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Laser Technology

Loyalty, reliability

By Lynn Stanley

Technology anchors parts production but staunch support bonds machinery maker and RV builder

May 2017 - “So shines a good deed in a weary world.” Actor Gene Wilder immortalized the phrase in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” He was referring to the integrity exhibited by young Charlie Bucket, who ultimately chose not to steal Wonka’s newest confectionary for a competitive candy maker. In the manufacturing industry, exceptional acts of customer service have become the good deeds that shine for fabricators weary of finding themselves on the short end of support after a capital equipment purchase. 

For MOR/ryde International, it was a singular act of service that forged an enduring partnership with Trumpf Inc. The Elkhart, Indiana-based MOR/ryde fabricates a wide range of products from steps and suspension systems to mounts for television sets and sliding trays for recreational vehicles, bus and truck manufacturers as well as custom products for end users like packaging and medical device makers. The 51-year-old company gained traction as a suspension supplier but didn’t start manufacturing its own parts until 1993. 

“The product we made for RV builders—a tag axle or a second axle positioned behind the rear drive axle of a recreational vehicle—was being phased out in favor of a larger chassis that made our model obsolete,” recalls MOR/ryde Project Coordinator Gary Tompkins. “So we reinvented ourselves.”

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MOR/ryde immersed itself in the fabrication business in 1993 and began to grow at an accelerated pace. In 1999 the manufacturer bought one Trumpf TruLaser 3030 3000W CO2 laser machine and a year later added a TruLaser 5030 5000W laser.  “We had issues with the new laser,” Tompkins noted, but Trumpf’s response “was immediate.”

“Looking back, it quickly became apparent that they needed more productivity capacity,” says Jim Rogowski, Trumpf Inc.’s vice president of service. “Trumpf stepped up to make some of their parts in-house and also put an additional machine on their floor to get their production levels to where they needed to be while the issue with the 5000W laser was resolved.”

This act of service and support is what cemented the relationship between the two companies and has kept MOR/ryde coming back for additional equipment purchases from the OEM for two decades, says Tompkins. 

Deadlines

Trumpf offers technology that is well regarded, he acknowledges, but service and reliability are what drives MOR/ryde’s engine. “Anyone who can afford a laser can make a good part,” he says. “We recognized early on that service was the differentiator that would set us apart,” he explains. “It’s about being able to produce high quality parts and meet our shipping deadlines. We have to take care of our customers or we’re going to lose them. We recognized that Trumpf shared a similar business philosophy.”

According to Tompkins, the RV market comprises 70 percent of MOR/ryde’s business and it’s a consumer space with some unique characteristics. Indiana’s Elkhart county is known as the RV Capital of the World. The bulk of pop-up campers, travel trailers and motorhomes are made within a 30-mile radius of the city, home to 53,000 people. Business was devastated during the Great Recession—many manufacturers shut their doors or were merged with others—but sales rebounded in 2010. 

“The RV industry is a custom market,” he says. “Unlike the automakers, which may go anywhere from a year to several years before making model changes, the wants of RV customers tend to be implemented right away. It might be a TV bracket or a certain type of table mount, but each RV builder wants to make their own unique parts to differentiate their particular model.”

Model changes during April and May, open houses in September, and a larger dealer show in November are hotbeds for showcasing ideas. RV builders are quick to adopt innovations fresh from these venues. Tompkins says the tailor-made approach to parts prohibits many components from being shipped overseas and stamped. 

MOR/ryde’s ability to cater to the industry has fueled a major growth spurt for the company. “Since 2010, we’ve grown our workforce from 250 to 900 employees,” he says. “We’ve undergone four building projects making our total square footage over 500,000 sq. ft. Our turnaround time is based on customer needs. We generally get about a two-week lead time but if someone needs parts overnight, we do it. Trumpf lasers anchor a strong foundation for us.”

FFJ 0517 laser image2

Trumpf’s TruLaser fiber with 6000W laser is one of a stable of Trumpf CO2 and fiber machines that anchor MOR/ryde’s production department.

Diversification

The manufacturer doesn’t shear or punch parts. Ninety percent of its components begin as laser-cut parts made from carbon and stainless sheet steel and aluminum  sheet. “We create a part number for the different types of sheet material we process to denote material thickness and grade,” says Tompkins. “We now have 221 different part numbers for sheet materials up to ¾ in. thick.”

To meet demand, MOR/ryde has continued to source from Trumpf for its laser needs. Trumpf CO2 machines, of which Tompkins says the shop has added 11 more since its  initial purchases, are now largely being used to cut the manufacturer’s thicker materials but the advantages of the equipment OEM’s other laser options quickly caught Tompkins’ eye. Since 2014 the manufacturer has added three 3000W, three 4000W and three 6000W Trulaser fiber cutting units. 

MOR/ryde is also using Trumpf technology to help diversify its product portfolio. The shop makes parts for products like hospital beds, surgery tools, horse trailers and storage containers. Trumpf’s TruDisk lasers, which power its TruLaser fiber machines, are easy to operate, require little maintenance and housekeeping tasks like head changes and lens cleaning, and saves power consumption. 

“Twenty Trumpf lasers and 20 to 25 Trumpf press brakes help us keep pace with expanding production and support efforts to grow our business outside the RV industry,” says Tompkins. “We’ve replaced two of our old CO2s with new, faster TruLaser 6000W fiber lasers. We’re also considering automation.”

For Tompkins Trumpf’s one act of exceptional service more than 20 years ago is what tipped the scales allowing both companies to experience a windfall return on investment. “Other equipment suppliers have been given the opportunity to do the same and come up short,” he says. “For Trumpf there is not a better story to illustrate the kind of company they are.” FFJ

Sources

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