Collaborative approach

By Gretchen Salois

Above: After hearing customer feedback, Hydmech developed a machine that takes banded bundles off the truck onto the machine without removing the banding.

A network of resources helped one saw manufacturer address real problems

January 2016 - With a gap in the marketplace, it behooved one saw manufacturer to jump in and identify what was missing.

“We were late to the party, so we knew we needed something different,” says Rick Arcaro, vice president of sales and marketing for Hydmech. For years, the company was aware of a gap in its line of vertical band saws. 

“We weren’t able to compete for sales when customers were looking for an automatic 60-degree miter band saw in the 20- to 25-in. capacity range,” Arcaro says. Typically, saws are available with a 45-degree miter angle. “We sat back and watched the manufacturing mistakes that others have made and during our process, made a few mistakes of our own and fixed them.”

The strategy led the company to design the V-20APC, which debuted at Fabtech 2015. Hydmech, making saws for 40 years, serves customers that cut a wide variety of material for end-use industries such as aerospace, automotive, steel service centers and metal fabrications shops.

FFJ 0116 sawing image1

Hydmech’s V-20APC offers a patent-pending blade chamber, which prevents the blade from snagging by providing a wide path through which the blade retracts.

Lessons in listening

When selecting features to build into its latest model, Hydmech turned to its customer base. To develop products of any type, Arcaro says it’s a matter of choosing between different approaches. “Either give the market what they really want or give them what you think they need,” he says. “We’ve taken the approach where we give the market what they want with the improvements they’ve asked for.”

The more Arcaro asked, the more he heard customers citing a need for a solution to everyday bundle cutting problems. Arcaro asked machine operators what issues they experienced with other saws so Hydmech could use the knowledge to design a machine “to make their lives easier,” he says. “We have developed a machine that can take banded bundles off the truck onto the machine and process without removing the banding. This is what our end users have asked for.”

The patent pending banding removal is rooted in Hydmech’s bar feed, which is designed to minimize problems when shuttling crooked materials or banded bundles. The shuttle vise assembly will index up to 120 in. with a single stroke. The front leg carries the conveyor on a simple hydraulic linkage that, in a single motion, lifts the backside of the conveyor up above the saw table and away from the saw datum vise. “This stops the material from dragging and prevents the banded material from catching,” says Arcaro. 

The V-20APC also offers a patent pending blade chamber which prevents the blade from snagging by providing a wide path for the blade to retract through. After finishing the cut, the head rapidly advances forward enough to completely exit the blade from the work. Using the material clamped in the jaws, the shuttle pushes the severed pieces forward. The shuttle then retracts the stock material well beyond the blade path. This creates a wide space between the cut pieces and the material still clamped, allowing the blade to retract without catching on material, according to Hydmech.

Operating the machine is easy “so that anyone in the shop could operate” it with an icon-based interface, which is “self-explanatory in a lot of ways,” adds Arcaro. “You pick the shape you want your part to look like and are given a choice of photos. You select the one you need, how many you want and start cutting.” 

Replacement parts are designed so customers can buy any parts they need off the shelf, says Arcaro. One hundred percent of its machines are sold through distributors located around the globe.

Hydmech extends its open-dialogue approach with customers and other saw manufacturers throughout the world in an effort to stay current. “We network with friends as well as competitors to share market data,” Arcaro says. “It is very difficult to position your company in any market if you have no idea of the size of that market.

“An open dialogue is helpful to all parties,” he continues. “It allows for working together on common industry or market issues. It also provides an alternative for customers who are not a good fit for your business.”

FFJ 0116 sawing image2

Photos on the machine’s monitor allow operators to easily select which shape to cut.

Staying ahead of the technology curve includes keeping abreast of machine safety guarding requirements. “The U.S. is currently changing the band saw machine safety guarding requirements,” Arcaro says. “But Hydmech already meets and exceeds similar standards with our international customers,” he adds, which means it is well prepared to adhere to U.S. mandates.

Guarding a machine is just as important as cutting ability. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require guarding anywhere a body part could come in contact with a moving part. “Avoiding dangerous moving parts of a machine may seem obvious but when dealing with long hours, repetitive work and the daily pressures to produce more products quickly, employees can sometimes become complacent or their judgment can become clouded,” Arcaro says. “Safeguarding a machine does not have to be complicated, just effective.”

The expense of safety features compared with a catastrophic injury, like an amputation, is minimal. “You have to ask yourself as an employer: ‘What would be my out-of-pocket costs for an injury this serious in comparison to the cost of a [machine] guard and training?’” asks Arcaro. “I am certain in most cases the cost of multiple guards would not compare to the long-term costs associated with an injury of this nature.” 

Hydmech’s product development strategy is less wait-and-see and more like an active, ongoing discussion with multiple sources spanning peers and the many customers that perform cutting services. The end result consists of machines that provide capabilities that may be lacking in the marketplace. “We position ourselves as listeners as opposed to telling the marketplace what we think they need,” Arcaro says. FFJ



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