Cutting Tool/Software Providers Combine Efforts to Maximize Productivity
Collaboration amongst suppliers to be expert solutions providers is key to a moldmaker’s ability to maximize production throughout their entire manufacturing process—increasing efficiency and productivity.
It is refreshing to know that with all of the tough times the industry—and the nation—is facing as this new year begins, there are some companies out there that put customer service at the top of their list and are willing to be true partners to share their expertise. Mold Craft, Inc. (Willernie, MN)—a mold manufacturer that focuses on small and intricate parts for the electronic products, telecomm, medical and consumer goods industries—partnered with two suppliers that provided superior customer service and support. This allowed Mold Craft to maximize its productivity in its CNC Programming Department hand-in-hand with its high-speed machining centers.
According to Mold Craft V.P. Operations Tim Bartz, being able to work directly with suppliers not only saves money, but can open the door to new methods and processes. “Time is money and all we sell is time,” Bartz explains. “If we can get our question answered promptly, we are spending less time trying to figure out something that the ‘masters of their trade’ have already figured out, we can’t afford to reinvent the wheel. Another beneficial service is having the supplier contact us with new ‘tools’—whether it is software or machining tools. When you have a strong relationship with your supplier, where they know and understand what you are doing with their product, they are able to help you use it to its fullest potential and offer new products or features that improve your productivity.”
Bartz notes that his definition of service is adding value to the tools and software that Mold Craft buys—increasing efficiency and productivity. “As an owner, service means that I don’t have to hear about it,” he states. “In the eyes of a programmer or operator on the floor, service means that when they have a question it is answered professionally and in a timely fashion. If we are down or struggling due to lack of service, we will be looking for different service. We can’t afford to have our upper level people spinning their wheels trying to make something work.”
Recently Mold Craft embarked on a mold project with software provider Cam-Tool, a division of CGS North America, Inc. (Oldcastle, ON), and cutting tools manufacturer Seco Tools, Inc. and its Jabro Endmill Product Center for North America (Hayes, VA). From the get-go, a high level of collaboration existed between all three parties, with Seco providing the cutting tool data and Cam-Tool the actual programs to be run.
A Software/Cutting Tool Solution
First, Mold Craft sought a CAM program that would meet its specific needs. CAM-TOOL fit the bill. “We were are able to utilize our mold design software supplier for ‘lunch and learn’ seminars (see Lunch and Learn) where we were able to see specific new features of the software or a little more in-depth presentations of a mold-specific application,” Bartz says. “We also used the lunch and learns to decide if jumping to the next software release would be beneficial for our company.”
Mold Craft also is able to send part models directly to CGS North America, Inc.so the company can apply a toolpath and then review the areas where they were able to get improvement. CGS North America, Inc. united with cutting tool supplier Seco Tools, Inc. (Troy, MI) to give Mold Craft the highest possible level of customer service, which greatly increased its efficiencies and productivity. “CGS North America, Inc.also has been working shoulder-to-shoulder with Seco Tool to develop a library of cutters, which can save us valuable time as they are used in a program,” Bartz says. “As you implement the new software, CGS North America, Inc.does not want you to go backwards due to the learning curve. They will help you with programs and training to ensure that you will be successful.”
This is a top priority at CGS North America, Inc., according to Sale and Application Specialist Chris Renaud. “We don’t do anything as a CAM demo,” Renaud explains. “Everything is done live for our customers. We feel this is very important because so many people don’t know that much about software and sometimes make the wrong choice because they weren’t really given the opportunity to look at how the software will perform with their day-to-day work. Our main focus is to prove it in steel. Steel doesn’t lie and that way you don’t have any salesmen talking about how great their product is—the steel tells the whole story.
“A lot of people are stuck in the old adage that if they hire someone who knows a certain software, they buy it, sight unseen,” Renaud continues. “Then they spend all of that money and are invested in it—regardless of whether it is right or wrong for their shop. We are trying to change that in the industry and get suppliers to actually prove it on their customers’ day-to-day work.”
Most of CGS North America, Inc.’s customers are up and running within two days, Renaud adds. “We also offer full Webex support 24/7,” he says. “They can call us anytime and we can go on their computer and work remotely with them interactively as they click the mouse, then we click the mouse and have control. That way there is no loss in production during this time and a learning curve doesn’t really exist. The biggest stumbling block to anyone learning new software is, ‘What is the learning curve?’ If they can use the software from day one, you have eliminated the biggest reason why people are afraid to invest in new software or better technology.”
Success in Synergy
Collaborating with Seco Tools took CGS North America, Inc.’s customer service to the next level—which in turn benefited Mold Craft. “We have quite a lot in common with Seco,” Renaud notes. “Their tools give me an edge over a lot of stuff that is out there in the industry. They produce a fantastic product of tools that last longer and are available in the sizes I need when I need them.” According to Seco Tools/Jabro Technical Specialist Bill Bogue, Seco shares CGS North America, Inc.’s philosophy on the importance of superior customer service. “We know that we are a tool supplier, but we have a serious commitment to technical support in that we want to be a solutions provider,” he explains. “We try to get to the heart of the application, and not only sell customers tools based on their request, but we find out exactly what they are doing with the tool and make sure it is the right tool for the right application—to make them as successful as possible.”
Renaud worked side-by-side with Bogue on a custom solution for Mold Craft. “Bill and I worked for nearly three months to develop a tool database for CAM-TOOL with Seco’s entire catalog of cutting tools for their solid carbide,” he says. “Now the customer never has to guess about speeds, feeds, stepovers, stepdowns—it’s all in there. There’s no guesswork involved; and when you are dealing with hard milling or micromachining that is invaluable. We’d like to get other suppliers to share this data with us, but Seco is the only one who has stepped up so far.”
Mold Craft is extremely satisfied with this collaborative effort. “With the increasing amount of hardmilling that we are doing, we are relying on Seco to bring their most advanced cutters to the table to perform in the critical applications we are using,” Bartz states. “Not only do they bring the cutters, they provide insight on the feeds and speeds for the specific material and geometry we are cutting. Although it may seem trivial on the surface, they provide geometry for their cutters. Not only does this save us time from having to model them, but also ensures there will be no collision between the cutting tool and the part. There have been many applications where the ball endmill needed to be within .0001” to minimize the tolerance stack-up between the cutter, the electrode and the sinker EDM.”
Collaboration and Cooperation
Renaud notes that collaboration results in success for everyone. “This is a great synergy that we are all working together for the customer’s best interest and that’s a focus that seems to have been lost in the mold and die industry from a sales standpoint,” he says. “People have been way too concerned with making money and not enough about making sure the customer has what they need. If you do that, you never have to worry about sales—it will all fall into place. It’s a matter of keeping the focus on the customer.”
Bogue agrees. “As the industry evolves, everyone is trying to go lean and cut costs,” he comments. “To do this, you need to partner with experts. Rather than be an expert at the machine or at the machine level, why not partner with the expert? Rather than be an expert when it comes to software, why not partner with the expert? We plan on partnering with our customers to provide them with the specific solutions that they need. We see a lot more opportunities for growth with Mold Craft as they expand their operations and we look forward to being a part of that.”
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