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Mechanical Presses

Rockford's solid foundation

By Andy Barks

Companies don't always abide by their slogans, but such a statement can't be made about Rockford Toolcraft Inc., Rockford, Ill., which takes its mantra, Constant improvement, quite seriously.

Serious is exactly what Rockford's latest product is--a 4,400-ton Verson tandem transfer press nicknamed Brutus, featuring four times the capacity of any other stamping equipment on the Toolcraft line. Fully operational and designed for heavy-gauge stampings, Brutus is manufacturing heavy truck chassis cross members while being dangled for additional contract work.

Bigger and better
A little more than 30 years old, Rockford is a family-run business spearheaded by Jerry and Tom Busse, president and vice president, respectively. What began as a locally operated tool-and-die shop has since expanded into a multi-faceted, dual-plant enterprise of more than 225 employees.

Even for a firm that oversaw the 2001 construction of its 13-acre Plant Two, which coincided with the additions of a 1,000-ton press line at Plant One and a robotic weld cell at the second facility, the Brutus project is especially noteworthy.

With a bed area of 6 ft. by 27 ft., the press is equipped to handle coil stock up to a 1/2 inch thick and 60 inches wide, yet is still self-sufficient. Aided by a modern tool room that includes 10 skilled die designers using AutoFormforming simulation software, the press line is automated from coil entry to finished product. As a result, Rockford has become more versatile in the services it offers, and is now able to assist with product design and prototype production to go along with its more traditional manufacturing capabilities.

"We like to take on the complicated parts that most shops won't touch," says Jerry Busse. "Our expertise in tooling and engineering has created many value-added, in-press type operations that reduce labor costs for our customers."

Savvy software
Although boasting an enormous press capable of accommodating such complex part needs is impressive, the machine itself is of little use without the technology and technicians to back it up. That's where the company's May 2006 purchase of the AutoForm software looks especially savvy.

The idea was to implement the software for modeling and validating tooling before die tryout, allowing the company to deliver products more efficiently while acclimating itself to potentially useful technology. The move is paying off now, with the AutoForm systems being applied to Brutus.

"By combining our years of tooling expertise with the latest simulation technology, [we] will further improve customer credibility by delivering significantly greater value in terms of quality, cost and time," says Tom Busse.

Upon close examination of Rockford as a whole, it's clear that this is a business with a plan--and one that extends beyond just the near future. Each move is made with a later transaction in mind, and each expansion hinges on the expectation that prior moves will provide the necessary foundation. FFJ

Sources

  • Rockford Toolcraft Inc.
    Rockford, Ill.
    phone: 815/398-5507
    fax: 815/398-0132
    www.rockfordtoolcraft.com
    e-mail: sales@rockfordtoolcraft.com

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