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Metal Fabricator Goes the Distance for Customers
An end-to-end approach to serving customers' needs has kept numerous clients coming back for more than 20 years.
If you've ever brought a product to market, you've experienced first hand the need to work with a manufacturing partner that's with you every step of the way– one who understands your product and can ease the manufacturing process by heading off potential problems before they occur. Nu-Way Industries, Inc. (www.nuwayindustries.com), an ISO 9001:2008 certified manufacturer of custom fabricated metal enclosures, parts, and components, has made it its business to be that kind of partner. The Des Plaines, Illinois-based company combines design and engineering assistance with attentive customer service to provide what it calls "seamless interface with customers throughout the design and development process."
The company, which also offers integrated assembly and testing, serves a wide array of industries, from the mature (agricultural and appliances) to the rapidly growing (telecommunications, medical equipment). Within the telecom industry in particular, Nu-Way's experience includes the manufacturing of custom indoor and outdoor enclosures, cabinets, cable racks, bus bars, and components. Nu-Way supports its precision sheet metal fabrication services– encompassing everything from CNC punching, forming, and machining to automated bending and robotic welding– with extensive production capabilities in tooling, custom metal finishing, grinding, and polishing. But it's not just production that Nu-Way is known for: Engineering consulting, product development, and in-house prototyping are also key offerings that have helped enable "winning product designs" by saving time, reducing costs, and adding value.
To ensure total customer satisfaction, Nu-Way uses an end-to-end approach that enlists the efforts of customer teams representing its business development, customer service, engineering, prototype, and manufacturing departments. The approach apparently has its merits, as the majority of Nu-Way's customers are said to have been doing business with the company for more than 20 years.
Recently, the company's fabrication work has involved a number of well-known products, from 4G network enclosures to a new motorcycle frame for the Eric Buell Racing 1190 Sport Bike. But the most easily recognized product manufactured by Nu-Way, according to the company's director of business development, Donald L. Southwell, is the Turbochef Tornado rapid cook oven, used in all of the nearly 35,000 Subway® Restaurants throughout the world. Nu-Way has manufactured over 70,000 of the familiar rapid cook ovens, providing fabrication and subassembly in a project that Southwell calls "the first large use of laser welding here at Nu-Way."
Design-2-Part Magazine caught up with Don Southwell recently to find out more about Nu-Way's growth trajectory, its plans for the future, and its recent activities, including some of the projects the company featured at the Schaumburg (Illinois) Design-2-Part Show in May. Here's what Don had to say.
D2P: Your website states that "Nu-Way Industries, founded in 1968, has grown from a small job shop to a vertically integrated, technology-focused provider of literally thousands of high-quality precision metal parts, metal housings, and electronic enclosures." How has Nu-Way been able to achieve this growth into a vertically integrated company?
Donald Southwell, Jr. (DS): We've listened to our customers' needs from the earliest days, when we were just a welding shop. If they needed something more, we looked at adding the service. That philosophy has taken us to where we are today, a full manufacturing service.
D2P: Approximately how many people does Nu-Way employ today, and how many square feet are devoted to manufacturing space?
DS: We have 240 on staff currently. We have 300,000 square feet under roof.
D2P: For manufacturers in search of outsourced sheet metal fabrication services, what's the most important thing they should know about Nu-Way's precision sheet metal fabrication capabilities?
DS: We are committed to excellence in execution. We have more capability under roof than most of our competitors; this gives us control of the production and process quality. Starting with Design for Manufacturing, through building of tools and fixtures, and fabrication cells that are the most automated that one can buy, we are committed to the highest quality at a competitive price.
D2P: Nu-Way's capabilities include the manufacturing of indoor and outdoor enclosures, cabinets, cable racks, bus bars, and components for telecom applications. At the Schaumburg Design-2-Part Show recently, you mentioned that Nu-Way was producing 4G network enclosures for the telecom industry. Can you tell us a little about the work required to produce these enclosures, including what fabrication, finishing, and assembly processes are involved?
DS: The outdoor enclosure marketplace is primarily aluminum fabrication. We are extremely competent working with non-ferrous materials; this is the first building block. We have certified personnel to do the programming and setup for the welding operations. We are also certified by the coating manufacturers to apply the weather resistant coatings. We developed our own work order instructions and testing procedures to certify the assemblies.
Finally, we designed, built, and now use a mini car wash as an environmental test chamber. Each outdoor enclosure required a certification. This was put on after a 15-minute leak test. To speed up the process and minimize the water usage, we built a conveyor system to perform testing on a continuous basis. We even recycle the water to minimize the cost and environmental impact.
