MSC Industrial
CNC Manufacturing has customers in multiple market segments and its stringent quality control operations and inspections ensure that its diverse product mix meets or exceeds the high expectations of its demanding customers

Process Management Thanks to Inventory Control

May 22, 2013
Goal: Lower costs … become more efficient Swiss turning, mill/turn, HMCs 80% inventory reduction Control tool use to nth degree

At any given time, on any given work day, Edward (Sonny) Prince serves as a true jack-of-all-trades in his primary role as operations director for CNC Manufacturing Inc. in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. “I might be doing machine set-ups, then programming, maintenance, overall process improvement, inventory management, operator training … back to set-ups … you name it,” claims Prince.  

Such a diverse skill-set actually helped Prince to conduct (at the direction of CNC Manufacturing president Tom Walser) a thorough and effective evaluation of all CNC part-production steps. It was an aggressive approach by the company to eliminate costly process redundancies – and to control and standardize every step of its manufacturing operations, even while continuing to make its most complex products.

Edward (Sonny) Prince, operations director for CNC Manufacturing, and Steve Hanzel, CNC’s MSC Industrial sales and service representative, access carbide inserts from the CAP 1000T single-bay vending unit. The MSC dispensing machine has helped CNC to optimize its tool management and inventory activities.

“Our plan was simple,” Walser began.  “In 2009, at the height of the recession, we decided to be proactive, to closely investigate every single action we were undertaking related to every different thing we were making, particularly in regard to inspections and inventory control.  Our goals:  Lower our costs, (and) become far more efficient … which, most important, it would make us 100% better at competing once the economy improved.  I can safely say our ‘corrective’ actions back then made us the successful company we are today.”

CNC Manufacturing differentiates itself among metalworking operations by adhering to a strict philosophy of servicing, not just supplying, its clients.  This means delivering premium-quality products, at a fair price, with on-time deliveries. 

The manufacturer has been in business since 1997 and has more than 30 employees. It supplies parts to several global and growing industrial sectors — medical, defense, aerospace, hydraulics, firearms, nautical, among others — machining metals, plastics, or exotic materials into an array of distinctive, small precision parts.

Intentional Variety

The shop is divided into three production areas:  Swiss machining, with four Star six-axis and two Star five-axis mill-turn centers; conventional lathe turning, with two Mazak mill-turn, one Nakamura Lathe, and three Doosan mill-turn centers; and milling, with three Makino horizontal CNC Mills.  Importantly, CNC Manufacturing’s leading-edge SPC inspection system ties together all of the company’s manufacturing processes, seamlessly.

“Our 15 machines are used alone or in combination to produce complete, intricate parts for our wide-ranging customer base.  We intentionally are not wedded to any one industry or account,” Prince said. 

“Such diversification makes for a steady workload,” added Walser.

CNC Manufacturing produces a wide range of premium-quality small parts in steel, plastic, and some exotic materials for medical, aerospace, governmental, nautical, and other manufacturers around the world. The shop has three main production segments: Swiss machining, conventional lathe (including mill-turn) operations, and milling, and it has 15 machine tools in total — for now.

One notable purchase two years ago helps CNC to optimize its tool management and inventory activities:  a 1000T, single-bay vending unit that provides comprehensive reporting capabilities and ultra-secure access at all times.

“When we were smaller, running only two machines, a cabinet system worked just fine, as we only had to keep track of a few tools,” said Prince.  “But, then we grew and faced more rigid delivery deadlines … and, suddenly, we couldn’t seem to find the items we needed when we needed them.  Our set-ups were taking too long, our scheduling was a problem.”

Steve Hanzel, the local MSC Industrial sales and service representative, had worked with Sonny and Tom for several years on many of their day-to-day tool needs. He recommended that they consider an MSC vending unit. 

“Right away, I saw what the vending unit could do to help us manage our tool inventory.  But, more important, I also saw its potential for us as a business system to greatly reduce our total operating costs,” Prince recalled.

Still, the CNC Manufacturing team took the time to comparison-shop, to evaluate all available vending systems.  In the end, they selected the MSC system for numerous reasons beyond its vending functions.

“We picked MSC because of its ability to get us an incredible choice of in-stock products – tools, fixtures, assemblies – the very next day, without us incurring substantial additional shipping costs.  Plus, we only have to order what we need for the jobs on our docket,” according to Walser.  “There’s no requirement to buy entire packages.  That was a huge difference versus local private vendors.

“In other words, you could say MSC started ‘inventorying’ our tools for us,” he observed.

That means Walser isn’t tying up the majority of his cash in tooling:  He can apply that capital to improve and increase the overall capability of his company.

Profitability Partners

Very soon, MSC Industrial went from being CNC Manufacturing’s emergency resource to an everyday partner.  Hanzel brought in technicians not only to help CNC optimize its vending unit, but all the brands contained within it, too.   

“We stripped down everything,” Prince explained.  “We pulled out every tool we had in storage.  Then, with MSC’s help, we placed our most-often-used items directly into our new vending machine.  Immediately, we realized massive tool savings because we knew exactly where our prime tools were located: no more random ordering, no more waste.”

In fact, CNC reduced its tool inventory by 80% with MSC’s vending system and its internal auditing actions.   But there were many other significant results:  The daily tool-use reports generated have enabled every faction of CNC’s production process (operations, scheduling, set-ups) to dramatically improve. 

Steve Hanzel, MSC Industrial sales and service representative, and Tom Walser, CNC Manufacturing president, discuss often-used cutting tools currently stored in CNC’s MSC CAP 1000T vending machine. Once it adopted the inventory-control vending system, CNC eliminated costly process redundancies and random tool ordering because all the critical items that had bee scattered throughout the shop, were stored and accessible from a single, secure location – with complete transactional history reports generated regularly.

“Our MSC vending unit automatically transmits reports every hour, to show who took what, by machine, for each active job,” Prince explained.  “Now we have a history by application and part produced, for each machine tool.  Thus, if our tool-use numbers get inconsistent, we might have an opportunity to train an operator better, or maybe there could possibly be an issue with a machine.

“We’ve even configured our software so that these reports go directly to each machine’s operator,” Prince continued.  “No one needs to leave their workstation to know current tool inventories for everything being machined.”

This up-to-the-minute data not only helps CNC know with certainty that it has the right tools on hand for its jobs, but Walser and Prince can quote future work more accurately too.  MSC’s vending unit has helped the shop cut set-up times significantly because everything is now in one convenient place – and fully audited.  There’s also no opportunity for someone to select the wrong tools for the job.  No more worries about tool replenishment either, as tools are automatically reordered and delivered the next day – again, only in quantities as required for each current job. 

“Our MSC vending dispenser, backed by MSC’s outstanding tool offering and support, ensures that we can control tool usage to the nth degree,” said Walser.  “Tool waste is simply a thing of the past for us.  We are absolutely on track to achieve our objective, to have a much leaner organization.”

CNC continues to actively pursue more skilled equipment operators.  Then, once it enhances its workforce, Walser will look to buy more high-end machines – and expand the number of vending machines by at least one additional bay.

“Automation and quality – that’s what we live by.  You get what you give.  Great people plus great equipment equals great products produced, a more profitable company,” said Walser. He credits MSC Industrial “game-changing” vending machine, along with technical and product support, rapid tool deliveries, and brand selection, for helping to improve the machine shop’s profitability.

“They are a true ‘partner’ in every sense of the word,” he concluded.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries.