Several years ago Doug Gardner, president of Johnson City, N.Y.-based Hi-Tech Industries of New York, landed what’s increasingly rare today for fabricators: a multiyear contract. The shop’s Amada Pulsar 2-kW laser ran 24 hours a day and just couldn’t keep up, Gardner said, adding that the machine took 90 hours to process 2,000 pieces.
Gardner then got a new laser, the Amada LC-3015 F1 NT, a 4-kW system that could cut those 2,000 pieces in 21 hours. Later the shop installed a robotized press brake, an Amada Astro 100NT system that changes out specialized press brake tools quickly. The machine tool fits very well with another large contract from a customer who produces four units a week, and Hi-Tech Industries churns out 150 different components for each unit.
He pointed to one extremely complex component: a toaster-size stainless steel filter requiring 13 bends. The robotized press brake needs about 15 minutes to set up for this.
After talking with Gardner last week, I heard that earnestness and excitement so common among small-business owners. You can tell this guy loves machines and he loves his business. But under his enthusiasm is a pragmatic businessman. He didn’t buy machine tools just to get fast processing times. Fast cutting alone won’t make a business more profitable. If a shop owner buys a fancy new laser, and it just floods the floor with work-in-process and shoves insurmountable bottlenecks downstream, the company probably isn’t getting as much as it could out of a sizable investment.
His reasons for the technology investment could be boiled down to three areas, each directly related to the other: manufacturing predictability, flexibility, and inventory reduction.