D2P: You also mentioned the company's work on battery backup systems. Can you talk a little about that work?
DS: There are indoor and outdoor battery backup systems. The indoor use systems tend to have greater weight requirements. The outdoor systems bring along needs for climate control equipment to be incorporated into the designs. The indoor systems place a greater emphasis on structural strength, while the outdoor units are more complex due to the environmental support equipment.
D2P: As part of your exhibit at the Schaumburg D2P Show, you also featured a new motorcycle frame for the Eric Buell Racing 1190 Sport Bike. Can you talk about some of the work involved in fabricating this frame?
DS: Sure, but we have to go back to the predecessor of the 1190: We were involved in the production of the frame for the Buell 1125 Sport bike. Buell at that time was 49% owned by Harley Davidson. The frame is unique in that it holds the bike together, is the engine mount, and is also the fuel tank, containing 4.5 gallons of gas. It's all aluminum and constructed from a combination of castings and stampings. It is the best welding engineering job we have ever done.
When Buell was shut down in 2009, we thought it might be over. The new company, EBR, is bringing back the American Super Bike. We are extremely proud to be part of this effort.
D2P: Nu-Way serves growing industries worldwide, sending engineered/manufactured products to customers in Canada, China, Germany, Ireland, and Mexico. How long have you been serving customers internationally, and how have you been able to build up an international base of customers?
DS: We ask our customers about their needs and their plans and try to follow them. It's really the same as our capability growth philosophy. We like to think of it as being "Practicing Capitalists."
D2P: Approximately how much of your business is international?
DS: It varies from 10 to 30 percent of our business.
D2P: Your website mentions that one of Nu-Way's greatest strengths is its design and engineering staff, which works side by side with customers to create "winning product designs" that "save time, reduce costs, and add overall value to products." How are you able to create these winning product designs, and, as you put it, convert your customers' challenges into solutions, and their obstacles into competitive advantages?
DS: We sell a manufacturing service. We make investments in new equipment and technologies, never really knowing all the places where that investment will take us. Our customers are focused on getting their products to the marketplace. They don't have time to look at all the ways it might be produced. Take, for example, laser welding, a fantastic welding process. We can weld three inches per second given the right fixturing and design. This improves quality, reduces cost, and provides our customer advantages in their marketplace.
D2P: Your website mentions that Nu-Way is unique in offering customers the services of an independent prototype shop within your main facility. Can you tell us about your prototype services, including the types of prototypes that you make?
DS: The prototype shop is indeed a little shop inside the big shop. It is a sequestered area with its own personnel and equipment, and it isn't calculated into the mainstream production capacity. It exists to provide small orders a pathway to run that won't get in the way of large production. Our customers use it to try out product modifications or to prototype new products. It also helps us develop the shop processes that will be needed when the item becomes regular production.
D2P: Can you talk about some of the custom metal finishing services that you offer, including grinding, metal polishing, powder coating, and silk screening?
DS: About 30 percent of our business is stainless steel. We have our own polishing department. We create big pieces of jewelry here. We have two powder coating conveyor lines and four batch booths. The largest batch booth measures 10 ft by 10 ft by 20 ft. We can paint anything that can fit. Silk screen started because one of our customers many years ago had us sending parts out. We thought about that and decided that we should be doing that instead. We have our own darkroom to produce artwork as well.
D2P: We've seen how important it is for a contract manufacturer to understand its customers' manufacturing challenges and act as a problem solver on their behalf. What makes Nu-Way able to understand its customers' manufacturing challenges and act as a problem solver on their behalf?
DS: First, understand what it is we are providing our customer. Next, listen to their concerns so there is complete comprehension as to the scope of work. Then come up with the manufacturing plan. Finally, execute.
D2P: The company's website states: "As we plan for the future, we are increasing investment in our employee and technological resources. This is the only way to insure the continuation of the outstanding service our customers have come to expect." What are some of the ways that Nu-Way is increasing its investment in employee and technological resources?
DS: International cheap labor is a fact of life; we can't control that. What we can control is the labor content of what we produce. The way you compete with cheap labor is no labor: You have to automate; you have to computerize. You need people that are up to speed with the skills required, and those skills change. You can't rest on your laurels– someone is gaining on you. You need to take risks on new equipment, new technologies. Most of all, you need to accept that it isn't easy. Excellence is never easy.
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