Custom Manufacturer Partners with Clients to Deliver What They Want, When They Want It
With a new machining center and ISO certification, a Georgia sheet metal fabricator stays committed to improvements.
Prince Precision Products, a precision sheet metal fabricating company located 90 miles south of Atlanta in Macon, Ga., works to bring in the latest manufacturing technology to provide high-speed precision laser, fine-line plasma, and water jet cutting, along with robotic welding, computer-controlled machining, computerized forming, and fastener insertion. According to the company's special projects engineer, Leonard Massey, Prince Precision tries to maintain a "general rule" of using hardware and equipment for no more than three to five years, and software for no more than two, before replacing them with the latest versions.
"It's important to stay on the cutting edge to maintain efficiency and productivity; there are always improvements being made," says Massey. "Only companies that try to stay ahead of the game and offer better [technology and services] are going to continue to advance and gain the customer loyalty that they're after."
Newly certified to ISO 9001:2008 and with a new machining center in place, Prince Precision Products (www.princeprecision.com) is poised to pass cost savings on to customers through innovations during the design and fabrication of precision parts and assemblies. The company utilizes a variety of software, including SolidWorks, AutoCad, JobBOSS, and nCell's iNest, to design and track products that move through its 200,000-square-foot shop. With fast-turnaround services ranging from prototype deliveries to full-production runs, Prince Precision Products produces a variety of racks, brackets, panels, chassis, covers, and enclosures, as well as complex assemblies.
The company, which employs 35, recently reported that it is in the process of increasing its manufacturing space by 30 percent and its CNC machining capacity by 60 percent.
Design-2-Part magazine spoke with Leonard Massey to discuss the company's capabilities, innovations, and ability to work with customers as partners to come up with the best cost-saving designs and processes for manufacturing their parts.
D2P: Can you talk about the precision that the CNC laser, waterjet, and plasma cutting operations offer?
Leonard Massey (LM): With our laser, anything under 0.375-inch thickness, we generally try to hold a tolerance of plus or minus five thousandths. Over that, we generally hold plus or minus 15 thousandths. When we go to waterjet, we can hold plus or minus 15 thousandths up to one inch, and then plus or minus 25 thousandths above that. When we go down as far as plus or minus 5 thousandths on really thin stuff, we are able to slow it down, but as a general rule, we're working to industry standards for the tolerances.
D2P: What determines which process is used for an application?
LM: Generally, to determine what process is going to be used, there are three things taken into consideration: material type, material thickness, and the required tolerances for that material. For example, say it's a piece of half-inch copper. Obviously, that's something that can't be done on a laser, so you go to the waterjet with it.
D2P: Are you able to accomplish any innovative techniques that set you apart from the competition?
LM: We try to promote within the company a culture that encourages everybody across the team, within multiple disciplines, to think outside the box. What could we do differently? What would make this job better, or even easier, by improving the product the customer designed? We've got a current product we're developing with a customer right now, and we reduced the SKUs (stock-keeping units)--the part number and part assemblies--by 15 percent. Another example is we took a part of an assembly that had six part numbers in it and reduced it to one part number.
D2P: How does the software you use help you and your customers?
LM: We've got a system that we've created that we use internally. When we process an order, it is tracked in real time continuously through the production environment. We can look at any time and know where a job is in the plant and know where we are as far as efficiencies. Is it running to standard? Is it where it needs to be? And it supports our company motto, "What the customer wants, when they want it." The iNest software gives us the ability to nest like materials even though it's for multiple jobs. That way, we get maximum utilization of machine time, manpower, and even materials.
D2P: What does your machining center enable you to do for your customers?
LM: We now have a complete, in-house CNC machining department with horizontal machining centers, turning centers, and all the support equipment and staff to go with that. It allows us to provide a value-added service and reduces [the number of] different suppliers a customer might need. Instead of having them buy the product from us, and then we laser it out and they send it to one of their suppliers to have it machined, we do it all internally now. It allows for better communication, less handling, and less shipping.
D2P: What role does automation (including robotic welding) play in enabling you to provide cost or time-saving advantages or improvements in product quality or function?
LM: Automation provides a consistency by reducing the human variance. We're reducing process variations, we're improving process capability, and, ultimately, quality to the customer. We're also seeing process efficiency improvements that allow us to offer cost savings to our customers. Through this automation and improvement of processes, we've been able to go back to a current customer unsolicited and provide an 11 percent cost savings to them for ongoing business.
D2P: Has your company recently implemented any new methods?
LM: We have received the ISO 9000 certification for our quality management system, and we begin next month in training key personnel in Lean Six Sigma. My background is in automotive--I've got 30 years in the automotive industry. I've seen the capabilities and effects of using systems like that well, and the benefits it provides. Now management is aware of and understanding of [those benefits] and has made a commitment to acquire the necessary resources.
D2P: What role do your personnel play in solving customers' problems and helping you maintain an innovative edge?
LM: All personnel in the plant are encouraged to take personal ownership and responsibility for the work they're doing. They're required to monitor their own efficiencies, their quality, and look for improvements. It's not about working harder, but working smarter.
D2P: What important changes do you see taking place in the manufacturing industry today?
LM: The biggest thing I'm finding is the drive for quality. That seems to be first and foremost, followed by delivery and then price. Customers are finding anybody can make it, but who can make it on time and make it right?
A Closer Look at Prince Precision Products
CNC laser, waterjet, and plasma cutting; CNC machining; CNC forming; custom fabrication; powder coating; robotic welding; MIG & TIG welding; design assistance (AutoCAD & SolidWorks); assemblies, added-value services
Industrial power generation; mining; natural gas; consumer products; agriculture; environmental control; material handling; aerospace; defense; conveyor; automated packaging; electrical; industrial sewing; well companies
High-pressure manifolds for natural gas equipment; complete enclosures for power generation systems; equipment mounting hardware; in-plant machinery replacement components
Areas of Expertise
Designing and building custom forming dies to meet program demands. "With over 100 years of combined knowledge, we know how to make things happen," says Leonard Massey, special projects engineer. The company has also worked with specialty stainless steels, "creating configurations others were unable to do while meeting nuclear power generation quality standards," according to Massey.
Most Notable Strength
"Our ability to make the difficult or impossible look easy," says Massey.
For more information, contact Michael McNeal, director of business development, at (478) 788-5240; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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