Shopping Around Leads to Business Breakthrough

June 2, 2011
Taking production and instruction to the fourth-axis with rotary tables
Borman Enterprises has 16 CNCs available for its shop operations, and two dedicated to training. It keeps and 20 operators working over two shifts, and schedules students for training on any machines that have open time.
Borman offers prototype design services in addition to machining parts for bottling systems, automotive manufacturing, and other production processes.
Don Borman and his co-founder Joe Scheall found they were training machinists in-house just to have them hired away, so they turned training machinists into a new business venture.*
Students have their machining skills assessed prior to beginning training, and some programs can be specialized for particular employers. Classes may be as simple as a 20-hour shop math class or blueprint reading, or as detailed as a 45-hour, customized training program.

When Borman Enterprises first contacted CNC Indexing, the managers of the machine shop and tool repair service were eager to add a Golden Sun rotary table. They needed it to fulfill a demanding contract that had just been awarded, but they also wanted more fundamental help: they recognized they needed skills training for CNC programming, set-up, and operating.

CNC Indexing & Feeding Technologies is an importer and supplier of machine tool accessories that works with manufacturers to increase productivity and profitability. It was established four years ago as the exclusive importer of Golden Sun (now known as Ganro) rotary tables and as a sales outlet for its own high-pressure coolant system design. Now, the company now is a supplier of bar feeders and oil skimmers, too. And, staffed with full-time service technicians, CNC Indexing provides after-sales service and support to customers nationwide.

Thanks to CNC Indexing, Borman Enterprises’ rotary table is up and running and its trainees can see fourth-axis machining at work.

Borman offers prototype design services in addition to machining parts for bottling systems, automotive manufacturing, and other production processes. “The bigger part of our business is the manufacturing end, which gives us the opportunity to house a training center that's very functional,” said co-founder Don Borman.

In December 2009, Borman decided it was time to add fourth-axis machining. The order was placed for a new vertical machining center with a rotary table so the shop could bring the fourth-axis work in-house, and its training center would be able to incorporate fourth-axis machining into its curriculum.

Borman soon landed a contract for some fourth-axis machining work, but they the table never arrived. “I found out two days before the machine was due here that it wasn't going to have the fourth-axis. That was part of the purchase of the VMC – the table,” he recalled. So, that’s when CNC Indexing got the call.

“I was panicking because the machine had just been installed and I had the job and material, but I couldn't do the job because I didn't have the rotary table,” Borman said. He checked his options through a distributor. Everyone he contacted said it would take three months to get the rotary table he needed. He checked into used equipment. No dice. Finally, his wife located CNC Indexing online.

“What other people told me couldn't be done – interfacing the controls – Jamie Schwarz at CNC Indexing was positive they could do,” he recalled. “And, they did it.

“I lost the work because I couldn't get the rotary table that the machine tool distributor had promised me,” he said. “Had I known earlier about the missing table, I know CNC Indexing would have been able to have it installed in time. CNC Indexing had the tables in stock. They filled the void. The rotary table came in, was installed, and is running.”

Starting the training program
More than 18 years ago, Borman and his partner and co-founder Joe Scheall found they were training machinists in-house just to have them hired away. So, they determined they could earn some income by training machinists that other companies needed, and they founded the Cleveland Industrial Training Center (CITC).

“We put in a proposal at a plant closing to re-train some of the skilled machinists in the CNC area,” according to Tim Duffy, CITC director. “We got the project, which started everything. Don got the certification and got the ball rolling.”

By 1993, Borman was certified by Ohio’s Board of Career Colleges and Schools. The training services were split off from the company to form the Cleveland Industrial Training Center. Classes focus on hands-on training, providing students and graduates access to state-of-the-art CNC machine tools and CAD/CAM systems, as well as quality control equipment and tooling.

“When fourth-axis machining comes up in the classroom, we take the students right out to a demonstration. It's live – the chips are flying,” Borman explains. “The instructor brings them up to the working environment to go over the slant bed design of the lathe, or he'll go over to the Golden Sun (rotary table) and show them, ‘Here's the fourth-axis and here's how you would machine with it.’

“These are working machines. That's really the niche of our training. The problem with other types of training – and I'm all in favor of any kind of education someone can get – is that the students can get them into a machine shop environment and draw a blank. Suddenly, chips are flying, there's noise and they draw a blank. We teach in that environment. The class is working at one machine and there's one next to it that is making a part. We're simulating a working environment. We provide timely and productive training that's real.”

At the time, the Golden Sun 10-in. rotary table was set up as a typical fourth-axis at a right angle for drilling 30 holes on nozzles designed and made by Borman for a large bottling customer.

