IDM - Not your usual job shop.
Progressive job shop that's transformed from machining one-off's to a production facility.
IDM's motto is . . . If you have been told it can't be done, call IDM! And believe it or not, that IDM acronym actually stands for "I Do Machining" according to owner John Meier. IDM specializes in rapid turnaround of precision CNC turning, CNC milling and injection molding parts. With time and quality being the forefront of IDM's capability, they focus on responding within 24 hours to RFQs (request for quotes). The company is located in upstate New York in Elmira, just 20 miles south of the famed Watkins Glen race track and one of the Finger Lakes (Seneca Lake) that is fast becoming highly recognized for its wine making industry.
It all started about ten years ago for Meier Industries when John purchased a company called Ward Diesel Filter, specializing in the manufacture of diesel particulate filters that are used in emergency vehicles, fire apparatus and ambulances so that fire fighters and emergency workers donˇ¦t breathe in soot at the scene of an accident.
Several years later Mr. Meier acquired Foam Specialties, Inc., a foam fabricator for the packaging, medical and gasket industries. The following year he acquired another local manufacturer, Cepco Tool Company, producing hand tools for the construction industry, such as the BoWrench self-locking board bender and tongue & groove joining tool and the QuikJack hardwood flooring jack. But Cepco's main product was, and still is, Res-Q-Jack for the emergency rescue industry. The jacks are used to stabilize vehicles while extricating passengers from their vehicles, thus avoiding injury to emergency workers and vehicle occupants.
Transformation from manual job shop to production machine shop
IDM (www.idomachining.com) was established in 1993. The company had specialized in prototype and one-off job shop work. The equipment on the floor at the time included several manual machines and what are now considered old CNCs. Today IDM boasts high-performance vertical machining centers and turning centers, as well as manual mills and lathes, EDM and plastic injection molding equipment. They supply precision-machined parts for many industries, including medical, aerospace, industrial and automotive. IDM is housed in a state-of-the-art 3-year old, 10,000 sq-ft manufacturing facility with 15 skilled machinists and office staff.
In addition to machining prototype parts, IDM is concentrating more on high quality production machining. The acquisition of this business has allowed Mr. Meier to complement the other businesses by bringing R&D capabilities into the company and not having to farm out work. This also has allowed them to have better quality control and faster turnaround times.
While developing and building their customer base, IDM was doing work for another local company, SEPAC (www.sepac.com), who specializes in custom-engineered brake and clutch motion control systems. In early 2008 Mr. Meier acquired SEPAC, allowing IDM to grow even more with work from its own businesses. Scott Beecher, VP sales and marketing, states, This arrangement has allowed us to migrate from being a prototype job shop to a production oriented shop. We have a great group of employees and the latest technological equipment that allows us to achieve this. Having state-of-the-art equipment and knowledgeable operators is what allows us to stay on the leading edge of the competition curve".
In an effort to expand IDM's capabilities, still doing prototype work yet taking on larger projects and production work, IDM canvassed their customers to see what their needs were, what kind of work envelopes were needed, the types of jobs and the like.
Investing in latest machine tool technology
One of the first machines IDM needed was a turning center that offered a lot of machining capability so they could take a "done-in-one" approach. Otherwise they would need to quote jobs that added extra part handling into the equation. Mr. Meier says, "We looked at many different turning center brands but quickly settled on a Hardinge high-performance multi-axis SR-MSY turning center equipped with VDI top plate with live tooling, C-axis, Y-axis and sub spindle. With so many capabilities in one machine, especially Y-axis, the SR opened up so many avenues. We outfitted it with a LNS bar feeder, since we expected a majority of the jobs would be bar work. This arrangement allows us to machine parts complete in a single setup, plus get jobs in here that we could have lost to other bidders".
Production manager, Bob Briggs, adds, The arrowhead part is machined complete from 6061 aluminum bar stock. It is an aftermarket motorcycle component that gets hand polished then chrome plated in the final steps. The threads will change from one job to the next, depending on the make of bike. We typically run 100 pieces at a time with a 12-minute total per-piece cycle time. Having the SR with sub spindle and Y-axis allowed us to move the job from two machines to one.
