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Thoughts or advice on better utilising current equipment??

Kentuckydiesel

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Location
Kentucky, USA
I found this site a couple days ago and have been enjoying reading all the past posts. Definitely a good knowledge base here.

...So after going through a bunch of posts, I would like to get some thoughts, advice, opinions, or even a go to hell regarding my current situation. ;)

I recently got hired back to the family company as plant manager. This company means a lot to me as it was started in the 1880s by my great-great-great-grandfather, making me 6th generation there. While this is a great thing, I definitely have a tough road ahead.

Our company was booming until the mid-late 1980s. A couple hundred employees on a couple shifts, engineering, drafting, R&D, machining, etc were all done in house and filled our 160,000sqft of manufacturing facility to the brim. Since then, we have dropped a couple product lines and as a bunch of guys have retired in the past couple years, we are actually down to 4 employees in the factory, myself as the plant manager, our office manager, and one of my uncles who is President.

No more are the days when a factory employee just cranked out parts...we have become more of a low volume, high end fabrication shop. The company is actually doing okay on our currently products, but we really need to branch out/expand in order to survive in the future. In the long run, I would like to develop new product lines and upgrade equipment...but until our cash flow is strong enough, I am hoping to figure out the best way to fully utilize the equipment we have.

Here's where things get interesting:

With exception of our late 1970s Welty-Way Slear/decoil line and a couple lockformers of the same era, pretty much all our equipment was made between 1912 and 1945.

We have 31 presses from 12-350tons, 5 press brakes up to 190tons, 4 shears handling up to 1/4" mild steel, an assortment of sheet metal rollers, bending rolls, spot welders, metal saws, overhaed cranes, and a fully outfitted welding shop with DC Stick, Mig, Tig welding plus plasma cutting, and oxy-acetylene cutting ability. Although all of the above get used on at least a semi regular basis, there is one section of our company that does barely more than collect dust....our machine shop.

In the machine shop we have some great old WWII era equipment with every accessory and piece of tooling that 1945 could possibly offer. Unfortunately when our last machinist retired, there just wasn't enough in-house need to hire someone else to take his place. After reading about what some people on here are doing with older manual equipment, I'm left wondering if it wouldn't be worthwhile to put ours back to work. So you guys have a good idea of the setup, here is a list of our machines:

-Walker-Turner Utility Drill Press

-Cincinatti-Bickford Super Service-Radial Arm Drill

-Cincinatti-Bickford Super Service-Jig Boring Machine

-Avey Drilling Machine Co.-2-B Production Drill

-Carlton-Radial Arm Drill

-South Bend Lathe Works-8"x36"-15-YA

-Springfield-23"x96"-Engine Lathe

-Springfield-20"x110"-Engine Lathe

-Warner and Swasey 16" turret lathe with Lynn Hydro Drive

-Hendey Machine Co.-14"x60"-Toolroom Lathe

-Cincinatti-#4-Horizontal Milling Machine

-Kearney & Trecker-#2-Model H Milling Machine

-Pratt & Whitney-3C-Bench Miller

-Brown & Sharpe-#2-Cylindrical Grinder

-Blanchard-#18-Rotary Grinder

-Brown & Sharpe-#5-Surface Grinder

-Cincinatti-#2-Tool Cutter/Grinder

-Jones & Lamson-Chaser Sharpening Machine

-Blake-#2-Tap Chamfer Grinder

-Dumore-Drill Grinder

-Porter-Cable-B68-Wet-Dry Vertical Belt Grinder

-Standard Electric Tool-24VA-Vertical Spindle Sander

-U.S. Electrical Tool-500-Bench Grinder

-Electro Machines-M687-Bench Grinder

-Peerless-Horizontal Hack Saw


I may be forgetting something, but that should be the majority of them.

So given the machines, I feel like we would be capable of handling all sorts of small-run parts/part repairs. Would you guys agree? If so, how difficult is it these days to find a machinist that doesn't require a computer to translate his intentions to the work? Unfortunately I'm no expert in the machine shop area. I can do enough to recreate/repair parts, but that's about it. I would basically need to find someone who could come in, sort through drawers and cabinets full of tooling and whatnot, and know how to put it all to work. Am I imagining the impossible here? Would it even be worthwhile to do any more than piddle until I learn more myself?

