California Sheet Metal Firm Aims for Growth under New Ownership
Responsible Metal Fab, Inc., custom designed and built a replacement enclosure that was half the cost of a catalog part and better suited the customer’s application. The RMFI design, made of 5052-H32 aluminum sheet, 0.062-inch thick, replaced a 9-piece extruded frame box (top) with a 2-piece sheet metal box (bottom), shown with connector panel. Photo courtesy of RMFI.
RMFI’s Goglia looks to target key markets, boost output with new machines
By Mark Langlois
Responsible Metal Fab, Inc. (RMFI), a precision sheet metal and machining fabricator in the Bay Area for the last 40 years, remains committed to customer service, quality manufacturing, and modern manufacturing methods under the leadership of its third owner, Peter Goglia. Responsible Metal Fab produces precision sheet metal and machined parts, including brackets, chassis, enclosures, rack mount units, panels, electronic assemblies, and other assemblies at its Silicon Valley location. Customers come from a variety of high technology industries, such as medical, telecom, electronic contract manufacturing, and others.
“We have the latest CNC sheet metal laser, punch and bending brake equipment, and a well-equipped CNC machine shop. Processes from estimation through shipping are controlled by a fully integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system,” Goglia said in a telephone interview. He praised the company’s ERP system as being manufacturing-centric and customer-friendly. “If a customer calls and asks, ‘Where’s my part?’ I can see which operations are done, and which aren’t. I can see in a snap where it is. If I walk to that operation, it’s there. I know what the ship date is, I know where the parts are, I can tell within minutes what date he can expect the shipment.”
Goglia, RMFI’s owner since February, earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Cornell, and then his master’s degree and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He worked his way up through a wide range of complex jobs in research and development in high technology firms. These included stints as an executive director of research and development at Seagate, in recording head development, and with Western Digital in hard disk drive recording. He worked as vice president of engineering for FormFactor, a semiconductor test firm, and returned to the hard drive business as CTO at Xyratex, a hard drive test and storage systems company. During his work at Xyratex, he investigated, bought, and merged three companies into the firm.
“As you develop the roadmap for your business growth, you learn the business development side of things. I really liked the process,” Goglia said. In the course of that work, he started looking at his own future. He decided on a future beyond research and development. He decided on manufacturing. “I had to figure out what I’d like to do next.”
Goglia’s career also included working as vice president of engineering, chief technical officer, and chief operating officer for several high technology firms before buying RMFI in February. He said he investigated Responsible Metal Fab Inc., and found that it had a combination of strengths that interested him: a great product, great people, and great “bones.” He thought he could leverage his experiences and take it to the next level with better marketing, he said.
“So many companies have skills, and can make parts, but they wonder why customers aren’t knocking on their doors,” Goglia said. “They have no marketing.”
Goglia said he is just starting to get his knees under the desk, but his plans include researching the market in the Bay Area and identifying the customers who will need RMFI’s manufacturing services.
“If a customer calls and asks, ‘Where’s my part?’ I can see which operations are done, and which aren’t. I can see in a snap where it is.”
–Peter Goglia, owner, Responsible Metal Fab, Inc.
“We’re trying to get the market targeted and identify more qualified leads to target. Then we will launch a marketing campaign,” Goglia said. “It’s different than sales. It’s truly marketing. You’re looking at first organizing your market—first, the product you want to do. Who uses that product? Then, who in your area needs your services to produce that product? Who are the key people? Who, in your area, are the decision makers who need your product? Who is the top of your tier? Then you start contacting them, sending them information, putting them on an email list. Make calls and remind them of the value you add. These are the things you do consistently over time in your target market, and, over time, that bear fruit.”
Part of that plan will involve redesigning and repopulating the company website. He will write white papers to inform customers of RMFI’s capabilities. “We need tools to help the salespeople do their jobs better,” Goglia said.
Room for Growth
Responsible Metal Fab, Inc. (www.responsiblemetal.com) is a 20,000-square-foot factory that is ISO 9001:2015 certified through the efforts of its 45 employees. Its services include machining, welding, hardware, finishing; sheet metal prototypes; design and engineering; punch and forming; value-added assembly; production and quality control; packaging; and delivery. The company’s sheet metal processes include CNC laser/punching on a Trumpf Trumatic 1000 CNC punching laser.
Graining equipment includes a TimeSaver World Widebelt 37-inch wet grainer and an A.E.M. 25-inch power graining machine. The forming equipment includes a Trumpf Trumabend V85s 95-ton CNC press brake with extended stroke.
Goglia said that inside the 20,000-square-foot facility, RMFI has room for growth. He is evaluating how to increase the company’s business and how to increase its output by 30 to 40 percent.
“We could increase our capacity quite a bit within the footprint,” Goglia said. He plans to buy a lathe to improve the company’s prototyping and machining capabilities. “We need a simpler, smaller machine to make prototypes. We needed an expert machinist for prototypes. We hired one—not just an operator.”
Because RMFI is located in Silicon Valley, customers ask for challenging parts.
“We had a young engineer come in with a drawing on a piece of paper. It had dimensions on it. He didn’t know how to design it. So, one of our guys drew it up and put it on CAD. They went back and forth with him. We basically designed it for him. It was an RF enclosure, three feet long by a foot high and a foot-and-a-half deep. It was sheet metal with an RF shield. It had a power plug and data cables that go in and out. They powered up the product and it was shielded from the outside for some reason,” Goglia said. Each one cost about $815. “They bought two of them to start, and then 20, and then 70 more. Now we’re making a ton of them.”
