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Precision CNC Machining Company Provides Fast Turns for Critical Applications
Medical parts on a tray after machining at Pointe Precision
Photo courtesy of Pointe PrecisionTM Inc.
Today's modern machining plants often look more like high-tech scientific laboratories than the greasy, gritty machine shops of days past. One machining company, Pointe PrecisionTM Inc., typifies this modern manufacturing phenomenon with its profusion of state-of-the-art production equipment, precision inspection technology, and a large array of secondary, finishing, and assembly processes. The company's motto sums up its 17 years of service for a variety of high-tech industries: "Manufacturing Solutions for Today's Critical Applications."
The contract machine shop caters to a wide variety of high-tech industries with a large offering of custom, tight-tolerance parts and subassemblies -- most notably for aerospace, industrial, commercial, medical, and recreational applications. Its 60,000 square foot plant, located in Plover, Wisconsin, is still a family-owned and operated business that took its modern form from president and owner Joe Kinsella Sr.
In the early '90s, an aerospace parts manufacturer that Joe Kinsella Sr. worked for as general manager had an economic slowdown. The large company decided to close the doors for good at its Stevens Point facility. At their peak, the company was reported to have about 600 employees, but only about 275 were eventually left on the payroll. When it came time to move the plant to its Rockford, Illinois headquarters, only five employees chose to make the move. Kinsella was determined to keep as many people employed as possible, so he started Pointe Precision in 1995 with 95 employees. Kinsella's son, Joe M. Kinsella, now helps him run the growing business.
As a precision CNC machine shop, Pointe Precision offers a variety of machining-related services that include milling, turning, grinding, electrical discharge machining (EDM), heat treating, deburring, finishing, and assembly. "I think that our strength is that we have a wide variety of services," says Joe M. Kinsella, who handles the company's inside sales and marketing efforts. "We keep as many of our operations in-house as we possibly can. And by having all of these capabilities, we don't have to send parts out for multiple operations that add extra lead times and extra costs for our customers."
Pointe Precision is proud of its ability to keep as many primary, secondary, and finishing processes in-house as possible. Not only does the company have a giant inventory of machine tools, but also many auxiliary processes to expedite a customer's parts and components. The company has over 30 machining centers with four- and five-axis capabilities; state-of-the art combination mill-turn machines; numerous two- to four-axis lathes; and Swiss turning machines. Its grinding department can reportedly hold tolerances on ID grinds to 0.000040.
"We have our own heat treating facility in-house, and a full-range of grinding services: surface, ID and OD, thread grinding, roll grinding, and crush grinding," says Scot Barton, the company's vice president of sales. "We also have in-house deburring, with 16 employees who do hand deburring for complex aerospace castings and hog-outs. And we have a full range of testing operations, like non-destructive testing. Our goal is to control all of the quality and processing issues in-house, so there are not potential quality issues that an outside supplier might inflict on our parts, and we can reduce lead times."
In the past, like most precision machining companies, Pointe Precision often had to use several machines to complete one part. "The new machine tools that we've purchased are machines that can make complete parts in one operation," remarks Joe M. Kinsella. "These new machines, called mill-turn machines, can do both operations in one, saving valuable time."
Barton says that the company has four of these mill-turn Mori Seiki NZ-2000 machines that are triple-turret, double spindle, with live tools in all of the turrets. "So, for example, you can make a complex angled hole, and start with round bar stock, and end up with a square or rectangular part with a lot of milled features on it," Barton comments. "Before, parts like this would have to go on a lathe, a vertical machining center, and then back to a different lathe. These new machines also have very high speeds and very low cycle times."
Pointe Precision is ISO 9001:2008 and AS 9100:2009 certified, and has earned Nadcap (formerly NADCAP, the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program) accreditation. In addition, the company works closely with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) program to streamline its turnaround times and overall efficiency. "We have QRM cells throughout our facility, so about half of our shop floor is in QRM cells," Barton remarks proudly. "We work very closely with Ananth Krishnamurthy at the QRM Center. At the International Conference last year, we had close to 150 people tour our facility. We talked about our QRM cells and how the center works with us to reduce our lead times."