Thanks,
Phillip
 
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kurcules

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 24, 2008
Location
Pasadena, CA
Those two radial drills could be useful in your scenario. If you search around this forum you'll find every few weeks a job comes up that's easy on a big radial, full blown time-wasting PITA otherwise. Always with a radial nowhere to be found (thus your payoff).
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2005
Location
The Netherlands
That is what WWII was good for
Getting rid of all those old machines
I cannot tell of a single pre WWII machine in a shop anywhere in Holland
Even pre 1960 is very rare
With all respect IMHO you are kicking a dead horse
Scrap is high now it seems so scrap/sell all of it and buy some modern CNC machines


Peter from Holland
 

S_W_Bausch

Diamond
Joined
Jan 15, 2010
Location
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Find yourself an OSHA expert, and see which machines can be brought up to legality.

If you want to take advantage of carbide tooling you will need to speed up the lathes, which a VFD conversion could do.

If your loading docks can't take a modern semi-tractor & modern trailer, how hard to bring at least one dock up to modern needs?

A 53 foot trailer (102 inches wide) with a 265 inch wheelbase tractor takes a lot of room.

Are the local roads tolerating that size of truck? Federal highway laws obligate local access within a few miles of the interstates, but further out, the state and local laws may restrict traffic. What about bridges, regarding width and height?
 

JimGlass

Stainless
Joined
Jan 15, 2003
Location
Genoa, Illinois
Philip,

I would love to see your machine shop someday.

While there are a few all manual machine shops still in existance today I think every machine shop needs a mix of manual and computer controlled machines. So much comunication is done electronicaly today that some kind of desk computer is neceassary for printing drawings and email. Then you need CAD and CAM software.

Not a big deal, I'm doing all this from my garage in back of my home. Not all that expensive either if you watch what you are doing.

To resurrect a WWII machine shop to do WWII type work is not likely to be successful. At the same time I would not give up on the old equipment. You need some modern equipment to compliment the old.

The next challenge will be finding someone to work in your machine shop.

I hate to sound like an American flag waver but I think the next machine shop hey day is around the corner. Why???? Not because there will be so much work, there will be so few to do the work. The old guys are retiring and the young guys have no interest in machine shop work.

When shops start paying machinists a better than average wage there will be machinists around and schools to train them.

My opinion
Jim
 

Ox

Diamond
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Location
West Unity, Ohio
I wouldn't say that you have much at all on that list that is of much use other than a hobby shop, or to augment a welding / repair shop.

If you want to make new stuff at all, you don't have hardly anything on that list of much use.

How can you have 160K', used to employ a cpl hundred people, and:

A) Still be able to keep the doors open with all office personel?

B) So few people to generate income?

C) Have so little equipment?


-------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 

Laurentian

Stainless
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Location
Canada
I would look into downsizing, scrapping most of it, 5S and sell that huge building.
Then start fresh with what you are good at and grow from there with modern equipment.
Does not have to be new but servicable and of a good NA or Euro make if possible.

I also took over our families shop in the early eighties and it turns out I had youth, luck, singleness, work ethic, desire to learn and basic shop training when it was given in high school back in the day. I could have filled many scrap containers full of obsolete junk I threw out over the years.
All we have left from the old days is a war era Clarke rockwell tester, a vintage Johnson band saw and a nice hardinge HSL, all very clean and well maintained.

All this plus two complete moves to present. The rest of the shop has been replaced with new, near new and cnc, edm and laser. We went from 4000 sq. ft to present 1800 and father had a 12 man plus shop we are half that.

Would I do it again ? Can't say but I had no choice at the time.

Best wishes,

Hugh

ON Edit : Would a large building such as your lend itself well to splitting into condo's ?
Then you could downsize, grow or store machinery at will and rent out the balance.
Just a thought.
 

WILLEO6709

Diamond
Joined
Nov 6, 2001
Location
WAPELLO, IA USA
I would not jump on the scrap train just yet with the stuff. We don't even know what all you require for maintenance etc on your tooling. 1 piece of advise - see if one of the retired shop foreman are still alive, buy him lunch once a week and learn all you can. They know your situation better than any of us. Quite honestly in may pressworking tool maintenance sitations cnc stuff is not that neccsary. some of the things you list are world class iron even today....those radial drill will last another 2 generations if well cared for. What do you spend money on outside your building in machining? enough $$ to justify a man inside?
 

Kentuckydiesel

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Location
Kentucky, USA
Find yourself an OSHA expert, and see which machines can be brought up to legality.

If you want to take advantage of carbide tooling you will need to speed up the lathes, which a VFD conversion could do.

