Process Insights

Crowning Achievement

Automation Helps Prince Industries Master Global Manufacturing

"We invest time, we don't just spend it. This process allows for investing in less setup, less labor, less time loading tools and less time running the machine. With the Makino cell and the A3 controller, we run 24 full pallets of work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and every part comes out and goes straight to the customer. We have never had a rejected part, and have eliminated all scrap."

Strategic growth

That is a common phrase and focus at Prince Industries in Carol Stream, Illinois. The suburban Chicago parts operation has invested over $5 million domestically during the past two years in advanced machining technology to enhance the production capabilities of its 65,000 square-foot manufacturing plant.

"This investment allows us to offer our customers the very best in terms of quality, competitive pricing and service," according to Mark Paluch, vice president of operations. "We have strategically expanded the technology of our Illinois plant in order to provide customer production value through a flexible manufacturing system.

"We simply want to strategically grow with these key customers. And the reliability and service provided by Makino made them a perfect partner for Prince in executing this strategy. The integration of the Makino technology and automation with our quality, professional employees allows us to reduce setups and run lean processes domestically that are competitive with global production."

"Another part of our growth strategy is also to compete through global sourcing," says Paluch. "If a job becomes too labor intensive and costly for effective U.S. output, we can move the production to our 26,000 square-foot Shanghai plant in order to continue to provide the best value and service.

"But the technology investment in a Makino automation system in the U.S. has allowed us to minimize production steps, save production space, eliminate errors and turn out finished parts directly from the machinery. Such a flexible manufacturing system (FMS) allows us to adapt to customer needs more quickly, taking a part from the design stage to the production stage in a shorter period of time than ever before. And it keeps us competitive with our own Shanghai operation."

Technology Evolution

Prince Industries began operation in 1959. As you enter the facility, you will see the original hand screw machine that was the technology foundation for the family business, started by Board Chairman Ed Miller. His son Mark serves as CEO, son Ed serves as legal counsel, and son Dave heads up operations with President Greg Roskuzka.

"We have evolved over that time period from a one machine job shop to a precision contract manufacturer of machine components, assemblies, hydraulic valves and fabrications," says Paluch. "We serve the construction, telecommunications, industrial controls, dental, medical, exercise, healthcare and the peripheral computing (printer) industries.

"The key difference between being a job shop and being a contract manufacturer is that as a job shop you're chasing orders to keep the machines running. As a contract manufacturer, our strategic growth is to establish long-term partnerships and arrangements with customers. This market diversity provides stability for our company and that of our customers' companies, and we are not be impacted by the economic fluctuation of just one market."

"Prince selected the Makino MMC2 modular machining complex with 161 pallet stations as the centerpiece for our flexible machining system to support this market approach," says Paluch. "One current work cell supports two Makino a61 horizontal machining centers with automatic tool changers. A Makino a61 and a71 have also been added to the MMC2 system to enhance the flexible manufacturing system.

"The entire FMS was installed in two weeks, and we were running at full production in one more week. This system allows us to maintain rapid response to customer needs, eliminate work-in-process inventory, and be flexible for more part changes and additions."

Paluch adds that from installation through training, Makino has taken his team to levels of production not previously imagined. "We average running both of the a61 machines on the MMC2 22 hours a day. We have yet to have one rejected part come across either of those pieces of equipment.

"Our productivity increased five to six percent in tool change time alone. In the hands of our skilled manufacturers and engineers, the FMS has definitely proven its value." When discussing the issue of return-on-investment, Paluch is quick to point out that the hard and soft costs for the Makino MMC2 and associated horizontal machines will have paid for themselves in one and one-half years.

Lean Production

Prince uses the MMC2 and HMCs to do a variety of part production. They produce part families in every combination of low, medium and high volume and mixture to best serve its customers. This further improves the company's lean manufacturing capabilities.

"We increased the MMC2 with an additional work-set station that includes 26 more pallets when we added the a61 and a71," says Paluch. "The a71 will allow us to do some heavier machining on cast iron.

"We also plan to add another MMC system in the future.

"Our goal for production machinery effectiveness is to run at least 20 hours per day. We are consistently surpassing that goal at 21 to 24 on the machines associated with the MMC. Even when the a61 operated as a stand alone machine prior to MMC integration, it was running at the 20-hour plateau."

