturing center sourced the systems from Mazak Optonics Corp., based in Elgin, Ill. Mazak Optonics specializes in CO2 and fiber laser cutting systems for the metal fabrication, structural steel, and construction markets.

Adding value
“As a customer, someone who is making products, we are seeing a reshoring trend when it comes to automatically outsourcing parts overseas,” says Chuck Birkle, vice president of sales and marketing for the Florence headquarters and technology center. “If you are looking at making your supply chain leaner, outsourcing parts overseas really doesn’t support that practice. Distance tends to induce waste and makes it difficult to produce unforecasted demand. Distance also doesn’t lend itself to a manufacturer’s ability to be responsive to a customer’s engineering changes.”

Companies minimize work in process and optimize throughput by balancing knowledge of throughput with raw materials volume. “Storing raw material off-shore or off-site also is inefficient,” Birkle says. “Your raw material could become marked or scratched, its fit and finish compromised. Storing sheet metal on-site can help a company better control cost and quality as well as standardize on sheet stock.”

Proper application of software and automation supports lean practices by simulating production schedules and producing on demand instead of tying production to forecasts. “We’ve improved our lead times and we’re able to be better listeners to our customers,” says Birkle. “We can produce on demand to meet subtle customer nuances and provide product modifications.

Our Florence Kentucky Campus is important since we can teach these techniques to our customers in our Learning Center then walk them 300 yards to the plant and show them these techniques in action. We don’t ask our customers to do what we are not willing to do ourselves.”

Automation and simulation tools
Simulation tools also optimize machines like the new laser system to meet workflow requirements. Computerization of the planning process, nesting for material optimization and data on production lot sizes helps the manufacturer ensure that material volumes don’t exceed or fall below requirements.

Automation addresses other critical factors that impact productivity. “The amount of time that raw material has value added to it is only 10 percent or less from the time it hits the docks to the time it ships,” says William Citron, president of Mazak Optonics. “Too many manufacturers tend to focus only on cutting faster, which actually reduces that 10 percent even further instead of looking at ways to add value throughout the production process. For example, over the last 10 to 15 years, lot sizes have gotten smaller, requiring multiple setups. These multiple setups are killing productivity and profitability. By automating those types of things in our laser equipment, we’ve attacked setup time and added value to the production process.”

Automation aids job preparation in other ways. Companies often compromise on things like changing the lens or nozzle, slowing the cutting speed and increasing the cost of assist gas. In addition to programming the laser to automatically change the torch, focal length or nozzle, operators also easily can recalibrate to ensure they begin cutting at the prime hot spot. “The exact hot spot can change as the lens becomes dirty,” says Citron. “An operator can recalibrate the hot spot, but unless this can be done automatically or a company has an operator with the skills to perform this task, the efficiency of the cutting system can deteriorate. Automation also allows the laser to accommodate different materials and material thicknesses without the operator having to intervene.”

The Florence factory is finding, in many cases, human resources are at capacity. “When we need more available hours to ship product, we can’t necessarily tap the job shop community because they are at capacity,” says Birkle. “Simulation tools and equipment automation have reduced our dependency on outsourcing and actually increased throughput while minimizing additional costs.”

With the automated lasers, the Florence technology center has reduced cycle time 35 percent and increased throughput 53 percent. “We hear a lot of customers say, ‘I’m waiting until my backlog grows’ to address investing in equipment advances that can help streamline their processes,” says Citron. “The only way for manufacturers to grow is to implement tools that allow them to produce more efficiently within customer timeframes. It’s all about throughput.” FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

IRONWORKERS

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters

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Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

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Mazak Optonics Corp.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.

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SecturaSOFT

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MTS Sensors

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Bradbury Group

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Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Burghardt + Schmidt Group EMH Crane Rolleri USA Nidec Press & Automation
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc.

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Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial AMADA AMERICA, INC. Alliance Steel
Tishken

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Automec Inc.

TUBE & PIPE

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Advanced Gauging Technologies MC Machinery Systems Inc. BLM Group
Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

SafanDarley HGG Profiling Equipment Inc.

DEBURRING/FINISHING

Cincinnati Inc.

PUNCHING

Prudential Stainless & Alloys
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit Hougen Manufacturing

WATERJET

Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc.

SAWING

Barton International
Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. Behringer Saws Inc. Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
SuperMax Tools

METAL FORMING

Cosen Saws Omax Corp.
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. DoALL Sawing

WELDING

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

MetalForming Inc. HE&M Saw American Weldquip
Beckwood Press Co.

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Savage Saws Strong Hand Tools
Triform Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

T. J. Snow Company

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