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A Rebuilt 1000-Ton Press

By: Brad Kuvin

Sunday, February 1, 2015
 

Executives at Mercury Products take a very thoughtful approach to adding manufacturing capacity and capabilities as they work to keep up with growing demand. Based out of a 95,000-sq.-ft. plant in Schaumburg, IL, Mercury’s roots lie in serving the heavy-truck market with low- to mid-volume, highly complex stampings, fabricated-metal parts and assemblies. It also provides plenty of value-added processing, including polishing, welding and assembly. In 2000 the firm opened a second plant, this one a 50,000-sq.-ft. facility in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, targeted toward higher-volume, low-SKU work for the automotive market. And, in 2009 it added a third plant, in Saltillo, Mexico.

1000-ton press with a rebuilt 60 in. wide capacity feed line with 7.5-hp motor and five-roll straightener
Mercury Products added this rebuilt 1000-ton press, along with a rebuilt 60-in.-wide-capacity feed line with 7.5-hp motor and five-roll straightener, to its Mexico plant in mid-2014. The press rebuild included a clutch/brake overhaul, new counterbalance rods and seals, rebuilt slide overloads, a crown rebuild, upgraded controls and the addition of light curtains.
Vertical integration defines the company’s growth platform, and so it’s committed to being a one-stop shop for customers. That philosophy has led Mercury’s executives to invest in a wide variety of equipment and processes, including laser cutting, press-brake forming, robotic welding and metal stamping.

“We’re growing so fast, and that creates many needs when it comes to capital equipment and adding capacity,” says Keith Briggs, Mercury’s vice president of operations. “So while in certain cases we have bought new equipment, we also look to capitalize on opportunities to bring in used and rebuilt equipment.”

On the “new” side of the firm’s recently expanded equipment list we find additional CNC tube benders and a 3D printer that “helps us stay at the front end of new programs being developed by our customers,” says Mercury vice president of sales and marketing Eric Schwochow. “Using the 3D printer, we can produce prototypes and part samples in two weeks or less, often in one day, and also use the printer (a Stratasys model with 16- by 16-in. work surface) to fabricate check fixtures. It’s become a real competitive advantage for us.”

The Competitive Advantage South of the Border

Like other opportunistic metalformers, Mercury followed its customer base into Mexico, establishing a 70,000-sq.-ft. plant in Saltillo. It more closely resembles the business model of the U.S. Mercury plant, set up to provide highly complex low-volume parts (clamps, mounting brackets, core plugs, etc.) for the heavy-truck market. But Briggs and Schwochow also have their sights set on the construction and agricultural-products markets, and haven’t ruled out evolving into higher-volume automotive work.

Shown here being stamped on its newly rebuilt 1000-ton mechanical press are truck-hood pivot support bars.
Mercury stamps and fabricates several complex, low-volume products for the highly complex low-volume parts (clamps, mounting brackets, core plugs, etc.) for the heavy-truck market. Shown here being stamped on its newly rebuilt 1000-ton mechanical press are truck-hood pivot support bars.
“The business model is different,” shares Briggs. “While automotive typically gives you eight-week lead times, in truck and construction we face two- to three-week lead times. We have to not only be able to handle the diversity and flexibility required by lower-volume higher-part mix fabrication and stamping, but we also need to focus on speed to delivery.”

Versatility and flexibility play out on the plant floor in Mexico thanks to an equipment list balanced by five stamping-press lines on one side and sheetmetal-fabricating equipment on the other. This includes a 4000-W CO2 laser-cutting machine, four press brakes and a slew of welding equipment.

When the Saltillo facility opened, four stamping presses made the journey from the U.S. facility—a pair of 65-ton models, along with 110- and 350-ton presses. To expand its stamping capacity in a big way, in mid-2014 the plant welcomed a 1000-ton rebuilt 1963-vintage Danly with 120- by 84-in. bed, 20-in. stroke and 64-in. shut height.

“We saw a pronounced need for bigger presses in Mexico,” says Schwochow, “for applications such as truck-cab walls and frame rails. Some parts that we have been stamping in Canada and transporting down to Mexico now run on the Danly, and we’ve brought back some outsourced dies that had been running in nearby Mexican pressrooms.”

This Could be the Start of Something Big

Mercury’s management team in Canada oversaw the purchase and rebuild of the 1000-ton press, along with a rebuilt 60-in.-wide-capacity feed line with 7.5-hp motor and five-roll straightener. The press rebuild, performed by Excel Machinery, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, included a clutch/brake overhaul, new counterbalance rods and seals, rebuilt slide overloads, a crown rebuild, upgraded controls and the addition of light curtains.

A four-station line-die setup on the 1000-ton press stamps truck-frame cross members, one of several previously outsourced jobs that Mercury Products has brought back inhouse following its new (used) press acquisition.
A four-station line-die setup on the 1000-ton press stamps truck-frame cross members, one of several previously outsourced jobs that Mercury Products has brought back inhouse following its new (used) press acquisition.
“To load up the press with work, we brought the previously outsourced dies inhouse, and have brought in several new tools to stamp heavy-truck frame rails,” says Briggs. And we’ll soon bring down a progressive die and several line dies from the Windsor plant. All told, we’ll quickly fill about half of the press’ capacity.

‘We’re really gearing up in 2015 for new business for the press,” Briggs continues, “and we expect that by June (2015) the press will be running two shifts per day, full out. Our business out of the Saltillo plant has doubled since its inception, and we think it will double again in 2015 and then again in 2016, thanks in large part to anticipated growth in the construction market —excavators, road graders and similar heavy equipment.”

Then Mercury’s management team will set its sights on adding more presses to the plant, to fill out the press lineup. “We’ll likely be looking to add mid-range 500- and 600-ton models between the end of 2015 and 2017,” Briggs concludes. MF

 

See also: Excel Machinery

Related Enterprise Zones: Coil Handling, Presses


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