Stamping Acquisition Spurred More Modernization
Decimal’s high-volume capability came courtesy of a stamping-house acquisition five years back, resulting in takeover of a wealth of tooling and machinery.
“That business was old-school,” says Alan, describing the acquired stamping operation and its process of bulk-machining tools. “We had to enter everything into Solidworks and create models. The old company ran on tribal knowledge, and as high-skill people retired, that was being lost. So we had to capture the tribal knowledge electronically.”
|Now in its 51st year, Decimal Engineering provides parts and subassemblies of varying materials for aerospace, defense and other markets.|
This exercise resulted in improved tooling, as converting 2D drawings to 3D models revealed interference issues and design flaws. With all of this data, Decimal created new tool designs and new, sophisticated tools that often succeeded from the first hit. Alan cites one example, a trigger part for a firearm. Using CAD upfront, Decimal created a new, complex 25-station progressive die that performed well from the start.
While converting tool and part designs, Decimal also took on the acquired press-line equipment, updating it with new feeds, lubrication systems, controls and safety components. With its existing and refurbished lines, Decimal stamps aluminum, steel, brass and copper coils and blanks in various thicknesses, from 0.005 to 1/8 in.
Fiber-Laser Capability a Necessity
In its ongoing effort to handle entire projects for its customers, and against the backdrop of increased stamping operations, in late-2016 Decimal opted for the Bystronic BySprint fiber-laser-cutting machine with a 5 by 10-ft. cutting table, augmenting its existing laser cutter, a 2500-W CO2 machine. Antil Robotics and Automation provided the material-handling equipment as well as integration.
“The new fiber-laser machine and tower unit weren’t just needs, they were necessities in order to survive in this business,” explains Alan. “We need to be on the cutting edge of technology and we can’t lose out to another company that cuts five times as quickly as we can. This machine brings that faster cutting capability inhouse here at Decimal.”
The BySprint provides high-volume part production and high cutting quality for thin to medium-thick ferrous and nonferrous sheetmetal, according to Bystronic officials, who note its low operating cost due to minimal energy requirements and no requirement for laser gas.
The Antil automated tower warehouse enables the laser-cutting machine to run lights-out, and its compact design fit snugly adjacent to the Bystronic equipment on Decimal’s shop floor.
“Given the size of this investment, we need to keep the fiber-laser machine running,” Alan says. “With the tower unit we can run this unattended, which saves on overtime, and it complements machining on thinner material. For example, CNC machining a part may take 30 minutes, but only 10 minutes unattended on the fiber-laser or CO2 machine.”
Replaces, Complements Stamping Capabilities
|“The new fiber-laser machine and tower unit weren’t just needs, they were necessities in order to survive in this business,” explains Alan Garey, Decimal Engineering CEO and president. “We need to be on the cutting edge of technology, and this machine brings faster cutting capability inhouse."
In addition, not only can Decimal perform laser blanking and slitting on material destined for stamping operations, but the company has transferred loads of work from its presses to the new laser cutter.
“We’ve been able to pull low-hanging fruit in stamping back to laser cutting due to the speed and capabilities of the fiber laser,” says Alan. “We can laser-cut parts as quickly as stamping them, without having to set up and maintain tooling, and can run unattended. We’ve moved 5000 to 10,000-part runs from stamping to laser cutting, and still perform some blanking, embossing and forming on the presses. Traditionally, stampers don’t like secondary operations. But we ask, ‘What can we take from stamping?’ We’ve cut lead times this way.”
Again, positioning itself as a full-project answer for customers, and with fiber-laser cutting as part of that equation, Decimal has made the most of its vast capabilities range.
“We receive a lot of business because we can handle entire projects inhouse,” explains Kevin while providing a shop-floor tour. “Our inhouse engineering provides expertise right from the beginning on part and tool designs and manufacturability, our tool operations provide testing, we can 3D-print prototypes, and of course we provide machining, stamping, laser cutting and other fabrication. We deliver a lot of expertise on a lot of processes.”
Backed By ERP and a Strong Workforce
With so many machines, processes and jobs, Decimal relies on the Made2Manage ERP system from Aptean, Alpharetta, GA, to keep materials, machine availability and job routing straight. Providing scheduling from project beginning to end, the ERP system allows paperless workflow for Decimal–a timesaver that optimizes shop-floor productivity and materials management, according to Kevin.
Decimal’s highly automated ERP-managed operations allow the company to navigate the industry-wide skills-gap challenge. Through its participation in various South Florida manufacturing associations and partnerships with local learning institutions, the company identifies talent and offers apprenticeships and internships that often lead to long-term, stable employment—a win-win for Decimal and its associates. MF
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