HUNT-WILDE POLISHES OFF JOBS IN HOURS, NOT WEEKS
Hunt-Wilde Corporation of Tampa, Florida, began in 1946 manufacturing vinyl injection molded parts, primarily for bicycle handlegrips. As the U.S. bicycle manufacturing business moved offshore, Hunt-Wilde began to gain the capacity to further diversify and pursue alternative markets such as lawn and garden equipment, medical transportation devices, and industrial devices.
This diversity brought about the need for mass customization that required more engineering and design, research and development, prototyping, and ergonomic study than the company had previously conducted when it focused on the standard finger-ribbed grip. New manufacturing processes had to be developed to reduce cycle times, speed time-to-market, increase quality, and drive out operational costs in order for the company to stay competitive.
Ken Hunt, Hunt-Wilde vice president, says the company discovered the Makino SNC64 and the EDNC43S with High-Quality Surface Finish™ (HQSF™) technology at a trade show. "We acquired an EDNC43S with HQSF technology to burn our dies and molds, as well as an SNC64 to mill the graphite electrodes and hard mill cavities. This allowed us to prepare these molds internally instead of sending all of that work out.
Makino machinery not only affected the performance but also the attitude of his whole operation, says Hunt. "Before we got these machines, we were making handlegrips the same way we did 40 years ago. Acquiring Makino has changed the perception of the people in the molding department and the entire operation. Now that we are practicing ’high-tech’ operations in our tool room, we are taking that same mental approach in what we are molding, and the team is much more aware of the unlimited potential of our new processes."
The results have helped Hunt-Wilde stay competitive with off-shore operations, driving out tens of thousands of dollars of die/mold preparation costs as well as virtually eliminating $40,000 worth of polish and bench work annually. They now produce in hours what used to take six or eight weeks just to polish, achieving up to a 10-micron finish with the HQSF process. And the company gained significant savings in time and money from unattended machining in its die/mold operation, which the company could not previously do.
Cycle time production is now 10 times better, as mold-making time has been cut from about six months to about 12 weeks. And they have gone from cutting six eight-cavity molds a year to over 30 such cavities in a week, an increase of nearly 2,500 percent. This has given Hunt-Wilde the extra capacity to do extremely profitable contract work for outside companies that do not have Makino machining capabilities.
Hunt-Wilde says they have learned something about capital equipment acquisition. "Every purchase in technology, like Makino, that we make allows us to grow more sophisticated, more accurate, and handle more complicated work. We won’t buy any more cheap machines. They are not worth the investment. Makino is proving to be a sure thing. We use our old machines as room dividers."
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