Productive Competition from Within

Productive Competition from Within

M.R.S. Machining
Augusta, Wis.
www.mrsmachining.net
Number of employees – 40
2007 sales – N/A
Markets served – Aerospace, power generation, gas and oil, and tooling components.

Matt and Roger Guse

Matt Guse (left) and his father Roger Guse stand in M.R.S. Machining’s on-site education center.

Ask M.R.S. Machining whom its biggest competitor is, and the answer you’ll get is M.R.S. Machining. That’s because the shop constantly rethinks its business practices and internal manufacturing operations so as to always produce high-quality components delivered on time and at reasonable prices.

As a result of this self-competition, the shop has recently made major investments in multitasking machines, special computer systems, inspection equipment, a tooling inventory system and an on-site classroom for employee training.

M.R.S. Machining serves the aerospace, power generation, gas and oil, and tooling components markets. However, the shop does not allow any one customer from those markets to dominate more than 20 percent of its overall workload.

“We don’t want to rely on a few big customers that could go away at any moment. With the way we do things, 20 percent of our business could walk away tomorrow, and we’d survive,” said Matt Guse, manufacturing engineer, vice president and owner of M.R.S. Machining. In addition to not letting any one customer dominate its workload, the shop tries to only accept work from outside the Augusta, Wis., area and not take it from local shops.

Partnerships with customers are important to M.R.S. Machining, and it believes that those partnerships must be a two-way street when it comes to cooperation. Guse said that if a customer does not hold up its end, such as not providing critical answers to job questions in a timely fashion or not paying their bills, the shop will refuse to work with them.

“We’ve fired customers that we just couldn’t work together with, but the amazing thing is that about 80 percent of those customers call us back to do more work.”

For manufacturing its mostly low-volume jobs, the shop purchased several machining cells and has designated some of them as “service cells.” These cells, typically consist of a multitasking machine and a 2-axis lathe and handle smaller runs with fast turnarounds and all last minute rush orders.

Service cells don’t sit idle between rush jobs. The shop runs other jobs on them that are easily interrupted, and machinists can seamlessly go from a service cell to a regular manufacturing cell because machine controls in the shop are all standardized, as are machine brands.

According to Guse, service cells, along with multitasking machines, often win the shop additional work because once a customer sees how fast their rush job was completed, they will give the shop a steady schedule of jobs, which are then done on regular manufacturing cells.

Currently, M.R.S. Machining has nine Mazak multitasking machines, and Guse stated that the machines have opened a lot of doors for the shop.

“Since incorporating the multitasking machines, our sales have jumped significantly from month to month, and we are getting 30 percent more work out the door. The reason being, the machines shorten both our setup and part cycle times,” he said.

M.R.S. Machining keeps its machining cells tooled up using a vendor management inventory tooling system. But, the shop’s system differs from typical ones in that it stocks several different tool brands that the shop requests as opposed to all one brand.

“This system lets us use whatever brand tool we have found to work best for us and has cut our tooling costs from $55,000 down to $39,000. It also lets me effectively track tool use,” Guse said.

For each of its machining cells, M.R.S. Machining invested in computers that house special software developed by the shop itself. This software documents and stores job information, including prints, machining procedures, tools used, photos of job setups and fixturing, and inspection reports, all the necessary information for the machinists to run the job. The system also lets the shop check job status and generate part-inspection reports.

“If you can’t measure it and track it, you can’t manage it,” commented Guse.

In addition to a clean room, coordinate measuring machine and an inspector, M.R.S. Machining instituted what it refers to as a “buddy system” for inspection and quality control. The person who initially machines a part must pass it to someone else that then inspects and signs-off on it.

A high-quality workforce is also important to M.R.S. Machining, and to make sure its people are well skilled, the shop constructed a classroom in its shop to be used as an education center. Employees learn everything from basic blueprint reading to part measuring to tooling and CNC. A college professor developed the center’s curriculum and teaches a lot of the courses, as do other shop employees.

“We can find good people who want to work, but often they can’t afford technical schooling. That’s why we started the center,” said Guse. One of the first guys trained in the center back in June of 2006 is now running a multitasking machining cell by himself on second shift, he added. “We try to treat our employees as human beings, not as numbers, and in turn, they work hard for us.”

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