If your loading docks can't take a modern semi-tractor & modern trailer, how hard to bring at least one dock up to modern needs?

A 53 foot trailer (102 inches wide) with a 265 inch wheelbase tractor takes a lot of room.

Are the local roads tolerating that size of truck? Federal highway laws obligate local access within a few miles of the interstates, but further out, the state and local laws may restrict traffic. What about bridges, regarding width and height?

Osha has inspected our plant a number of times in recent years and has never said anything about our machine shop.
We have around 20 modern loading docks including a coil dock with an overhead crane, we are on about 60 acres, and we are about 1/2 mile off the interstate. Trucks are no big deal, they come through our place every day.

I wouldn't say that you have much at all on that list that is of much use other than a hobby shop, or to augment a welding / repair shop.

If you want to make new stuff at all, you don't have hardly anything on that list of much use.

How can you have 160K', used to employ a cpl hundred people, and:

A) Still be able to keep the doors open with all office personel?

B) So few people to generate income?

C) Have so little equipment?

We have 4 guys in the factory because two guys got fired and another quit due to women problems. Will need to do some hiring prior to the busy season. We have two lines which are our major income and they take 3-4 guys each to run, but we still need more guys. Little equipment though??? We are covered up in equipment, most of it for sheet metal stamping, punching, notching, bending, rolling, flanging, etc.

with all those presses are you at least doing your own die repair and sharpening?

We used to make all our own dies but since the last machinest retired, we have only been doing basic sharpening work. Looking to at least learn how to do more myself.

I would look into downsizing, scrapping most of it, 5S and sell that huge building.
Then start fresh with what you are good at and grow from there with modern equipment.
Does not have to be new but servicable and of a good NA or Euro make if possible.

I also took over our families shop in the early eighties and it turns out I had youth, luck, singleness, work ethic, desire to learn and basic shop training when it was given in high school back in the day. I could have filled many scrap containers full of obsolete junk I threw out over the years.
All we have left from the old days is a war era Clarke rockwell tester, a vintage Johnson band saw and a nice hardinge HSL, all very clean and well maintained.

All this plus two complete moves to present. The rest of the shop has been replaced with new, near new and cnc, edm and laser. We went from 4000 sq. ft to present 1800 and father had a 12 man plus shop we are half that.

Would I do it again ? Can't say but I had no choice
as I was basically orphaned at the time :toetap:

Best wishes,

Hugh

I have often thought it would be a good idea to downsize our facility but real estate isn't great now and we get pretty decent rental income off 100,000sqft....plus, I don't even want to think about the cost of moving our two story tall presses or any of the other equipment for that matter. As far as getting rid of the machine shop equipment and upgrading...we can't really do that right now. Like I said in the 1st post, I definitely want to upgrade things in the future, but for now, it's all about working with what we have. I think a 3 axis-6x10-intensifier pump driven waterjet is most important to me right now because it would cut out so many sheet metal punching/notching set-ups and operations. (The majority of our business is in sheet metal)

Thanks, Phillip
 

CBlair

Diamond
Joined
Sep 23, 2002
Location
Lawrenceville GA USA
Phil, as long as you are asking opinions if most of your work is sheetmetal then I would suggest a laser over the waterjet. Waterjet is great for thicker parts and non machinable stuff but a laser will give you a better edge and will likely cost less than the consumables with a water jet.

Just food for thought.

Also, if you can go back and adjust your title before this gets blocked. You need to try and compose a title that discribes what you are asking about not just Thoughts ...Advise.

Welcome aboard and keep us informed on what you decide to do.

Charles
 

Kentuckydiesel

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Location
Kentucky, USA
ON Edit : Would a large building such as your lend itself well to splitting into condo's ?
Then you could downsize, grow or store machinery at will and rent out the balance.
Just a thought.

Unfortunately, no. While our main building, built in 1954, is brick 1/3 of the way up the wall, the rest is steel aside from the windows. The other two buildings are completely made of steel panels which were formed in house. In addition, the ceilings are very high.
 

Kentuckydiesel

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Location
Kentucky, USA
Phil, as long as you are asking opinions if most of your work is sheetmetal then I would suggest a laser over the waterjet. Waterjet is great for thicker parts and non machinable stuff but a laser will give you a better edge and will likely cost less than the consumables with a water jet.

Just food for thought.

Also, if you can go back and adjust your title before this gets blocked. You need to try and compose a title that discribes what you are asking about not just Thoughts ...Advise.