"We also operate a Makino S33 vertical machining center with a dual pallet changer," adds Paluch. "This provides us with a flexible mini-cell for quick setup and quick changeover, with more horsepower than any of our other verticals."

"If our customers want high mix, regardless of volume, we dedicate it toward the Makino MMC2," says Paluch. "This FMS is a perfect example and fit for high mix, small to medium volume. Our throughput time from raw material to finished product has been reduced by 50 percent on top of the five to six percent drop in cycle times.

"We have zero setup time, which allows us to offer our customers a value pricing strategy in the marketplace that is not provided by everyone. And we typically run three different parts on each machine in the FMS at the same time. This lean manufacturing focus also allows us to reduce inventory, which is important to maintain flexible flow through our 20,000 square- foot finished goods warehouse."

Maximizing Uptime

"Besides the time savings, we are up more often with Makino," says Paluch. "The 24-hour a day operational capability of the reliable Makino system allows us the capacity to do more with less. The equipment that this system replaced was consistently down, which hurt our productivity and service.

"You can never get back lost time. When you are down, you are down, and you have lost the opportunity to do what is required to meet your customer's needs. Makino has proven to be the way for us to get things done without any redundancy."

"Our growth strategy requires great machinery, and also a great work force," notes Paluch. "To make the machinery and system run at its best requires skilled people with the right attitude and the right commitment. They must know that as we grow, they will grow and have different opportunities.

"The employees have embraced the Makino flexible manufacturing system.

It has been a very positive experience, allowing them to focus on three simple objectives for which they are responsible: manufacture quality parts, manufacture them effectively, and keep the assets productive. They embrace the system flexibility that reduces setups, increases running time, manufactures quality parts, and that helps make them successful."

Managing Workloads

The automation cells at Prince provide flexibility and immediate response for managing workloads. "We get an order from customer, we acquire material the same day, provide one setup and we can start production immediately," says Greg Lopuszynski, CNC supervisor. "The first setup may take six to 12 hours, but after that the cellular manufacturing capability makes future setups a 15 minute job.

"We invest time, we don't just spend it. This process allows for investing in less setup, less labor, less time loading tools and less time running the machine. With the Makino A3 cell controller, we run 24 full pallets of work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and every part comes out and goes straight to the customer. We have never had a rejected part, and have eliminated all scrap."

"Our schedule is very easy to manage. We can run three jobs simultaneously with no operator while we are preparing the next three jobs with this cell," says Lopuszynski. "We cut 3-D parts with tight tolerances on several different positions, with diameter tolerances of 0.00052 inches. All tools are available at all times, and we save 20 to 30 percent in cycle time on tool changes alone.

"We run aluminum, brass, steel and cast parts for customers in the automotive, medical and environmental markets. Our efficiency is an amazing 95 percent. We can simultaneously schedule different machines for different jobs, and the MMC2 cell produces parts so fast, jobs simply seem to disappear."

"The S33 cell is also an efficient contributor to our process," adds Lopuszynski. "We use this machine for running short, flat parts of 10 to 15 count with the automatic pallet changer. And, just like with the MMC2 cell, we have added tools that eliminate any post-production deburring, saving on benchwork, cleanup washing and post-production time.

"The elimination of deburring saves us another five to 10 percent in cycle time. This is very important to our enhanced operational safety at Prince. With deburring, there is a great deal of hand and finger scratch and cut problems that this cellular process has eliminated."

The Customer and the Marketplace

What does such an investment in technology and process transformation really mean to the customer and the marketplace? Quite a lot, according to Jim Campbell, sales manager for Prince Industries.

"It allows us to show our customers that we can compete in this global economy, and that we can help them compete," says Campbell. "They find they can get competitive pricing from a domestic manufacturer, as this automation reduces the cost of labor associated with a job. And such costs are the most expensive element of most jobs.

"Our competitors may be buying the same quality Makino machine tools that we are, but if they are not making the significant investment in automation, it may not affect their bottom-line or service capability. This is what makes us extremely competitive."

"The flexibility of this MMC2 operation also helps us in prototype development," says Campbell. "We are now able to take a product from cradle to market in record time.

"Some customers demand or desire domestic production support, while others accept overseas production. For those who demand domestic support, especially for proprietary protection, the Makino MMC2 system with the four machining centers offers us a huge reduction in setup costs and customer charges."

