Family Shop Thrives on Families of Parts

Family Shop Thrives on Families of Parts

Ansco Machine
Ansco Machine supports its families-of-parts business strategy with a whole line of different size horizontal machining centers from Makino.

A shop that focuses on just one part or one niche could be in line for trouble, according to Mike Sterling, owner and founder of Ansco Machine Co. He said that, in today’s manufacturing environment, a shop has to have a large base of customers, then dig deep into those customers’ product lines and supply whole families of parts, as opposed to single items here and there.

As part of its philosophy, Ansco Machine invests heavily in a wide range of equipment, from turning centers to horizontal machining centers, in a wide range of sizes to suit nearly any application.

“We go into a lot of shops and see a whole line of machines dedicated to one part size,” explained Sterling. “That’s not our strategy. We want a machine that fits the part so we can leave the other machines open for differentsize work.”

He started Ansco Machine with his sons, Jeff, Jon, and Dave. His son-in-law Tom Cook is the finance manager. With 43 employees, Ansco Machine is a full service contract machine shop specializing in milling and turning up to 63-in. diameters to produce hydraulics, press rings, steel mill components, and automation/ motion control components. The shop works in both high-volume production and small lots, in materials ranging from carbon and alloy steels to ductile and gray irons, plastics and exotics.

According to Cook, the shop handles a wide range of part sizes due to its families-of-parts philosophy/strategy. “We need machines that can handle everything from the small components to the largest ones. The parts are often nearly the same, just scaled up to fit a larger application,” he said.

To provide this service to customers and fulfill its business philosophy, Ansco Machine invested in a whole line of different size horizontal machining centers. These included two a51s from Makino that are capable of handling workpieces as large as 24.8 in. by 35.4 in., and a Makino a92 for parts measuring up to 59 in. by 59 in. This wide range of machines allows Ansco Machine to produce the same part in many different sizes – at the same time and without wasting workzone space on its machines.

In addition to the two a51s and the a92, the shop has an a81 and a82, both from Makino. Such an array of machines lets the shop quote and deliver any size part, and with pallet sizes ranging from 15.7 in. to almost 40 in., and an ability to accommodate a variety of tools sizes on the machines, it can easily match the appropriate machine to the appropriate job without over investing in capital equipment. Plus, the machines provide the redundancy the shop needs if production volume should increase.

“We come from a background of doing larger steel mill work. Our first priority was to cover the size range we wanted, which we’ve done. Our second goal was to be redundant in every size so we can run jobs on any machine. I don’t like to refuse jobs. A machine can’t hold us back from quoting a job,” said Sterling.

In addition to helping Ansco Machine secure more business, the Makino machines have contributed greatly to the shop’s consistency and its reduction in set-up and production times. Sterling explained that improving set-up times is critical because complex parts typically require complex machines, and he cited one example, a rotary actuator housing, where a Makino machine came into play.

The housing is made from aluminum, and machining on a 4-axis vertical machining center took an hour and 20 minutes to complete the part. On one of its Makino horizontals, running two operations on two pallets, the shop produces the same part in 22 minutes. Sterling said that the machine’s speed allows them to leave the parts in the machine to process longer, reducing set-ups.

The Makino machines also deliver consistency for the long part runs at Ansco Machine. When building 770 units of a part, which had 81 features, for one of its customers, the shop provided the part with zero defects, thanks to its skilled machinists and the Makino machines, said Sterling.

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