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Quality, Speed, and Price: Who Says You Can't Have it All?
Parts that were laser-cut on Quick-Way Manufacturing's Amada FOL Laser.
Image courtesy of Quick-Way Manufacturing.
Efficiencies in production and quality control enable a full-service manufacturer to pass cost savings on to customers
The year 2011 marks the 50th year in business for Quick-Way Manufacturing (www.quick-way.com), a Euless, Texas company that began as a metal stamping shop in 1961 and is now a versatile, ISO 9001:2008 certified manufacturer of custom metal stampings, sheet metal fabrications, and laser-cut parts. During its half century of operation, Quick-Way (formerly known as Quick-Way Stampings) has successfully adapted to a number of major changes in U.S. and global manufacturing, establishing a niche in the short- to medium-run market for precision parts and assemblies. What hasn't changed through it all is the company's commitment to providing customers with high quality parts, delivered quickly at a competitive price.
Mike Lund, the company's vice president and general manager, took time out recently to talk with Design-2-Part's David Gaines about what Quick-Way offers today's cost-conscious OEM customers.
Design-2-Part (D2P): In 2010, after 49 years in business, Quick-Way changed its name from Quick-Way Stampings, Inc., to Quick-Way Manufacturing, Inc. What prompted the name change?
Mike Lund (ML): We have always had an excellent reputation in the market, but a lot of people just think of us as a stamping company. That was appropriate when we started the business in 1961, but today, we are so much more. We have been in the CNC fabrication business for many years, and thought that a name change would help let everyone know that we are more than just a stamping company. If your part is made of metal, we can help you. Whether your part requires conventional presses and tooling, or CNC turret and laser fabrication, we are your shop.
D2P: What types of parts best fit your operation?
ML: Anything made from sheet metal. We can handle parts from ¼-inch diameter all the way up to 4-foot x 10-foot sheets. We specialize in short to medium runs—basically, prototype to 50,000 pieces. We run steel, galvanized, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and copper.
D2P: What industries does Quick-Way serve?
ML: We currently have over 400 customers in just about every industry. We provide parts to industries such as energy and automation; aftermarket automotive; flow control; instrumentation; medical; oil and gas; lighting; scientific; and many others.
D2P: Can you tell us a little about the medical parts that you make?
ML: We do a lot for the medical industry, but we don't handle the parts that have critical applications. If you can envision a respirator, we would make all of the metal components for the outside housings and the holding brackets. We don't make anything critical to keeping anyone alive. Most of our work has tolerances of +/- 0.005-inch. These are mostly sheet metal parts and stamped parts. We make a lot of the housings and enclosures for electronic equipment.
D2P: Why is it important that you offer sheet metal fabrication and metal stamping, along with laser cutting?
ML: What really makes us strong against some of our competitors is that a lot of them just do metal fabrication or metal stamping. But a customer can come to us with a product that requires both processes, as well as laser cutting. Depending on the configuration and size of the parts, some of them will also require secondary forming operations, which we can handle. So we can make the whole product. We also have our own tool and die shop, where we make our own dies in-house for the stampings. So we're a one-stop-shop for our customers, and this gives us an added competitive edge.
I would say that our biggest specialty is the enclosure type of work. The sheet metal fabrication is about half of our business right now. Besides bending and forming, we also do standard welding and spot welding, hardware insertion, and full assembly. We handle machining operations, including drilling, tapping, threading, countersinking, and some secondary operations. We also provide parts complete with finishes and paint as required.
D2P: Why are enclosures and housings a good niche for your company?
ML: Mainly because we have all of the equipment in-house. What we do is add value to sheet metal, and some companies want a complete assembly, so that's something we're selling with it. We've been in business for almost 50 years, and we've been able to provide completed products for the past 20 years. So being a full-service shop is something that we've been doing for a long time.
D2P: How does being a one-stop-shop that builds complete assemblies allow your company to compete in the global economy?
ML: Customers are looking for shops that can take their pain away. They would prefer to receive their parts and assemblies complete at their door, so that they don't have to deal with more processes. We can do this for our customers.