Mr. Briggs continues, The Y-axis capability is very helpful. Was it absolutely necessary to use Y-axis on this part? No, but it sure shortened up the cycle time. Y-axis gives us a competitive edge that allows us to raise the bar in being a leading-edge job shop. The manual guide-i feature in the Fanuc i-Series control is super. It allows us to prove out the part program prior to machining. This way we save time and money by avoiding scrap work and possibly broken tools.
Competing with Asia
According to Mr. Meier, We had a customer, actually one of our sister companies, that we produced parts for and they eventually started sourcing from overseas to get the cost per piece down. But they were faced with having to really manage the production cycle and order way out to meet deadlines. The last thing they wanted was to jeopardize responsiveness to their customers, but needed to reduce costs. In the mean time, IDM was looking at the SR machine in late 2007 and found we could reduce our costs substantially to the point we were competitive, especially when it came to quality and delivery. So now weˇ¦re machining their parts on the SR turning center with expected results and timely delivery.
One of the outsourced parts to Asia and now back at IDM is a magnetic coil used in an electric brake. The part is machined complete from 2-1/2" diameter 12L14 steel bar stock in 600-piece lots. Bob Briggs states, The very deep trepan face groove and .0005 total tolerance on the counter-bore and through-hole are the critical tolerance points of the part. These surfaces are machined on the part held in the main spindle then the part gets transferred to the sub spindle to machine the other end. The final step is black oxide treating. The customer inspects every single part that we supply, so maintaining these specifications is crucial. John Meier adds, We were previously running the part on two lathes and that didnˇ¦t allow us to be cost effective. In fact, it was this part that helped justify the purchase of the SR machine and why we stepped up to a 2-1/2 bar machine. We were quite pleased to realize a 40% cycle time reduction.
Stepping up to large part VMC machining
To step up our milling capabilities, and of course after doing our homework by looking at Haas and Daewoo VMCs, we decided the best choice was the Bridgeport XR1500 high-performance vertical machining center, says Mr. Meier. The machine had the desired work envelope, repeatability and tolerance capabilities. We needed high technology to keep our business moving in the right direction, and thatˇ¦s exactly what the Bridgeport machine does. Mr. Briggs adds, The 60-inch bed allows us to have a large setup for small parts for faster throughput and it also allows us to machine larger parts that we would have had to do in two setups on other machines.
IDM uses the XR 1500 to machine a wide variety of tire molds for a local tire manufacturer, Green Diamond Tires. Theres some interesting programming required to initially machine the molds, including engraving the brand name, tire size, and other cosmetic characteristics. Then after the molds have worn from repeated use by Diamond, IDM puts the molds back on the XR1500 to clean them up for continued use.
Complementing their large VMC capability with a smaller VMC
IDM didn't stop with the XR1500. Having been so pleased with its performance, IDM purchased a Bridgeport XR760 to round out their milling capabilities. This smaller footprint VMC complements the larger machine in that they can expect the same repeatability and quality to produce parts with desired tolerances and finishes. Plus the common programming platform with the Fanuc 18i-MB control makes job processing very manageable.
Mr. Meier continues, Hardinge and Bridgeport are the gold standard of metal cutting machines. The finish capability, the tight tolerances, the throughput . . . all factors that allow IDM to be competitive with overseas sourcing. We're able to bring the work back to America and we're quite proud of that! Training and service was certainly a factor as well. At the end of the day our capabilities are a function of what Hardinge and Bridgeport equipment have given us.
According to Bob Briggs, Oddly enough Hardinge is a customer of ours. Right now we're supporting their turnkey department with parts made on our Hardinge SR machine. How's that for full circle? In fact, if I remember correctly, Hardinge uses many of their own machines in their shop to machine parts that get included in new Hardinge machines. I believe this is also the case with some of their tooling and workholding systems.
Mr. Meier comments, This is an exciting time for us and our community. When all you hear from the media is doom and gloom, we're actually growing in all our business units. Rather than taking the approach of not investing while the economy is slow, we instead tackle this head on by investing in the latest technology. And it has paid off. So when the economy does bounce back, we'll be poised to really take off and stay ahead of the competition. And with the Hardinge and Bridgeport high-performance machines I'm sure we'll do just that