Sustainable Development Guides Shop’s Responsible Growth

Feb. 24, 2022
Directing Imago Manufacturing to adopt ISO quality and sustainability standards, toward eliminating its carbon footprint, has brought some singular perspectives on tooling and machining to Ryan Bankel.

“Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints” is a common motto among those who enjoy hiking in the outdoors, a reminder to leave nature as you’ve found it. It’s also a favorite saying of Ryan Bankel, CEO of Imago Manufacturing, a Woodstock, Ill., machine shop recently installed a Solar Array in addition to becoming ISO 9001:2015 certified. According to Bankel, thinking outside the box — with solar panels, new tooling solutions and even a Cybertruck — is making his business more diverse and sustainable.

ISO 9001:2015 is an international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system (QMS). To achieve the ISO certification, Imago Manufacturing had to demonstrate its ability to provide high-quality products and services consistently, while meeting the exacting standards of the industries it serves.

In addition to the QMS, ISO 9001:2015 includes four sustainable development goals that are not often discussed, but by including these four goals in its own certification process Imago Manufacturing has established “sustainability” as part of its organizational culture.

“Sustainability in our machine shop,” according to Bankel, “means using only what we need to use and minimizing any waste through reuse or recycling. You’re leaving the world as you found it to continue for the next generation — obviously, I have my own children in mind when I say that!”

Imago Manufacturing’s sustainability goes beyond its ISO Certification. On April 22, 2020, which is celebrated globally as Earth Day, the manufacturer announced that its energy will be generated entirely from an array of solar panels.

“We’ve designed the solar array to offset around 105% of our manufacturing facility’s electrical usage,” Bankel said. “In essence, we are 100% a solar-powered company — I like to say that we’re a machine shop that’s powered by the sun! There aren’t many shops doing it, and we’re proud to be on the forefront of this movement.”

More sustainable approach

When asked why Imago Manufacturing opted to become ISO 9001:2015-accredited, Bankel cited two reasons. The first was to drive continuous improvement within the company, which includes minimizing unnecessary waste.

The continuous improvements include both large and small changes, and recycling everything that leaves the shop – metal, cardboard, plastic – to minimize what’s put into a landfill.

The shop also implemented new processes for out-of-tolerance parts, which now involve tagging and barcoding to make sure potential waste is dealt with properly. In most cases, material can be reworked into a saleable part that keeps it out of the scrap bin.

Another change included external ISO training and development for Imago’s staff. The buy-in from workers was just as important. “The guys in the shop take pride in what they do. If you can get people to care about your business as much as you do, then things will work,” Bankel said.

Everything is brought together with the JobBOSS enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system for manufacturers, which directs the workflow of processes and materials through the shop.

A more sustainable, ISO-certified approach has not only helped eliminate waste in Imago Manufacturing’s projects, but it in other ways too. The extra measuring and tagging of materials help to ensure the right materials and sizes are used for any given job, which reduces the potential for mistakes and streamlines the shop’s processes.

Do the right thing

The advantages of ISO 9001:2015 go beyond Imago Manufacturing. Diversification was the company’s second reason to seek accreditation: to open up new opportunities with customers that otherwise would not have been available.

“Our customers knew plenty of ISO-certified shops out there — but they were not selling quality products at a good price or in a timely fashion. So that’s why we got our foot in the door, in particular with one customer that supplies parts for defense, aerospace, and medical applications.”

It turns out there are plenty of new business opportunities for an ISO 9001:2015-accredited machine shop that prides itself on the quality of its output.

“With that customer, outside parties need to be ISO-certified to even quote on a lot of their jobs. They said: ‘When you’re ISO certified let us know and we’ll send you some work.’

“We’ve also been able to work for new customers in new industries that previously were off-limits.”

Imago Manufacturing has diversified its customer base to the extent that no single customer or industry is more than 25% of its total business. Aerospace, defense and medical are now among its primary markets, along with aftermarket automotive parts, transportation, components for public and private rail, mining equipment, parts for firearms and even a watchmaker.

There is a broader, environmental aspect to these efforts too, or as Bankel called it, “The essence of being an ethical company and of doing the right thing.”

Benefitting the bottom line

Aaron Heider has known Ryan Bankel for over 25 years and as sales engineer for Sandvik Coromant has worked with Imago Manufacturing for the past 12 years. Since the shop installed its first CNC machine in 2013, which was supplied with a Sandvik Coromant Tooling Certificate, Heider has been addressing the customer’s machining and tooling requirements.

“To meet the ISO quality standards, particularly those related to product quality and customer satisfaction, Ryan needs know he has the right tools in place,” Heider said. “His sustainability goals can’t be waylaid by frequent insert changes, production interruptions, or finding the right insert for each application or material — all of which can be real time-killers in modern production.”

Imago Manufacturing’s dedication to quality extends to its machine tools. It recognizes the benefits of the right tooling both for sustainability and the bottom line — especially the advantages tooling can have on machine utilization.

“It all benefits the bottom line,” Bankel reasoned. “If you’re turning the machine for less time you’re not using as much electricity, which also frees up capacity. Most people think you’ve got to have all this power for a machine shop, but modern machine tools are very efficient. I run the entire shop – including six CNCs – on 200 amps of three-phase power! Regardless of whether you are generating your own power or pulling off the grid, anytime you can reduce your consumption that is a good thing.”

Bankel continued: “I buy Sandvik Coromant’s tools because they work. This industry’s hard enough, without getting the best performance from your tooling! So, we opt for the greatest machine tools and the best cutting tools money can buy, and the highest-quality workpiece materials.”

In addition to these tools, Imago Manufacturing also uses Mastercam®, computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software integrated with Sandvik Coromant’s CoroPlus platform. The suite of connected CAM solutions is designed to support digital machining and help machine shops transition towards Industry 4.0.

This is done in conjunction with PrimeTurning, a methodology comprising both tools and software that machine shops use to turn components in all directions with a single tool, and with quick and accurate programming. It includes two innovative and multipurpose turning tools, the CoroTurn® Prime A-type and B-type, designed for multi-directional tooling. The software generates optimized CNC codes that support smooth implementation of the PrimeTurning method, and CoroTurn Prime tools, in turning applications.

“PrimeTurning helps us reduce our cycle times,” Bankel said, adding:

“Going on this sustainability journey has really made me realize the role tools can play in improving processes and being more sustainable.”

Imago Manufacturing’s next investment to minimize its carbon footprint will be a Cybertruck, Tesla’s all-electric, battery-powered, light duty truck. Bankel has put down a deposit on the vehicle, which is expected to hit the market this year.

“We’ll be able to use the Cybertruck for pick-ups and deliveries to customers and for collecting materials, instead of using gasoline-powered vehicles,” he explained. “That will be our next big sustainability move.”

Meanwhile, the solar panels will last for 25 years, though Bankel is pragmatic: “I don’t know if it’s a rational goal to eliminate our carbon footprint completely, but the majority of it can be eliminated. But we’ll continue to grow our capacity, size, capabilities and find great new customers.”

What is realistic is that with its ISO 9001:2015 certification Imago Manufacturing’s continuing sustainability journey will, as Bankel said, “take only memories” and leave the world to continue for future generations.

Kyla Sapp is a public relations specialist at Sandvik Coromant, Mebane, N.C.