As part of our ongoing effort to improve our service offerings, we are proud to announce our expansion into machining! The addition of machining is complimentary to our existing fabrication services and will allow more precision and larger scale production of complex parts. This undertaking is an example of how we're using vertical integration to gain control over processes in an effort to reduce costs and lead times. Vertical integration has many benefits, including decreasing lead times and increasing control over the operations, but it also plays a crucial role in achieving our vision of succeeding in an Industry 4.0 environment (more to come on this idea in a future blog post).
Over the course of the last year we have been collecting and analyzing data on our processes; as well as testing new ones in the hopes of drastically reducing costs and lead times. This exercise allowed us to gather insights on weaknesses and begin testing ways in which we could improve. While we are aiming to improve our ability to serve our customers, not everyone in the industry is ready for fast iterations of change and innovation. One of the most significant factors of longer lead times and higher costs was subcontracted services. The lack of flexibility from some subcontractors and lack of reliability in some cases, meant there was a clear need for better control over the processes. By bringing these capabilities in-house, we recapture the control necessary to manage innovation. For example: rather than sending a part from our upstream processes (laser cutting, forming, welding etc...) to a subcontractor where it sits idle for a week, we now send parts 50 feet down the shop floor to be machined. With this service in house, we now have the ability to test new processes more quickly, as well as reduce lead times and cost on machined parts.
Our machining department features a Haas VF-11 and a UMC1000 (to see their specifications click here). The VF-11 is a large scale machine with 3 axis movement and the UMC1000 is a smaller scale 5 axis machine. The Haas UMC1000 is the bigger brother to the UMC750 (the best selling 5 axis mill in its class), but what is most exciting about the UMC1000 is the pallet pool. The addition of the pallet pool creates a queuing system for up to 8 parts so the machine can be set up once and left alone until the project is complete. This increased automation is not only a more efficient process but can also allow us to run the machine lights out.
As me move into the next generation of manufacturing, having the ability to automate processes will be an essential business practice. With more capabilities in house as opposed to subcontracted, it will allow us more opportunity to find new efficiencies, reduce cost, and increase speed. Ultimately, vertically integrating machining services is another example of our continuous improvement efforts, and will drastically increase the value we are able to provide our partners.