Ultimate Machining and Engineering is a 35,000-sq.ft. manufacturing plant on five acres in the Chicago suburbs, but in another, more important way, this machine shop is ‘all over the place.’ It has a number of critical customers — Caterpillar Inc., the U.S. Dept. of Defense, Parker Hannifin, and Volvo, to list a few — and a range of capabilities: five-axis CNC machining, to customer specifications; precision grinding; sub-assembly of machined parts; laser marking; and CAD and CAM process capability.
Ultimate Machining also has developed EDM processes, plating and coating capabilities, heat-treating operations, broaching operations, grinding, honing, and polishing, as well as welding capabilities.
It will take on small-runs, prototype projects, and design-proof or test-part manufacturing. And, having developed a solid business relationship with one CNC machine builder, it has the confidence to take on all manner of challenging assignments.
An important part of this story is the ingenuity of Ultimate Machining’s founder and president, John Kulczuga. The Polish-born, naturalized American citizen arrived in the U.S. in the early 1980s. “I went to Poland’s Warsaw University of Technology and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. I was anxious to do something, and America gave me that opportunity,” he recalled.
He workedin several different machine shops, but he believed he had the talent and determination to start his own business. He rented a shop in Mundelein, Ill., and started Ultimate Machining and Engineering in 1994.
Kulczuga’s engineering expertise is the foundation of Ultimate’s success. His leadership and work ethic, along with the management team he has assembled, continue to guide the company.
The shop initially specialized at producing industrial hydraulics components. It secured orders from its first significant customer, Caterpillar Inc., by fabricating spools and stems. The agriculture/construction equipment builder required a range of complex parts for its earthmoving product line, and Ultimate Machining was able to fulfill Caterpillar’s exacting specifications. It continues to be a Caterpillar supplier now, though it also has other major customers in other critical manufacturing sectors, like automotive aftermarket, defense, and medical equipment.
“We do a lot of work for many different industries, parts with slots and grooves, milling, drilling and turning – some requiring a lot of attention and others not as much,” according to Kulczuga.
His confidence is based in part on the talent of his employees, who have developed expertise for taking on demanding manufacturing projects.
Another source of confidence for Ultimate Machining and Engineering is the quality of its manufacturing systems, notably its choice of CNC machines built by Eurotech, a designer and builder of multi-axis mill/turn and Swiss turning machines.
Ultimate Machining purchased its first Eurotech machine in 2004. According to Kulczuga, the shop realized the Eurotech 420SLY mill/turn machine delivered multi-tasking capability that made it possible to reduce cycle times and cut set-up costs.
Consolidating Separate Tasks
Previously, Ultimate’s routine was to run separate milling operations, generally two to three, or more, per part. The Eurotech machine simplified those processes to a single operation, and made the overall operation much faster.
What makes the Caterpillar project tricky was the need to adhere to the varying requirements in the sizes of the different spools, sometimes with tight tolerances. These ranged from 0.5 to 3 inches in diameter, and 2 to 20 inches long. Kulczuga described these as “intricate parts for the hydraulic brains of Caterpillar’s excavation equipment.”
Now, Ultimate Machining has installed five Eurotech Elite multi-axis machines — two 420SLLYs, two 710 SLLYs, and a B658SLY. It uses the dual 710s and 420s to make all of those spools for the Caterpillar order. The machines provide a degree of production flexibility that Kulczuga finds particularly advantageous. They typically take 3 to 12 minutes to complete a part (depending on the design), and even for jobs that call for more complexity are improved because the Eurotech’s offer cycle times half the time of comparable machines. “And even more than 50%, sometimes,” Kulczuga said. “You can make a whole range of different parts on just one machine.”
One area of particular success with the Eurotech machines has been the hydraulics industry orders that Ultimate Machine takes on, namely “long shaft work”: this involves pinch turning and pinch milling while holding a part between both spindles. The Eurotech Elite CNCs are able to finish such demanding projects in a single operation thanks to a proprietary attachment. With just one set-up, and later one inspection, the finished parts are unloaded by gantry arm in finished condition.
Sort of 'Unattended'
Using only the Eurotech machines, Ultimate Machining is able to manufacture an average of 3,000 parts per month. It has not retired its other conventional machines (still used for smaller tasks), but Kulczuga credits the Eurotech Elite machines for a considerable expansion in its production capabilities.
“It helps to make this a kind of ‘unattended’ operation,” he explained. While Ultimate’s machinists to not leave an operation unattended for long, they know that just one operator can run two or three machines at once because the Eurotech machines are reliable, as well as effective.
“Our goal was to lower costs so we can compete on a level market,” Kulczuga reported. “With one guy running two machines at the same time, and with the cut in cycle times, you cut costs … including the cost of having to have more employees,” he explained.
That makes Ultimate Machining more competitive. Now, nearly 20 years after its start-up the shop is in Plainfield, Ill., with 35 employees. With its Eurotech machines, the shop has the flexibility to handle its current customers’ needs, and to pursue additional contracts. “Because we operate with Eurotech machines, we are perfectly fit to do any job,” Kulczuga said. “We just need the access to new customers to bring more on board.
“Eurotech is amazing,” Kulczuga said, “especially for a lot of the Caterpillar parts, and other difficult parts. All in all, everything runs better and smoother than it did before we bought the machines from Eurotech.”