Table adds flexibility, capacity
“We have it laid down on a sine bar at a 20° angle, which presents the nozzle at a 20° angle, and we compound it another 14°. Right now, we're not cutting chips, but it's set up for the next batch of nozzles. Meanwhile, we have a vise on the other end of the machine table that lets us do conventional VMC work. Being a job shop, we have to be versatile. When this one account wants samples, they need them now. We have to have the setup, which takes three hours, ready to go.”

CNC Indexing’s Jamie Schwarz said the compact design of the Golden Sun table helps in that regard. “It’s very easy to work with, as far as shop space is concerned. It doesn't take up the whole machining envelope.” That leaves plenty of open table space for maneuverability and flexible use.

Borman reported he’s had a good track record with Golden Sun, and the rotary table did not disappoint. “It’s just a user-oriented table. That's what I look at, more than anything. User oriented, price competitive. I don't think we've ever had a maintenance issue on the 10-in. table in three years. It keeps running and running.”

Borman retrofitted the Golden Sun 10-in. rotary table to an Amera Seiki. They gained capacity when they purchased a new Golden Sun 12.5-in. rotary table.

Scheduling training machine time
With 16 CNCs – two dedicated to training – and 20 operators over two shifts, students are scheduled on any machines with open time. “We schedule the students just like we would a job. Right now, both fourth-axis machines are not cutting chips, which is unusual,” Borman said. “Next week at this time, both will be busy, and we could almost use another one. If it weren’t for our added capacity, we would probably have had to turn down training folks.”

But, most students aren’t quite ready for fourth-axis work. To date, learning fourth-axis methods is more explanatory than hands-on instruction. It can be incorporated into a class project during the standard 17-week program, but according to Borman: “We can only go through so much.”

That’s no surprise to Schwarz, who’s been in the CNC machining business since 1994, setting up machining centers with machine tool accessories throughout the U.S. and training machine operators to use them brings him in contact with a lot of machinists. The skill levels, he has found, vary widely from one shop to another.

“That’s one of the reasons we were excited about working with Borman and CITC. A lot of companies out there really need machinists with higher skills. So, there are a lot of opportunities out there for machinists with the skills this training center can give them. We like being involved in that,” he said.

But fourth-axis work? “That’s pretty advanced,” he continued. “It’s a good thing for them to observe the work and get familiar with the basics. But I’d say the majority of machining trainees would need more time with the engineering side of it before they’d be ready.”

Borman agreed. “We might have one or two students out of a class of ten or twelve who can really appreciate what the fourth axis can do. For the others, it may be a little more complex than the intent of this program. But it’s available to them if they’re ready to progress beyond three axes.”

More trainees with experience
These days, they find more and more of their students arrive with some industrial experience. Word of mouth gets them there.

“What we are seeing more and more are students with some level of background: press brake operators, shipping and receiving, deburring, et cetera,” Duffy said. “We’ll talk to the general public as well as thirty-year machinists who have never touched CNC in their life and just got laid off. We can take a guy like that and turn him around in four months, and get him a good job.”

Although the center focuses on hands-on training with machine tools, Borman, Duffy and Schwarz feel the engineering aspects are critical for experienced machinists.

“We wanted to enter the engineering stage into this class too, so it would appeal to the entry-level person but also interest a seasoned machinist looking to round out his programming capabilities,” said Borman.

“Regardless of what an individual brings us, we can raise their level – no matter what their starting point is,” Duffy added. “Even within a given class of 12 to 14 students, we can identify their strengths and weaknesses and appeal to everyone. We don’t just take a cookie-cutter approach to every class. We have an obligation to every student to ensure they graduate from the program and get a good job.”

Students who are entirely new to machining are given an entrance exam to assess their skills with fractions, decimals and percentages. If those abilities are there, he said, the center can train those individuals. The center also provides on-site training for area companies. Classes may be as simple as a 20-hour shop math class or blueprint reading, or customized instruction like the 45-hour, highly specialized mill training class developed for Swagelok.

Borman Enterprises often hires students from CITC. “When we need people – and that’s a luxury of the training – we can add people,” Borman said. In 2007, they opened another instructional center, the Akron CNC Training Center that conducts classes and lab projects at S.C. Manufacturing. In 2010, CITC began the first and only CNC Swiss machine operator-training program in Ohio.

“Oh, we were happy to take that call from Borman for a lot of reasons,” Schwarz said of his first conversation with Don about the Golden Sun rotary table. “But, working with really knowledgeable engineers like Don and Tim, and seeing what they’re accomplishing with these training centers, it’s a great thing. It’s great for the industry. It’s great for this region. And it’s great for the guys in training who move on to good jobs.”

*This photo caption has been updated from its original presentation.