Unexpected, high-volume jobs are no problem at S&S Machine Inc. since a gantry loader was retrofitted to its Mazak QuickTurn turning center.
When S&S Machine Inc. went shopping for a second Mazak Quickturn turning center, it had no idea a huge job was on the way, and so it decided against the automatic loader option. At the time, the Union Grove, N. C., jobshop was running a couple of hundred gear blanks and just wanted a second machine. Suddenly, though, its customer upped the order to 3,000 gears a week.
Machine operators then had the monotonous job of loading machines for three shifts, seven days a week. "The workers were human gantry loaders," comments President Dorian Swanner.
An operator had to have a raw blank in one hand, pick the finished part out with the other, load the raw blank, step on the peddle to close the chuck, and then finally hit cycle start. During the short 55-sec machining cycle time, the operator also had to inspect the part that just came off the machine.
Machines ran constantly to meet the quota, but sat idle when the operator took short breaks. For lunch or dinner breaks, another operator was called in because the machine couldn't sit idle.
When Swanner met with Wes-Tech Automation Systems, he told them the gear job could end at any time. So he did not want an automatic loader package tailored exclusively for that job. It had to have some flexibility for future jobs with different part shapes and sizes. Wes-Tech retrofitted a TCL 210 to one of S&S's turning machines.
The loader not only maintained the weekly 3,000-gear pace, but also increased production speed by 33%, allowing S&S to complete the quotas running only two shifts/week instead of three. Operators simply load the 210's pallet carousel, and after the last part is run, the machine automatically powers off.
Swanner's prediction was right — the customer decided to take the gear job back in-house, but the loader isn't out of work. Presently, S&S runs about 100 different jobs using the loader, most of which can have anywhere between 200 to 3,000 parts each. According to Swan-ner, the loader is versatile and easy to set up for these different parts.