B&B Manufacturing Co. Long-term cellular manufacturing

Dec. 11, 2008
Shop's willingness to invest helps develop and support customer production.
B&B Manufacturing re-arranges machines into cells, some of which can be dedicated to one customer’s parts.

While B&B Manufacturing Co. Inc discribes itself as a job shop, it seems to have the level of sophistication and infrastructure of a contract manufacturer. The shop thrives on the long-term work agreements with its customers, so most jobs won by the shop stick around for the life of the program.

The shop is successful with this approach because it is willing to invest in manufacturing processes for its customers. The processes it uses include machining, assembling, kitting and managing supply chains for its customers’ long-term jobs.

To handle long-term jobs, B&B Manufacturing embraces cell manufacturing that includes flexible manufacturing cells for high-mix/low-volume work and other machining cells that can be dedicated to one customer’s parts if needed. The shop reconfigures its manufacturing cells accordingly.

  • B&B Manufacturing Co.
  • Valencia, Calif.
  • Number of employees —220
  • 2008 sales —$45-$50 million
  • Market served — Aerospace, semiconductors, automotive racing, military and general aviation

Many of the 115 CNC machines at B&B Manufacturing move to different spots to form new machining cells. When machines aren’t part of a cell, they are in what the shop calls its “machine tool toolcrib.” While in the crib, they operate as standalone machines until they are needed in a cell, or the get scheduled maintenance.

“Some might call us a contract manufacturer because we are capable of acting as a Tier 1 or Tier 2 supplier,” Jeff Lage, vice president of B&B Manufacturing, said. Lage noted that one of the most recently installed machining cells showcases the combination of all the shop’s capabilities.

B&B Manufacturing’s “Lycoming” cell services aircraft engine manufacturer Lycoming Engines. Operating 5 days a week, 24 hours per day, it turns out a crankcase assembly every 2 hours and 13 minutes, producing more than 2,000 crankcases annually.

In-house CNC tool and cutter grinding machines keep manufacturing cells supplied with tooling at B&B Manufacturing.

Several different manufacturing operations are incorporated into the cell. They include machining, testing, subassembly, line boring, cleaning, deburring, final assembly and final inspection to take the crankcase assemblies from raw castings to finished units packed into a case for shipping.

What’s special about the cell is its flexibility.

With it, each week B&B Manufacturing re-stocks and supports the changing needs of Lycoming Engines through a tool the shop calls a “sushi list.” Just as one would order at a sushi bar, Lycoming Engines can determine what it has consumed in a past week and start a fresh order the following week.

By Wednesday, B&B Manufacturing delivers to that customer’s latest, exact requirements.

For tracking quality data and jobs, B&B Manufacturing has ERP touch screen stations located throughout its five-building, 120,000-sq-ft. facility. The shop’s IT department has added other functions to the system, such as tracking machine tool status down to the number of tool changes that occur, trending data for analysis, document accessing and more. Plus, the system reduces paperwork.

To keep its cells supplied with tools, B&B Manufacturing has two CNC tool and cutter grinders that it uses to make custom tooling.

“We rarely purchase special tools, and with as many machines as we have, the cost of the tool and cutter grinders is justified because we can’t afford to wait on tooling. There’s no time to wait for cutters when you are progressively running a part through a 10-machine cell, for example, and machine number five stops because a cutter is needed,” Lage said.

Cells, flexible manufacturing systems, ERP software and its own cutter grinders are a result of B&B Manufacturing’s focus on continuous improvement.

“Today’s manufacturing market is challenging, we are competing in a global market. Our customers continue to demand low prices, and our costs continue to rise in many areas, including labor, raw material, and other items associated with the manufacturing processes. It is clearly our efforts in lean manufacturing and continuous improvement that affords us the opportunity to develop and support long-term work,” Lage said.

He also indicated that open communication and a good team of welltrained employees are vital for continuous improvement. Meetings that occur twice a week open the lines of communication between B&B Manufacturing’s various departments, so managers can see where improvements can be made.

“To succeed in this business, you have to have a goal or direction as to what you are trying to achieve, and you need a good team that supports you, and you support them,” Lage said.

B&B Manufacturing cross trains, develops and promotes individuals who are looking to advance their careers through its recently opened employee training and development center. When it identifies an opportunity to advance one of its team members, the center is designed to cultivate a replacement from the ranks to fill the spot that would be left open by the promotion.

Another use for the center is to help the shop to attract experienced people. Using the center, B&B Manufacturing hopes to attract dependable people who have the right attitude and who are willing to learn.