The Business Challenge
When a Navy Seal takes aim at a target through the scope of his TAC™- 50 McMillan Tactical Rifle, he does so with confidence in his weapon-maker’s nearly 40 years of precision firearms manufacturing.
Gale McMillan, founder of the sevenentity McMillan family of companies, began producing firearm stocks in 1973 for his use in highly demanding and competitive bench-rest shooting matches. Fellow competitors, always in search of the next competitive edge, asked him to produce stocks for their rifles as well. From these roots, Mc- Millan has grown into one of the most well-known and respected brands in the firearms industry.
In 1987, McMillan decided he could save time and money while improving quality by producing firearms hardware in-house, rather than buying, dismantling, and rebuilding components from Remington. McMillan Machine Company was born.
“It ballooned from there,” said Duncan Davis, general manager of McMillan. “Then we started building the .50-calibers, which is the firearm for which McMillan is best known.”
Attention to detail and continuous manufacturing process improvements led Bob’s Design Engineering, Inc. to a lucrative contract producing components for a Fortune 100 electronics company a year and a half ago. Another development enabled the company to keep the contract when it recently came up for rebid, repelling stiff competition from a supplier in Southeast Asia.
The contract is for the manufacture of a high-price sub assembly needed by an American company that normally would have been sourced in Asia. Most of the assembly is machined from various grades of aluminum; some parts are made from stainless steel. The components range in size from parts that can fit into the palm of your hand to a plate that requires a 72-inch milling capability.
Advanced Machining Systems (AMS), founded in 2002 in Bend, Oregon, is a full-service CNC machining and design shop that specializes in precisionmachined components. This includes incubators for medical research companies, aerospace hydraulic systems, interior parts and life support systems for medical transport helicopters, control surfaces for general aviation aircraft, as well as parts for experimental aircraft and firearms.
While their existing client base was satisfied with the company’s quality work, high levels of customer service, and commitment to providing custom solutions, AMS management noticed that new business was falling short of objectives. They embarked on a thorough analysis of their business systems, resulting in a streamlined work flow and specialized areas within the shop that maximized handling efficiency.
Spartan Aerospace mills some of the toughest stuff around. Inconel 718, Waspalloy, Rene 41—these are just a few of the high-temp superalloys that keep machinists awake at night. Sometime in early 2011, Engineering Manager Lionel Andújar grew tired of watching their legacy CAM system send expensive endmills plowing into corners like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
DAYTON, Ohio – As a supplier to industries that demand near perfection in price-sensitive markets, AFC Tool, a division of FC Industries, is always on the lookout for ways to improve productivity, manufacturing processes and the bottom line. It found one way with the high-performance toolpath engine VoluMill™. Based in Dayton, AFC Tool is a single-source design, tooling and finished manufacturing operation that serves the medical, automotive, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, energy and aviation industries.
The U.S. Air Force, always known for “pushing the envelope” with the hardware and technology it puts in the sky, also is actively seeking a competitive advantage with the way aircraft and weapons systems are developed and manufactured. Bringing new assets to the flight line faster and at lower cost not only provides tactical and strategic benefits on the world’s battlefields, but in Congressional budget hearings as well.
Two of the methods it employs in this quest are the Air Force Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program and the National Aerospace Leadership Initiative (NALI). The ManTech program is studying methods with the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) to accelerate adoption of a sustainable manufacturing philosophy within the defense aerospace industry to ensure that it is on the leading edge of addressing social, resource conservation, and environmental stewardship challenges. ManTech is initially focusing on improving the machining of metallic component parts for aerospace structures and engines. NALI was created to respond to the critical needs of the U.S. aerospace manufacturing supply chain so that it maintains its leadership in advanced propulsion and power systems, as well as remains innovative in the competitive domestic aerospace manufacturing supply structure, in order to meet the needs of the Department of Defense (DOD).
Optima Manufacturing is located in the heart of Canada’s vital oil and gas industry, which stretches from coast to coast, but has deep roots and an annual $39 billion market in Alberta alone. By virtue of its location, 90 percent of the company’s business is machining components for the energy industry.
Optima was formed in 1990 by five experienced principals sharing a commitment to the highest design, precision machining, and assembly standards. Today, Optima’s recently expanded modern facility contains state-of-the-art CNC multi-axis machining centers and turning centers, CNC EDM machines, grinders, and additional machining support equipment. Optima’s commitment to quality is demonstrated by a host of gauging equipment including a CNC CMM and optical comparators, plus surface and hardness testers.
The company prides itself in operating an efficient, open organization with company-sponsored continuous learning programs to keep abreast of rapid changes and improvements brought about through the application of technology.
Performance Tool and Die (PTD), a leading tooling provider for the automotive, agriculture, and recreation industries, was looking for ways to decrease forces on the material during cutting, increase tool life, and reduce cycle time—seemingly contradictory objectives.
PTD’s offerings include blank, form, and progressive stamping dies; press brake tooling; tube bend tooling; and weld and machine fixturing.
“Because we are in a toolroom setting, every block we do is different from the last,” said Jake Kopveiler, CNC programmer at PTD. “We are not able to do block-specific fixturing, so most components are held in a vise. With a five-axis vertical mill, the block-holding problem becomes magnified since we are trying to mill more features on the block than would normally be done in a three-axis machine. Blocks are often left hanging out of the vise or fixture farther than normal, which is a less than optimal situation with respect to cutting pressure.”
The need to reduce pressure and cycle times led PTD management to evaluate a software product suggested by their GibbsCAM® reseller, Midwest CAM Solutions of Brooklyn Center, Minn.
Manufacturers in North America must balance a multitude of issues to stay profitable. Increased competition from overseas manufacturing with its access to cheap labor, the reduced availability of qualified workers in the manufacturing trades, and tightening employee and environmental regulatory requirements, are but a few of the key issues challenging the wits of manufacturing executives today. Equally important is the struggle to shift into a new era of production – from high-volume, low-mix work, to an increasing growth of low-volume, high-mix short-run projects coupled with just-in-time ordering – which has placed high demands on all aspects of manufacturing.