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[March 16, 2015] Let’s face it – as the manufacturing economy continues to improve, CNC machine shop owners now find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory. The skills gap is shrinking, it has become more difficult to find experienced CNC machinists, competition is up, and the demand for high quality parts means that milling and machining facilities must place more of an emphasis on increased efficiency and productivity. Today, modern precision machining tools have made it possible for many shops to streamline their operations. At APM’s Colorado machine shop, we feature state of the art CNC mills and CNC lathes to cut steels, composite materials, exotic metals, aluminum, plastics and more. We’ve managed to stay ahead of the manufacturing curve, and have tripled in size and sales capacity since opening in 2005, but times have changed. To remain competitive, we are always on the lookout for ways to keep costs down and increase our output, while maintaining the quality, reliability and exceptional customer service our clients have become accustomed to.
We all know that time is money. Want to make your machine shop more efficient and productive? We want to share with our readers a few our favorite tips/techniques for improving operations, and most importantly, the bottom line in any CNC machining facility.
It’s amazing the number of man-hours lost and dollars wasted due to a general lack of organization. Maintain a well-organized place for everything, especially machine tools, and properly put things back into the appropriate place when done. Invest in better tool drawers, cabinets and/or shadow boards for example. Improve your labeling system. Think about the layout of your milling and machining equipment – does it maximize efficiency? Keep the shop floor and equipment clean. This all sounds elementary, but goes a long way to improving efficiency.
The list here can be long. Think about converting to a high-pressure coolant (HPC) system, or increase your existing coolant concentrations. Routinely inspect your tool holders and inserts to avoid catastrophic failures, keep track of the amount of material being removed, and avoid excessive contact time with the workpiece. Think about investing in a harder insert grade if you can. Certain aftermarket coatings, such as aluminum oxide, can help you reduce cycle times while increasing your tool life, feed rates and cutting speeds. Cryogenic machining is also worth exploring and investing in.
Want to keep your tool costs low and your setup times down? Invest in a tool management system (TMS). A good one allows you to seamlessly track and manage your inventory, and helps eliminate costly over or under-stocking of your tool supply. Companies such as ToolBoss offer a number of systems to regulate and audit tool usage, performance and procurement. Software is even available to track all tools and issue purchasing notices, eliminating costly downtime and saving money.
Want to learn more, or have a question about your next project? Contact the expert CNC machinists at APM’s Colorado machine shop for all of your milling and machining needs.
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Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Before making his home in the United States in 2000, Gerry was born and raised on the emerald isle of Ireland and took an interest in milling and machining from an early age, ranking #1 in the Irish National Apprenticeship Program. In 2005, he partnered with his friend and colleague, Kirk Tuesburg, currently APM’s machine shop manager, together launching what’s grown into a leading Colorado machine shop. Gerry brings over 30 years of machining experience to the shop floor, and is certified in all aspects of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing.