Creative Shop Solutions

The FMI in team

By John Loos

January 2009- In the comic book world, superhero teams are always composed of characters with different yet complementary powers. It wouldn’t make much sense to have two Human Torches in the Fantastic Four or two Wolverines in the X-Men, for example. To effectively serve or protect a metropolis, a superhero squad needs to be able to attack from all angles.

The same logic holds true with the Formtek Group, an alliance of sorts among 15 metalforming brands. Each brand specializes in different kinds of coil processing, fabrication and HVAC equipment, maximizing the group’s ability to provide customers with customized solutions and comprehensive customer service.

At the center of this team, acting as an integration hub, is FMI Dahlstrom, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dahlstrom Inc. was founded in 1946 as a manufacturer of fabricating equipment for sheet metal, and in 1996 it joined Formtek. In 2005, its flexible fabrication business moved from Elgin, Ill., to its current home, nearby sister company Iowa Precision. Today it manufactures stand-alone notching and forming machines, as well as full-service coil processing lines, both in standardized and specialized variations.

"We’re the division within Formtek that’s here to mix and match all the different components [of our sister brands] to provide a line or a solution for our customers’ needs," says Garry Jensen, product general manager for FMI Dahlstrom. "Actually, the FMI in FMI Dahlstrom stands for Formtek Metalforming Integration. We’re the integrator within the Formtek Group."

This centralized role was born from a shift in customer needs from one-process products to machinery that could be adapted to work on different and evolving orders.

"I had a customer probably seven or eight years ago that I was quoting a line to, and he asked me, ‘In two to three years, when I no longer make this product, what can I do with this piece of machinery?’" says Jensen. "The machine I was quoting him was basically a dedicated piece of machinery to make a specific part. That’s what got us going down this road of making [our machines] flexible so that you can make multiple parts on it."

Enter DieMation
At the forefront of this strategy is FMI Dahlstrom’s DieMation coil processing line, designed to produce multiple components for companies with varied product demands. A DieMation line is able to cut from coil by running it off an uncoiler and sending it through a straightener and a roll feed to the punching and shearing station.

"The concept behind DieMation was to have a flexible line that can produce a variety of parts at any given time," says Jensen. "The tools DieMation uses are thick-style turret tools in each head that can be cycled at any given time. With that, we can go across the width of the material, advance the material and punch a variety of parts. It gives us the flexibility of a turret without the wasted motion of a turret when it’s punching one tool at at time. And then you also have the lost time during tool changes and sheet load and unload. Depending on the part, our DieMation can be two to three times faster than the turret."

As it works directly from coils, DieMation can run parts as long as 20 ft. to 30 ft. It also has few limitations on types of material it can process, from carbon to stainless steel to particularly difficult grades of aluminum.

"We’re running one of the hardest materials to punch and form: aluminum-diamond plate material," says Jimmy Giddens, vice president of UWS/Thule, Perry, Fla., a manufacturer of aluminum toolboxes for pickup trucks. "It’s one of the hardest materials to manufacture parts with. [DieMation] handles it no problem. It’s a good machine, and we’re pleased with it."

UWS/Thule purchased its DieMation line in in the summer of 2007 and has used it to process 8,000-lb. coils. With the leveling, punching and cutting happening in succession, the line produces finished parts ready for bending and has reduced the amount of labor needed to oversee all those tasks, from eight to 10 employees to just three--one for each shift. It’s also significantly reduced the company’s punch times.

"It’s cut down our punch time more than 50 percent, and the accuracy is just unbelievable," says Giddens, who, despite these advantages, points to FMI Dahlstrom’s customer service when asked what drew him to the DieMation line. "What sold me on the machine was two things: One, it was made here in the United States with parts readily available, and two, the customer service from FMI Dahlstrom was excellent. I deal with multiple dealers, distributors and manufacturers on all types of equipment, and their customer service and service department is probably the best I’ve ever dealt with."

Group mind
From both a manufacturing and customer service standpoint, FMI Dahlstrom benefits from being part of a larger, multifaceted entity. It has the resources of a large organization at its disposal, and it can also operate on the personal level associated with smaller companies.

"At FMI Dahlstrom, we’re still small enough that we can provide freestanding notchers and benders," says Jensen. "But with the size of the Formtek Group, it gives us the capability to do larger, multimillion-dollar projects, as well. We have the benefits of both sides."

Under the Formtek umbrella, FMI Dahlstrom has access to such brands with varied specialties as B&K (steel stud lines and precision levelers); Iowa Precision (cut-to-length multi-blanking lines); Cooper-Weymouth, Peterson (coil handling press feeds and heavy-gauge lines); Yoder (roll formers and tube mills); Hill Engineering (stamping dies and rotary punching); and Tishken (roll formers, edgers and cutoff dies). This allows the company many options to meet the needs of an inquiring customer.

"We look at all the different possibilities we have [under Formtek] and try to come up with the correct piece of equipment, whether it’s built here in Iowa or built in Maine, Cleveland or Chicago, and try and get those components together and integrate them," says Jensen. "Back in the early days of Dahlstrom, they only had their own line of equipment to offer. Today, FMI Dahlstrom has a variety of manufacturers to choose from. And with more choices, obviously, come better solutions.

"There are quite a few times where a customer will come to us for a request for a quote, and we’ll talk to them for a while and find out that what they’re really looking for is a cut-to-length line," he continues. "Then we can refer them to Iowa Precision or Cooper-Weymouth, Peterson, or both. And it goes the other way, too. If one of our sister companies gets a request, and they find out that after it’s been blanked, they’re going to take it over to a press and notch the corners so they can bend up the part, they can come to us and say, ‘Can’t you just pre-notch this before you cut it off?’ We can eliminate an operation for the customer."

Jensen adds that another advantage to being part of Formtek is that, when working with customers of sister companies, FMI Dahlstrom is able to provide parts and machines consistent and compatible with what those customers already have.

Ultimately, by belonging to a team of noted coil processing and roll forming brands and maximizing its position as a product integrator, FMI Dahlstrom is better able to achieve its goals of providing super-reliable equipment, along with superhuman customer service. All that’s missing are the spandex suits. FFJ

Interested in purchasing reprints of this article? Click here



Company Profiles





Camfil APC - Equipment Trilogy Machinery Inc. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters



Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC. Messer Cutting Systems Inc.



Mazak Optonics Corp.


Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. MC Machinery Systems Inc. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC Murata Machinery, USA, Inc.


SigmaTEK Systems LLC


TRUMPF Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC


Trilogy Machinery Inc.



MTS Sensors


AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group


Mate Precision Tooling


Burghardt + Schmidt Group Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. Rolleri USA Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss UFP Industrial



Red Bud Industries


Tishken Advanced Gauging Technologies Automec Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys



MC Machinery Systems Inc.


Mayfran International Cincinnati Inc. SafanDarley Barton International


LVD Strippit


Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation Scotchman Industries Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Trilogy Machinery Inc.





Behringer Saws Inc. American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Cosen Saws Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers MetalForming Inc. DoALL Sawing T. J. Snow Company



HE&M Saw


Beckwood Press Co. Titan Tool Supply Inc. Savage Saws