Welcome aboard and keep us informed on what you decide to do.

Charles

I was thinking waterjet because we would most regularly need to cut stacks of 12ga, 14ga, and 16ga in both galvanized and stainless steel. It seemed to me that a waterjet was going to be the only thing which would do this well. Is this not correct? I'm definitely interested in any ideas, laser included.

BTW, I tried to adjust the title...hopefully it worked. Thanks for the heads up.

-Phillip
 

t.alexander4

Plastic
Joined
Feb 4, 2011
Location
Australia
i have worked in a machine shop in Australia for many years using machines dated 1880 and onwards, through to modern CNC equipment. my last work place was a jobbing shop, doing low volume one off style work. there is nothing wrong with older machines especially mills, cylindrical grinders and drills. HSS tooling has not really changed since WW2 and cutting parameters are still the same now as they where then. Lathes on the other hand are dramatically different. in the mid to late 60's when carbide started to become the choice for tooling lathes adopted new styles. geared heads with large numbers of spindle speeds, flat beads where replaced with V beds, quick change gearboxes for thread cutting and so on.
Our society has adopted a 'throw away" attitude and the number of machine shops had decreased since people buy new stuff instead of repairing the old stuff.
machine shops are not the way they where in the WW2 era, to survive you need to have a customer base that includes small jobs, up to big ones.
you cant rely on what just comes through the door, its sad to say but most people dont know what they want and will waste your time. you need o deal directly with other businesses big and small.
you need to find a niche that you can fill.
you have very specific grinding machines and borers. use this to your advantage. as for finding machinists that can use your equipment i am not sure. i learnt my trade from the old guys who always said you cant buy a machinist, you have to make them, and i would be inclined to agree
 

Ries

Diamond
Joined
Mar 15, 2004
Location
Edison Washington USA
as far as cutting goes- I am not aware of any technique, laser, waterjet, or plasma, that does what I would consider an acceptable job of cutting stacked material. You get a variety of different, undesirable side affects when trying to cut more than one piece at once.

I would want to see samples cut with the machine you are considering, before I bought a machine based on it being able to cut an entire stack of material at once.

Waterjet, for example, has significant draft on the sides of the cuts, which varies from side to side, and this is exaggerated the thicker the material is. Yes, there are the newer Flow machines which compensate for this by adjusting the head tilt as they cut, but the result is even worse draft on the scrap, and higher prices. I have also seen sideways flows of abrasive between the parts, in stacks, which makes for ugly spots.

plasma will actually weld the parts together at the edge if you try to cut stacks. and again, you get draft, along with other problems.

If I was you, I would first look at hy-def plasma machines- its amazing how good they have gotten recently.
In terms of price of the machine, the plasma machines are in the $50k to $150k range, the waterjets in the $150k to $500k range, and the lasers more like $200k to $1 million and up, assuming you are talking similar capacities. Waterjet and laser both have significant consumable and maintanence costs, plasma is much cheaper to keep running.

It may vary from place to place, but here on the west coast, finished parts are generally priced accordingly- if I send out plasma, waterjet, or laser, the parts are more and more expensive as the tolerances go up, and the waterjet is always more than the plasma, and the laser always more than the waterjet- but maybe there are specific industries or areas where that is not true.

One of my ex-employees is currently running an autoload/unload 5x10 laser/turret punch full time these days- cutting out parts for $15,000 pizza ovens, and that machine was well north of a million bucks. And it costs a fair amount of change every hour its turned on, too.
 

Laurentian

Stainless
Joined
Mar 2, 2008
Location
Canada
KDiesel, sounds like you have already given this some thought and good on you about bringing up moving any huge equipment. If I understood correctly you are already renting out 2/3 of your building then you are on the right track I would say.

This site is a tremendous source of experience and know how.
I have found members here very generous in sharing hard earned knowledge.
Ditto on laser and waterjet, sounds like a good fit for your plant.

Also a lot of us would love to have a go at some of that big iron of yours like the Blanchard for instance. Some of it may still be very useful, some not.

Keep asking and welcome !

