New Dimensions Precision Machining in Union, Ill., is accustomed to producing premium parts with its high-performance equipment. Lately, its customers continue to need parts in small batches with fast turnaround, while keeping pricing low. This manufacturer of fluid power equipment realized that producing parts to meet these customer needs on its existing vertical machining centers was not proving to be as efficient as alternate options could be.
As the company started a plan to add flexibility, New Dimensions began replacing its vertical machining centers with horizontal machining centers. It also knew that adding automation would be key to achieving its goals.
New Dimensions designed a flexible manufacturing system that included these three elements:.
• Four Makino a61 horizontal machining centers
• An MMC2 automated pallet handling system that linked the horizontal machining centers, cell control software and pallet loaders
• Two Makino a61nx machines
Later it added two more flexible manufacturing cells:
• One with four a51 horizontal machining centers and two a51nx machines
• A third cell with six a51nx machines
All jobs in each of the cells are coordinated with a Makino MAS-A5 cell controller. In addition, a separate custom pallet pool system became an alternate solution for prototype work. In this pallet pool, a stand-alone a51 machine is served by a flat panel magazine with eight loading stations that can be accessed or loaded at the same time. The goal was to not have to slow down the flexible manufacturing cells to perform prototype work. The programming and tooling on the prototype machine is also tied to the MAS-A5 system so data can be sent directly into the flexible manufacturing systems, should a job go into production.
The flexible manufacturing systems have given the company the type of changeability to produce parts on demand. It stores 300 programs in each cell for its active orders. If New Dimensions receives a call in the morning for a part, it can be machining the part in the same day, and it can complete custom parts made to order in just days. In fact, the company has been able to produce up to 300 percent more parts per spindle with its new automated cells than was previously accomplished with its stand-alone machines.
The flexible manufacturing system has given New Dimensions the ability to keep up with high-mix, low-volume jobs. And it can charge the same per-piece prices for just 50 parts as it did when running production volumes.
Adding automation has helped the company run 24 hours, six days a week to quickly meet production demands of the market,. Today the company is producing additional parts with the same number of employees. In fact, New Dimensions has doubled production per employee while offering customers a reduction in cost.
The pallet pool system has given New Dimensions the ability to easily transition prototype jobs into production orders.