Tool & Die

A suitable square

By Colin Linneweber

Above: Accu-Square is known for its ability to eliminate unnecessary downtime, thereby lowering the expense of shaping material.

Diehl Tool’s Accu-Square process fits K-K Tool & Design’s needs

November 2016 - “If you have not given the Accu-Square process at Diehl Tool Steel a try, we highly recommend doing so,” says Jim Blake, president of K-K Tool & Design. “It has significantly improved our way of doing business.” 

Founded in 1980, K-K Tool & Design’s staff of 20 assemble, build and design dies, machines, fixtures and tooling products and provide a range of services out of a 15,000-square-foot facility in Markle, Indiana. Blake and Vice President Ted Oakes were determined to attract a large customer base in K-K’s target markets. Over the past decade, they realized their expansion goals by boosting the company’s clientele and sales revenue.

“Since 2005, we have been very aggressive and have increased our customer base and annual sales by roughly 200 percent and have diversified into the automotive, heavy truck, railroad, military, medical, commercial and construction industries,” says Blake. “Although we have been blessed with significant amounts of new work each year, that new work has created many challenges.”

FFJ 1116 tool image1

Accu-Square is a cost-effective process that reduces hours of manual labor, according to the customers that use it.

With fresh projects rapidly mounting atop existing ones, Blake and Oakes knew they lacked the necessary manpower and number of toolmakers to complete jobs by their set deadlines. 

“Due to our ongoing and increasing backlog of work, we do not have the time to have our own toolmakers squaring blocks and we never have the luxury of long lead times,” says Blake. 

Following a few unsuccessful partnerships with other steel suppliers, Blake and Oakes researched Cincinnati-based Diehl Tool Steel Inc. International suppliers of tool steel, alloy steel, CPM powder metal mold steel, carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum products and services, the Diehl organization impressed Blake and Oakes with its cost-effective Accu-Square process and its ability to reduce hours of manual labor. K-K Tool began a partnership with Diehl Steel in May 2014. Nearly two and a half years into this relationship, Blake credits Diehl with helping his team handle a hefty workload to become one of the largest machine tool manufacturers in the U.S.

“Diehl’s pricing, quick lead times and Accu-Square capabilities have made a huge contribution in our efforts to grow, improve lead times and remain competitive,” says Blake. 

Details, details

An average die or special machine can easily have several hundred details, he explains. “Prior to partnering with Diehl Steel, we would have our toolmakers squaring all of the details, which could take days, in most cases. We tried different steel suppliers who claimed they could square the blocks for us. However, the blocks were neither square nor cost-effective. With Diehl’s Accu-Square process, we know that the blocks will be squared within ten thousands of an inch and, the majority of the time, it will cost less than if we did it ourselves.”

FFJ 1116 tool image2

An average die or special machine component can easily include several hundred details.

In addition to relying on the Accu-Square process, K-K Tool also signed on for Diehl Express line. Like Accu-Square, Diehl Express is a service designed to minimize labor, maximize productivity and ensure that customers can receive quick tool and die repair. Bryan Holwadel, an outside sales representative at Diehl, visited K-K Tool and explained to Blake and Oakes how both services could improve their timeliness and efficiency.

“Our Diehl Express line is a same-day shipment for hot jobs that K-K has. Our Accu-Square process falls within our production lines where we can mill material to size in two to three days,” says Holwadel.

Accu-Square is “a plug and go type of process where material comes in right to size and the detail work is where the money is made for tool and die clients, not in squaring material,” according to Holwadel.

“Our Accu-Square process streamlines customers tool and die projects within the shop,” he says, which accelerates turnaround. 

“It typically takes customers a lot of time to pre-square material to size and our process eliminates that first crucial step within the shop. We can pre-square material in 10 minutes on our duplex milling machines—compared to a customer taking 30 minutes to an hour to do so. This process was very successful for K-K Tool and it allowed them to get projects out the door [faster] when compared to paying labor and machining costs within their own shop.” 

FFJ 1116 tool image3

Diehl Tool Steel supplies carbon, stainless tool and alloy steels, CPM powder metal mold steel, plus aluminum products and services.

Redeploying assets

Blake confirms Holwadel’s assessment and raves about Accu-Square’s ability to eliminate unnecessary downtime and lower expenses.

“By using the Accu-Square process, we are able to use our toolmakers for more critical steps in the [parts and components] build process and, therefore, we are able to reduce lead times,” says Blake. “Most of the time, when we receive Accu-Squared blocks, squaring cost is less expensive to do than if we were to do it in house, which helps keep us competitive. Also, as soon as the blocks arrive, they can go straight to the CNC department or be manually milled, rather than having to be squared first.”

K-K Tool’s per-piece production pricing has barely inflated over the past 11 years; at the same time, the company remains committed to developing and upgrading its capabilities. 

“With domestic and overseas competition being what it is, we still quote projects at roughly the same rate we did back in 2005 in an effort to maintain our market share,” says Blake. “That being said, our continuous improvement efforts are what have kept us competitive, busy and profitable.”

While K-K sustains its progress, Diehl is in the midst of purchasing new equipment and renovating manufacturing space in Cincinnati. “We are tripling the size of our shop to a capacity of around 90,000 sq. ft.,” says Holwadel. The company will install new duplex milling machines so it is able to mill material up to 16 in. by 39 in. by 39 in., along with milling full plates as large as 16 in. thick, 50 in. wide by 110 in. long. 

Almost three years have passed since Holwadel made that cold call to K-K Tool & Design and persuaded Blake and Oakes to give “the Accu-Square process at Diehl Tool Steel a try.” All the parties involved seem thankful that Jim Blake picked up the phone. FFJ



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