Tool & Die

Bridging the gap

By Lynn Stanley

Supplier expands support using aggressive growth, providing soup to nuts to keep fabricators up and running

April 2014 - Like an ebbing tide, automation, offshoring, imported tooling and attrition have helped to shrink the tool and die industry in recent years. Now, with the rising tide of reshoring, labor cost increases in China, major changes in the automotive industry, and the resurgence of North American manufacturing, skilled toolmakers are in big demand. Alan Shaffer, president of Dayton Lamina Corp., Dayton, Ohio, explains why. 

First,  Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards released in 2012 require automakers to raise the fuel efficiency of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Compliance has prompted innovative approaches to vehicle designs and ushered in a host of new materials. “We’re seeing a proliferation of ultra high-strength steels with MPa ratings of 1,600 to 2,000,” says Shaffer. “These steels allow manufacturers to reduce weight further with thinner components yet still pass crash tests. The steel industry is forecasting that 35 percent of all steel used in vehicles will be high-strength steel. 

“Another big change is that nonstructural parts like body panels are being produced from aluminum. Tool technology, die design and presses have to be able to accommodate the particular properties of these higher strength steels and aluminum.”

Rising to the challenge

To that end, die construction has become more accurate and a greater variety of coatings are available for enhanced performance. Press technology also has advanced where tooling is concerned. “Servoforming for example, with its ability to program speed and position when forming higher strength steels, is able to reduce tool wear and extend die life,” says Shaffer. “Press action is no longer like hitting a horseshoe with a hammer.” 


Despite these advances in technology and equipment, automotive manufacturers find themselves challenged. “Car makers are trapped between consumers who want comfort and federal mandated standards that say designs must meet compliance criteria. OEMs have to work quickly to embrace these new technologies yet don’t have the luxury of time to gain the necessary experience,” says Shaffer.

Dayton Lamina, formerly Dayton Progress, has taken some aggressive steps to expand its support of manufacturers and bridge the experience and skills gap between demand and a downsized tool and die market. The 67-year-old company is a major supplier of punches, die components, die details, punch blanks and metal stamping tools. Its comprehensive line of tooling offers a one-stop-shop for fabricators’ bill of materials including die buttons, pins and bushings, wear and guide components, die springs and cams. In February the company announced its merger with Anchor Lamina. The two die component makers were purchased by Misumi Group Inc. in 2012.  “It’s one of those rare, good mergers,” says Shaffer. “We’ve added several million dollars of inventory and invested $1 million in Kaizen process engineers to reduce lead time. We have 44 regional sales managers providing technical expertise.” Shaffer says by the end of this September, customers will have one number to call, one service department to contact and one location for placing their orders. “If you are a tool and die builder, you can call us and get everything you need in one call,” he adds.

Change game

For Dayton Lamina, today’s dynamic market means the ability to make changes to tools on the fly with extremely short delivery times. “Twenty-two percent of our jobs are shipped made-to-order in 24 hours,” says Shaffer. “We operate three shifts a day. If a manufacturer breaks a punch at 3 a.m. they can call us, we’ll answer the phone and get them back up and running.” 

By changing its manufacturing processes, Dayton Lamina has dramatically reduced downtime for manufacturers that need a quick repair. “We have a large inventory of bar stock, a massive heat treatment department, and we are the only supplier in the industry with a metallurgy lab that is equipped with a scanning electron microscope,” says Shaffer. “Prior to the merger and process changes we’ve made, from the time we pulled a punch blank, to delivery of the finished product to the shipping department, was approximately 55 hours. Now we do it in five hours.”

The supplier also is developing patented products like Everlast and DAYSet. Its Everlast process alters the structure of tool steel at the molecular level, creating tools that last three to five times longer than untreated tools. 

One Midwestern custom manufacturer of precision metal stampings reports that the economies of scale it achieves with Dayton Lamina’s DAYSet compound tooling allow it to win short to medium run washer projects—often over a local competitor. Despite having its own in-house tooling capabilities, the plant chooses to use DAYSet because the system gives them economical, durable tooling that can be changed out quickly. 

“We get prints in for quotes all the time,” says the manufacturer’s engineering manager. “When we quote a washer with Dayton Lamina components, it’s very competitive. Sometimes the quantities are low—in the hundreds—while others can reach 50,000 pieces or more. Regardless of run size, DAYSet allows economical production.”


Time and cost savers

With the tooling system, the company can produce high-quality, cost-effective stamped parts in a single-step operation. The full set includes an upper punch, a knockout, die button, stripper and lower punch. Components can be ordered as a set or individually. Because the components are designed to work together, ordering them takes just minutes. “If we had to lay out the tooling it would be hours on the computer,” says the manufacturer’s plant manager. “Add to that the time and cost associated with producing the components, assembling and testing them. Now we can devote those hours to higher volume and larger ticket projects.”

The DAYSet tooling has been designed to fit into a master compound die—a precision-made set that works with interchangeable compound tooling to give fabricators a total system for producing flat blanks. The master compound die, a two-post steel die set, has adjustable guides, a knockout and is key-aligned for irregular and round shapes. 

The manufacturer uses three master die sets with dozens of different tooling sets for quick changeover to different washer designs. “To take the tool set out of the master die is just a matter of unscrewing a couple lock-screws and dropping in the new tooling,” says the company’s engineering manager. “Just that fast, you are running another part.”

Despite the simplicity of the design, the engineering manager finds the system and its components are well-made. Working frequently with material as thin as 0.070 in., the DAYSet tools allow company technicians to hold tolerances to 0.080 in. Quality construction and fast changeouts aside, the company’s engineering manager says the tooling system is “easily a quarter of the cost” of designing and building its own tooling in-house.

With growth its core value, Dayton Lamina is committed to helping manufacturers thrive by providing them with the tooling and technical support needed to navigate changing market demands. The supplier enjoyed $200 million in sales for 2013 and is able to offer regional service with its factories in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, Czech Republic, Japan and China. “We’ve gotten very positive feedback from customers,” says Shaffer. “They know they have a resource they can rely on.” FFJ




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