"Without this system and process, we would have to run three to four months worth of material, which increases transportation and storage charges," says Campbell.

"Now we can provide them lower volume support at the same cost as mass production runs. Getting a better quality product faster and at a lower price makes the customer happy. It's a win/win across the board."

Operating Lean

"Most lean manufacturers or customers who want lean support will expect their suppliers to warehouse their product as part of the production cost," adds Campbell. "And the parts production shop has to pay for either stock or finished material to sit on the shelf as 'business overhead.'

"Because we truly operate on lean principles with the Makino MMC2, we don't utilize those cushions. We operate at a 'one-piece flow' and have embraced the world economy rather than to ignore it, cry for government protection or let it scare us out of business. Our Shanghai operation can go from blue prints to output in two to three days, and our U.S. operation even quicker."

"We have a customer that supplies us with castings for Prince to machine into their product," says Campbell. "Their casting supplier was once late getting product to them, in order for the customer to get it to us, and their production line was one day away from being shut down. This would curtail their ability to meet month-end product commitment and sales deadlines.

"With the Makino MMC2 flexible manufacturing system, we were able to set the part up to run within 15 minutes of getting the castings, and we immediately started running parts. We JIT shipped two to three part deliveries per day to the customer as soon as they came off the machine, and this kept their production line running."

"As they were shut down over the weekend, we then kept running and had a huge allotment of parts on site Monday morning," says Campbell. "This effort allowed them to ship product and hit their targeted sales for that month. That made for a happy customer."

Supporting Skilled Workers

"When we first began looking at a flexible manufacturing system with horizontal machining centers, we evaluated Makino and two other companies," says Campbell. "We analyzed machine merits based on how each tool and system was constructed and what kind of results could be achieved.

"Makino came out as being the best solution. We have increased our productivity dramatically, going from three to four parts per hour on stand-alone machines to six parts per hour on the MMC2. That is a 50 percent increase. With these labor saving gains alone, we added 30 more pallets and two more machines to a flexible system that keeps making us more profitable and more valuable to our customers."

"With low unemployment, the lack of qualified machinists can also be a potential hindrance to growth," adds Campbell. "Old school technology relied on 'one machine/one man/one shift.' We are now employing this technology to create a scenario of 'one man/three to four machines/two shifts.'

"This allows us to keep our valuable workforce, reward them better, and cross-train them in other areas in order to be more successful as an organization and keep manufacturing in the USA as strong as ever. It has just reutilized our personnel and maximized our ability to be successful."

Installation and Service

"The level of outstanding service we received was exactly what we desired and expected," according to Paluch. "I did a survey of users of the Makino machines and system before our purchase, and the response was the best I have ever seen in my career.

"The support possible from the local Northern Illinois Tech Center in Elgin, and that provided by salesman Barry Zelinski during the decision-making process, was also a major factor in our going with Makino. It was expected, and they delivered. And the MMC2 solution has helped drive out operational costs for Prince Industries - period. It has saved us 10 percent in downtime alone, which is outstanding."

"The speed and efficiency of this system has allowed us to develop a prototype process through our engineering department," says Paluch. "Kevin Brown serves as vice president of engineering, and leads our efforts to dedicate equipment and resources to assist our customers in doing prototype designs.

"These customers may give our group a model for our engineering team to put out all the details and make parts through dedicated resources in a short period of time. We can move these prototypes to production parts immediately through the Makino MMC2, as well as make engineering and design changes on the fly from the production floor."

"This provides our customers with the best solution for their needs and assists them in their growth," says Paluch. "This response has proven successful, and we plan to add another 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space in the future."

Jim Campbell says that he actually sold machine tools for over a decade before he came to Prince Industries. And he considers Makino a step above the rest.

"I enjoy machine tools. I love the technology, and I know what it takes to make a good machine tool," says Campbell. "Makino makes the best horizontal machining center for this application that exists in the marketplace today. The way it's built, the thoughtfulness of how the features around the machine tool itself are designed, from how the spindle performs and how the coolant flows to the control features; all features make it the very best.

"The user-friendly control technology let's our operator look at the control and the spindle features at the same time. Little things like that just add to the productivity of that asset. It's a crowning achievement for Prince Industries."

Prince Industries, Inc.
Carol Stream, Illinois
Phone: 630-588-0088
E-mail: sales@princeind.com
Web: www.princeind.com