From the Catalog or off the Punch Press
Another customer called RMFI to make an enclosure it could no longer buy from a catalog. The enclosure cost $400 in the catalog and it was made from extruded aluminum.
“It was not an ideal design, but they made it work,” Goglia said. “It was an extruded box with four parts, and [had] holes where they weren’t needed. It was complicated to assemble.”
“Combining functions and eliminating parts is the ultimate goal for design. It seems especially true for sheet metal design,” Goglia said. “We redesigned the whole attachment method, taking out an unneeded cover and combining the rest of the functions into a single piece.”
–Peter Goglia, owner, Responsible Metal Fab, Inc.
The customer’s vice president of engineering asked RMFI for a solution. Responsible Metal Fab replaced the original enclosure, designing a sheet metal box customized for the application. The box is made of 5052-H32 aluminum sheet, 0.062-inch thick, and measures 12 inches by 10 inches by 1.688 inch. Responsible Metal Fab’s price was $200. The cost reduction was due to the different manufacturing method and removing the middleman and retail mark-ups.
“Sheet metal is inherently less expensive than extruded [metal],” Goglia said. “It was easier to assemble, the holes were where they were needed, and it was half the cost. They save when buying direct from the manufacturer.”
In another instance, RMFI redesigned and improved a solid-state drive (SSD) cover for an international storage systems company. The company makes a rack storage subsystem that uses standard form factor, 95mm HDD or SSD drives.
The drives were originally mounted with a two-piece system that was awkward to assemble, giving workers headaches. The side rails for the drive were first mounted in the chassis, then the drive inserted. Once the drive was in place, two small M2 screws were threaded through the rails to mount the drive. There was no access to the opposite side to secure the drive, so a cover was used to hold the drive in place. The assemblers were constantly dropping the screws into the chassis and needing to turn it upside down to retrieve them.
To solve the problems, RMFI designed a single-piece mounting bracket that first slid and screwed into the chassis. Two mounting screws were pre-threaded into one side of the drive. The drive could then slide into tabs on one side of the bracket, and the screws slide into slots on the other side. The screws were then tightened. The result was a 50 percent material cost reduction, as well as a much faster and more reliable assembly process, Goglia said.
“Combining functions and eliminating parts is the ultimate goal for design. It seems especially true for sheet metal design,” Goglia said. “We redesigned the whole attachment method, taking out an unneeded cover and combining the rest of the functions into a single piece.
“The staff can evaluate a drawing and help a customer improve it,” Goglia continued. “We bring a very mature perspective to manufacturing based on our customer’s interest in quality and cost. Two guys in the design shop do design work, and while they’re not engineers, they are excellent in helping customers with their design.” He said the staff and machines can achieve tolerances of ± 0.002 inch, but tolerances are all based on design and the customer’s preference.
To lower electric bills, the factory has solar panels on the roof. It uses swamp coolers, which are evaporative coolers, rather than air conditioners, inside the building to cool the factory in hot weather.
Responsible Metal Fab, Inc., was incorporated in 1978 and opened in 1979 by Tom Collins and Ken Baker. Collins and Baker sold it to Dan Martin, Rafael Grimaldo, Jose Vargas, Candelario Arreola, and Brad Kutz in 1998. Grimaldo, Vargas, and Candelario, three of the previous owners, are cooperating with the new owner, Goglia, through the ownership transition.
One System to Rule Them All
Goglia said the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system works for finance, books, inventory, order entry, materials, quoting, and workflow, “and pretty much everything we do in our business runs through that system.” It gives customers confidence in RMFI. “The whole company runs on it. Once we quote something, we’re ready to go. Number one is customer service, high quality parts, on time, and good prototypes. We help customers with design for manufacturing to help them get the most out of their designs.”
Responsible Metal Fab calls its ERP system a “factory-wide barcode workflow, labor and material data collection system,” as well as, “fully integrated financials and shop-floor-control software (EDI capable).” The company’s computer-aided design and manufacturing software and its CNC programming and plotting software includes SolidWorks 3D CAD software; Fusion 360 3D CAD and Tool Path Software; MasterCam Tool Path Software; ToPS 600 Programming System for Bending; MetalSoft FabriWIN; and MetalSoft 3D Unfolders.
The company’s quality policy, as stated on its website, is, “to safely manufacture products and provide services that meet or exceed our customers’ requirements. We recognize the importance of continually striving to improve the quality of our products and services that we provide our customers.”
In RMFI’s metrology department, the Nikon AlTERA 10.10.8 CNC Coordinate Measuring Machine fits parts up to 40 inches on the X axis, 40 inches on the Y axis, and 32 inches on the Z axis. Other quality measuring equipment includes height gauges, micrometers, calipers, and surface plates. All calibrations are kept up to date, the company said.
Warehoused raw material includes aluminum, stocked from 24 gauge to 8 gauge; cold rolled steel, stocked from 26 gauge to 12 gauge; and stainless steel, stocked from 22 gauge to 14 gauge. Other materials include brass and copper. Most non-stocked material can be received the next day.
“They can look over our shoulder as we’re making it,” Goglia said. “Every process is bar coded. Every process is tracked. They can come back and forth and talk to us. For a young engineer, we can help them through the process. We give them quality parts, on-time delivery at a good price.
“Our value proposition is we’ll cooperate with you,” Goglia added, saying the firm’s engineering department is fully capable of helping a new engineer complete a part design. “You’ve got to talk it through and figure it out.”
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