D2P: What makes Quick-Way cost-effective compared to other contract manufacturers doing the same types of work?
ML: I'd say technology, equipment, and an efficient work force. We are continually updating our equipment; we stay on top of new technology that gives us an advantage in the market. Having conventional punch presses, with an in-house tool and die shop, along with the CNC turrets, lasers, and press brakes, allows us to choose the most cost-efficient method to manufacture a customer's parts based on quantity, tolerances, and available lead time.
D2P: How do the Amada CNC turret stamping presses, the Amada FOL laser, and the Amada combination laser cutter/turret press help you achieve cost savings and efficiency for your customers?
ML: On short to medium runs, we can produce parts within a very short period of time--often the same day—with no tooling costs. Our standard library of turret tooling can provide our customers with just about any configuration. The FOL laser is currently the fastest laser on the market, and we take advantage our nesting software and techniques to provide the best use of each sheet of material.
D2P: How does your use of advanced software throughout the plant help your clients save money?
ML: Our advanced software is especially helpful with our CNC fabrication equipment, and is a good way to save time and money for our customers. Nesting software helps us to better utilize our sheet metal, so we're able to get more parts per sheet, which reduces part weight and part price. The nesting software takes the parts that we want to make--along with any other parts that can be made from the same material thickness and type of metal-- and will place the correct amount of parts in the best configuration to utilize the material in the most efficient way.
D2P: How are you able to provide high quality parts quickly?
ML: We are an ISO 9001:2008 certified and registered shop. Our approach and goals are pretty simple: Provide quality parts, shipped on time at a competitive price every time. In today's market, lead times have compressed. In order to provide quality parts quickly and efficiently, we needed to find a way to speed up our inspection process. We purchased two Virtek Laser QC machines. These 2D laser inspection machines allow us to check parts coming off the CNC turrets and lasers, often with hundreds of holes, in a matter seconds and with great accuracy.
The Virtek QC machines allow us to input a customer's 2D CAD file--with all of the hole locations, tolerances, and other specifications--into a check sheet for the laser cutting machine. The Virtek machine will then trace the outline of the actual part and all of the holes, and it gives you X and Y coordinates and hole sizes, all at one time. It compares it to the CAD file that we imported, and it will tell you if there are any deviations from the specs. I've never seen a part take longer than 60 seconds to scan. We make some aftermarket automotive parts that used to take eight hours to check a first article part, because they had about 300 holes, but now it takes 60 seconds. This machine has really expedited our QC process, and therefore saved our customers money.
D2P: Do you see any trends in sheet metal fabrication these days that could change the way the field operates?
ML: We see shorter lead times coupled with continuous cost improvement requirements. Advances in equipment technology, increases in feeds and speeds, and improvements in all aspects of software will be key to American manufacturing's ability to respond to this new demand for shorter lead times and continuous cost reduction.
D2P: What can you tell an OEM about your business that would keep them from outsourcing parts to a contract manufacturer overseas?
ML: We have some of the best equipment in the world. The metal stamping and sheet metal fabrication business has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. Our business in the past was low capital, high labor; this is where overseas made sense. Today, we are high capital, low labor. We have continued to upgrade equipment, technology, and software to remove the labor component. I'd also say that our customer service and ability to respond quickly is our greatest asset. If you need some sheet metal parts in 2-5 working days, overseas is not an option. We also have customers that want parts shipped out within two to three hours of their request.
What we've seen over time is that our work, which is short to medium production runs from 100 to 10,000 pieces, typically doesn't seem to go overseas. The work using a progressive die, calling for millions of parts, is an easy one to send to China. We've also found that on the sheet metal fabrication side of manufacturing, you often have parts that weigh 80 to 100 pounds, which cost a lot to ship.
Also, most of our customers want just-in-time and Kan Ban deliveries, so going overseas is not an option for them. Our customers want us to make three months worth of parts, warehouse them on our shelves, and ship daily or as they request shipments. This kind of service just can't be matched in China.
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