Legislative Decisions Have Sizable Impact on Manufacturing Sector
Public policy at all levels of government can have a wide range of impacts on small and medium-sized American manufacturing companies. Taxation, health care, trade tariffs, and job training are among the many issues affecting most contract manufacturers. "I think the taxation of manufacturers and small business owners is detrimental to adding new employees and growing the business," states Barton. "When you have to pay a high rate of tax to the federal government, that same money could add two or three new employees," he commented. "The statistics show that small business is where employees are being added. You seldom hear about the Fortune 100 companies building new facilities; all you hear about is them laying people off. Reshoring products back to our country, as well as helping small business owners, is necessary."
With the global marketplace growing, issues with foreign competition also plague American manufacturers. One of the main issues is the outsourcing of parts and components to overseas companies that offer lower piece prices. "Very large American businesses say that they are global and need to source their products to the new emerging markets overseas," Barton affirms. "But what are the costs to these companies that want to outsource their products? [They include] high shipping costs and dealing with the quality of the products coming back."
The company's vice president of sales would like to see formal tax incentives for American manufacturers that source their products back to the U.S., so that jobs can be kept in this country. "American manufacturers are very good at what they do, but we're getting pressure from our aerospace customers, saying that they will have to source to India and China because those are going to be their largest markets," according to Barton. "When Boeing wants to sell 300 planes to China, China is saying 'You need to produce a percentage of those parts in our country.'"
Voumard Grinder Brings High Precision and Quick Turns to Operation
In 2009, the company added another piece of precision equipment -- a Voumard 130 high-precision ID grinder. The machine enables the company to run small or large batches of high precision parts in a fraction of the time that was possible before installing the machine. "Before we purchased this machine, our engineers went to Switzerland to inspect the machine running some of our complex aerospace parts," Barton recalls. "Before, these parts would take two minutes and 30 seconds to be ground in a couple of different operations. This Voumard grinder can grind them in 26 seconds. So it's a huge cost saving for us and our customers, the quality is excellent, and the scrap rate is almost zero. And we can grind three-dimensional parts with different geometries and complex angles more efficiently."
The machining company has a very large quality department that is dedicated to continuous improvement across the shop floor. "Quality is a given, not an option," Barton continued. "The quality has to be there because of the complexity of our parts. We have several high-level certifications. You can't get these certifications and keep them without having quality in every aspect of your business. We continually validate the quality with the inspection equipment we have in-house. This starts with a truck moving into our shipping bay with raw materials. We use a Niton LT material analyzer to make sure that the materials we ordered are what's on the truck. Less than 1% of the time we get the wrong material, but we still want to watch for it."
Pointe Precision specializes in manufacturing what it calls "complex, life-critical parts with the tightest tolerances." These life-critical parts could be fuel control systems, electrical housings, landing gear systems, or parts for medical equipment. Barton says that the company's aircraft parts--especially something like a fuel control nozzle--are relied upon heavily when in the air. "Most of our aerospace parts are very complex, and must be very functional," he explains. "They must be deburred and very clean, and they have to work flawlessly every day. When the pilot opens the throttle to take off, fuel must get to the combustion chamber efficiently, and when he's landing and shuts down, there can be no fuel leakage."
On the medical side, Pointe Precision works closely with customers on a variety of machined parts for life-critical applications, including calibration tubes used in a cancer radiation unit; orthopedic medical instruments; and equipment that ends up in emergency rooms. One interesting application involves parts used in a "third arm" that holds tools for a surgeon. The company also makes parts for firearms, as well as components for the industrial and commercial markets.
"The industrial market includes power generation, gas and oil, and pump and diesel fuel components," says Joe M. Kinsella. "In the commercial area, we make high-performance automotive parts, such as pistons, braking systems, and suspension parts, and electrical components for the telecommunications field."
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