Quick-turn Metal Components for Telecom, Data Storage, and Networking

Electromechanical Prototypes

Custom Fabricator Provides Efficient Design, Prototyping, and Manufacturing

SCHILLER PARK, Ill.--For Craftsman Custom Metals, Inc., cellular manufacturing and early design assistance are mainstays of a company-wide commitment to improve quality and achieve efficiencies that promote speed to market. The company, an ISO 9001:2000-certified contract manufacturer based in Schiller Park, Illinois, provides tight-tolerance custom sheet-metal fabrication, stamping, CNC machining, and mechanical and electro-mechanical assembly. One of the company's major assets is a New Product Introduction (NPI) cell that builds quick-turnaround, production grade prototypes. For customers faced with compressed timeframes for new product introductions, the cell provides a quick way to prove product designs and ensure their manufacturability in a low-risk, domestic manufacturing environment.

"Speed to market is very important these days,"says Julio Gesklin, president and CEO of Craftsman Custom Metals (CCM). "We don't build tooling until the design is finalized. It usually takes about four to six weeks to make a die, but we can get a prototype to [a customer] very quickly."

In addition to the equipment and materials required for processing the customer's order, each of CCM's manufacturing cells is a "mini-business" with a dedicated team that owns and runs the business for the customer. Each of the work cells has one manager that has direct contact with the customer, and a dedicated quality engineer who helps develop quality plans and initiate continuous improvement activities.

The NPI cell, like the firm's other work cells, has its own dedicated team that reports to the head of engineering, who works with the cell project manager on a new project. The cell is equipped with its own turret, laser machine, and press brakes. When its team is working on a new project, Gesklin says, it doesn't have to wait to queue up the job.

"In a normal manufacturing process, they would have to go to production control and see how they could squeeze the job in and then run the first ten pieces of a prototype,"says Gesklin. "In our system, the project manager and engineer work with the customer on their design. So the cycle time is much, much faster. The value we give to our customer is the speed to market. If they have the model of the part, but it is not fully designed, our engineers can help them get it started."

For example, CCM once worked on a prototype for a large chassis for a telecommunications product. "It had 74 parts, and we got them done in 20 days,"Gesklin says. "Some of them were punched, some were laser cut, some needed bending and forming--all with high tolerances."

Craftsman Custom Metals can work with an OEM through product design to ensure that a close-tolerance item will be manufactured with repeatability. One example is a server blade that CCM fabricated for use in a rack-mount server. By starting with the critical dimensions and working backwards, CCM was able to assign tolerances "that would achieve a repeatable process and maintain the design integrity."The company used hot-dipped galvanized steel to fabricate the server blades, which also required painting and screening.

Another component that CCM manufactured using hot-dipped galvanized steel is a high-volume 1U server for network routing. The company fabricated the server chassis in an 800-ton press using a progressive die. Numerous peripheral brackets and gaskets were assembled to the chassis in a final assembly-line process. For one version of the chassis, the client specified a custom, powder coat paint.

For more information, visit www.ccm.com

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