:reading:
 

Blue Steel

Stainless
Joined
Sep 10, 2007
Location
Adelaide Australia
I think I would try and clean out the stuff is duplicated to try and liberate some space. Tidy up and work out where to start. I would also try to come up with a plan about where I am trying to take the machining side of the business acting on the assumption that most of the stuff that is there is so old that it will ultimately have to go. Some of it might end up staying for a fair while if it fills an occasional need and does not cost too much space or efficiency to keep. If you want to do machining then CNC and CAM are in your future. This is a vast field and so planning about what product and what requirements you have is crucial. Modern machines can have many capabilities wrapped up in one machine and this can mean one machine is much more profitable than two less capable machines. Of course you can spend a lot of money on a capability that you just don't need. Making a car's engine block demonstrates the changes that have come about. They used to do it on a line of 30 or 40 machines. Today there are single machines that can do the whole thing in one process. They can even turn the block upside down by themselves and do the opposite side.

Stephen
 

Gary E

Diamond
Joined
Jan 2, 2006
Location
Houston, TX
Kentuckydiesel

That's a big building, and the machinery in it is old, you allready know that. What I think you need is a product....Don't try to be a job shop, you'l loose the biz to others with more modern machines and better quality/accuracy that the WWII stuff never had and never will have no matter what you do to it, such as updating to Digital Readouts...

How about the eastern part of your state, Coal is KING, and quite possibly can provide some biz. Just what I'm not sure, but I remembering a company in Beckley WV that was making things for the mining industry...

Find somethng to make, make the best product you can, and sell to those who will profit from using it...then they'l want more of it.

Where in KY are you?

or maybe TVA needs some help with what ever.. you need to put on your Sales Engineer hat and take a road trip...

Good luck
 

Ox

Diamond
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Location
West Unity, Ohio
We have 4 guys in the factory because two guys got fired and another quit due to women problems. Will need to do some hiring prior to the busy season. We have two lines which are our major income and they take 3-4 guys each to run, but we still need more guys. Little equipment though??? We are covered up in equipment, most of it for sheet metal stamping, punching, notching, bending, rolling, flanging, etc.

Yunno, I read all those presses, but then I read the part about there only being a half dozen or ??? of you there, and then all of a sudden all those pcs fell right off my mind.

You asked about what you should doo to your machine shop, but your machine shop is nothing more than a "die" shop apparently. Your not really lookin' to doo outside werk eh? If your just trying to maintain your tooling, then just note a bottle-neck if/when you see it and inquire about that at the time.

From here - we can't see what you need to run your business.



I have often thought it would be a good idea to downsize our facility but real estate isn't great now and we get pretty decent rental income off 100,000sqft....plus, I don't even want to think about the cost of moving our two story tall presses or any of the other equipment for that matter. As far as getting rid of the machine shop equipment and upgrading...we can't really do that right now. Like I said in the 1st post, I definitely want to upgrade things in the future, but for now, it's all about working with what we have.

Thanks, Phillip

Then you really are werking out of a 60K' shop then. STILL - I hope you don't hafta heat all of that at once with so few of you there! Just turn on a salamander or two on at a press for the day as required? :willy_nilly:


And I thought that I had a high iron/sqr' to manpower ratio! :bowdown:

You obviously have some good werk, even if it is sparse!


--------------

Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 

Walter A

Titanium
Joined
Jul 7, 2007
Location
Hampton, Virginia
In order to improve your cash flow you need to put more hours through your shops. Although your machine shop is outdated the right machinists can at least make some money. First you have to find machinists who are willing to come back to work. An incentive is an offer of part time or weekend work. You need at least one good person in the machine shop to make this work. You may not fill your shop with work but a steady string of $50/h work is more than comes in right now.

Your machines are nothing spectacular as far as capacity but you have a good assortment and can attract some walk in and job shop work. Let it be known that you will take in simple work with no minimum and can get it done quickly. With decent rates and good work you can still attract work that the CNC shops do not want. Still, you need the right people to do the work.

For the Fab shop you need to utilize the machines that are special and have large capacities. If you are the only shop within 50 miles that can bend real heavy plate then advertise the heck out of that. There are tons of shops that would love to take in a special job but just cannot process the one fat plate on the drawing. These shops can find the work if you let them know you are willing to make just that one piece for them.

Yes you can sell or scrap all your equipment and that is not such a bad idea but not all at once. Just because your equipment is old doesn't mean it can't make money. Make it a point to see what you have that the other shops don't then push that process.

Once you get an idea of direction then get a decent web site. This is what people turn to now when they need something. When you get the site designed don't worry so much about the cute stuff. Just make sure when people search for Rolling or Bending your site is in the top five. During this last recession I survived by reinventing my shop. I did this by changing my web site, pushing what would work and not worrying about what would not.

Walter A.
 








 
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