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Midland Metal Products breaks up bottleneck in sheet forming operations with Salvagnini's panel bender technology

By ADVERTORIAL

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     Salvagnini’s P2 combines productivity with automatic bending and handling cycles, and uses universal bending tools to give fabricators cost-effcient flexibility.

BJ McDonald is a fourth-generation co-owner of Midland Metal Products Co. The facility director and his brother Marcus [company president] run the shop they grew up in, embracing a lineage that includes a strong work ethic, a hands-on attitude and a knack for problem-solving. Suzanne McDonald, the company’s CEO, adds that “at Midland, the word family applies to each member of the workforce.”

The 100-year-old metal fabricator specializes in wire, sheet metal and tube production for a diverse customer base. Assembly, packaging, digital print and cut operations contribute to its ability to ship finished goods to end users.

Growth prompted Midland to relocate from Chicago to Hammond, Indiana in 2019. “We’re in our fourth location,” says BJ McDonald. “Each generation has had an opportunity to reinvent, remap, reorganize and adapt the shop to the work being done at the time.”

“We invest heavily in equipment and we’re always evaluating new technologies,” he continues. “I was looking at panel benders before we moved into the Hammond plant, so we earmarked a spot between the lasers and the turret presses. We have a strong cutting operation. We have a lights-out automated cell with three turret presses and three lasers, along with 20 press brakes to handle all the  at fabrication we do. We run 2 ½ shifts, six days a week. With the skills gap increasing and real labor shortages, we felt a panel bender could take our capabilities to a new level.”

Market research led Midland to Salvagnini America’s P2 panel bender. McDonald was introduced to the P2 at Fabtech 2021. He also saw the panel bender demonstrated on the shop floors of other metal fabricators. “Every time I went into a job shop or contract manufacturer I saw a Salvagnini panel bender,” he says. “They are like the Kleenex or Scotch Tape of the industry. Salvagnini’s Midwest-based world headquarters, inventory of spare parts and technical support sta were also important to us.”

Conventional bending typically has an overall equipment e ectiveness (OEE) designation of 30 percent. Flexibility relies on the tool change system, which can be costly and time-consuming. The P2 combines productivity with automatic bending and handling cycles, and uses universal bending tools to give fabricators cost-effcient  flexibility.

“We looked at how the P2 would increase productivity and improve setup time,” says Brian Chrzanowski, operations manager for Midland. “Seamless setup was attractive to us. We conducted a relationship analysis to determine if the machine would improve process flow with press brakes, spot and MIG welding, lasering and hydraulic turreting. It did. After mapping out the best location for the P2, we decided to place it within 10 ft. to 40 ft. of the most critical operations it would feed material to.”

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     (Left to right) Operations Manager Brian Chrzanowski participated in decision-making process for P2, Ricardo Quiroz operates the P2, Alexandra Arteaga manages software development and production for P2, Andy Robinson drives integration of new machinery and technology like P2. Both Arteaga and Robinson attended training for P2 at Salvagnini’s headquarters facility

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The P2 panel bender was installed in 2021. It runs 20 gauge sheet up to 14 gauge sheet. Midland processes components on the P2 from single bend 7 in. by 11 in. parts to 29 in. by 75 in. sheet requiring six bends. “The P2 bends parts two to three times faster than a press brake,” Chrzanowski says. “Cost of quality improved by $13,000 per year. That is equivalent to losing 825 production hours [the time it would take to remake or fix parts]. In 2022 we reduced setup time by 2,940 hours. We reclaimed 1,780 hours of capacity. Between the hours we saved in setup time and the ability to produce more parts in less time, the P2 operated at the speed of two press brakes for two shifts.”

The panel bender solved an immediate problem for Midland by breaking up the bottleneck in its sheet forming operations. Prior to the P2, congestion made it challenging for Midland to move  at panels through the shop’s downstream processes and into assembly areas.

Salvagnini’s proprietary LINKS, STREAM and OPS software support communication between the system and the departments associated with production flow. In addition to opening up capacity, the P2 helped Midland in other areas. The versatile panel bender allows engineers to create part shapes that might be difficult to impossible to produce with conventional methods and o -theshelf components. Since there are no limitations on the shapes that can be created, the P2 promotes design creativity and part customization.

“The first year we had the P2, employees were hesitant about operating it,” says Chrzanowski. “It was a bit like buying a new car. You are thrilled to get it when you drive it o the dealership’s lot, but there’s also a certain amount of anxiety because you don’t want to damage it. Once we understood how to operate the P2 and maintain it, everyone’s perspective changed.”

Integrated technologies such as sensors, bending formula and MAC 2.0 make the panel bender intelligent and able to automatically adapt to material changes and the job shop environment.

“The P2 provides an employee with design and engineering skills a path to advance,” says McDonald. “At the same time, its ease of use means I can put a low-skilled employee on the panel bender without an interruption in production. I had 150 employees when I bought the panel bender. Today I have 175 personnel because the P2 is simple to operate and has created more sales capacity.”

Industry researchers report that only three percent of family-owned businesses in the U.S. are passed to a fourth generation and beyond. McDonald is already looking at ways to equip Midland for a  fth generation. “We’re driven by an electronic software platform,” he says. “Salvagnini has done a good job of matching intuitive software with its plug ‘n play panel bender. I want to stay on the learning and discovery train as long as I can, but we also have to convince young people to get on that discovery train too. Technology like the P2 is one way to do that.”

Salvagnini America Inc., 513/874-8284, salvagnini-america.com

Midland Metal Products Co., 773/927-5700, midlandmetalproducts.com

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