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Tool & Die

Triumphing over tough times

By Meghan Siroky

Manchester Tool & Die transforms its business model and gains new customers

November 2010 - A lot has changed since 1960. Although Manchester Tool & Die Inc., North Manchester, Ind., has evolved since it began in 1960, the company decided to make some drastic changes about one year ago.

In October 2009, the company re-engineered its business model and launched a campaign primarily focused on "what we do, how we do it and what we're good at," says Terry Steffen, sales manager. The company reworked its approach to machining processing, purchasing procedures, and manufacturing and assembly operations. "These changes have led to significant reductions in lead times and in cost reductions for the customer for both machines and tooling," according to a press release.

In the red
The stability of Manchester Tool & Die's business is tied closely to the health of the automotive market, Steffen says. When the automotive market crashed at the end of last year, times were tough. After changing its business model, numbers started to look more optimistic. "Now we're seeing a volume increase because people see that we can produce the tools and we can get the quality and repeatability the customer needs," he says.

After an unsuccessful attempt at internally managing its website last year, Manchester Tool & Die sought some expertise, Steffen says. The company outsourced advertising efforts to Tri-State Advertising Co. Inc., Warsaw, Ind. Steffen says this strategy has been crucial to introduce the company to potential customers. "They implement everything for us, oversee it and get us in the right direction," he says. Tri-State Advertising's strategies allowed Manchester Tool & Die to expand its customer base.

The campaign sparked interest in an untapped market as well--the retooling and rebuilding of machines for customers. "We've hit this new market where we can combine our technology from one machine with another machine and put that together in a work cell. Through our advertising, we've sold seven special machines this year and made a profit on each one," Steffen says. "We're using what we know and putting it in a package that the customer wants."

The strategy
Manchester Tool & Die upgraded technology capabilities with programmable Human Machine Interface controls. The HMI controls are "more labor and user-friendly, flexible and include diagnostics for machine maintenance. Many machine options that were formerly optional are now standard, creating savings for Manchester Tool & Die that will pass to the customer," according to the press release.

"Rather than wiring the operator control panel with a lot of push and pull buttons, which can be somewhat intimidating, we now only need to run five wires to the electrical panel from the HMI. With the HMI control panel, the setup operators and maintenance personnel can be walked through the machine operations gently," Steffen says. "We're getting a lot of good feedback from that." He notes the HMI controls can set machine operations in any language.

"It's really spectacular," he continues. "We've gone to the next generation of communications with the machine setup and maintenance personnel." The HMI controls offer automatic notifications about when a particular machine needs to be serviced and when maintenance is complete. "I've talked to several operators, and they're excited about a machine that actually tells them what needs to be done rather than guessing which button to hit next," Steffen says.

The company also added about 12 new machines to its 65,000-sq.-ft. facility to help streamline manufacturing processes. Steffen says these machines have expanded not only tube end forming capabilities but it has also allowed the company to expand into medical components and steel fabricating services. New equipment includes two Fanuc Robotics America Corp. wire EDMs, one Nakamura Chucker Lathe, four SR32 Swiss-style lathes and plasma cutting equipment.

"It's amazing what's out there once you say, 'Hey we have a fully-equipped fabrication shop,'" says Steffen. Manchester Tool & Die has generated new business from the additional equipment. "It really gets a lot of attention on the website," says Steffen. "People are coming to us saying, 'Oh, I didn't know you did that." The company now manufactures several styles of quick-change loading buckets and fork loading systems for forming and construction businesses, hunting targets, fire rings for fundraisers and components for the medical industry. FFJ

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