Capital expenditures are often thought of in a negative light. After all, no organization likes to spend down their profits. But, in reality, the company that does not take the opportunity to enhance capability, create more throughput and/or to address an efficiency issue is not going to be in business for long.
One way to look at the CAPEX situation is like priming the pump. You pour money into the business to make more money in the end. To a certain extent, that is true. But at GWS, we are always on the lookout for ways to provide additional value to our customers. The purchasing of the latest manufacturing technologies is one way we accomplish this goal.
Whether it’s the purchase of a new machine tool to produce our cutting tools, or the acquisition of a whole company that is advanced in a competency we don’t currently have, all of our expenditures are executed with the intent to stay true to our “Custom Comes Standard” mission.
We focus our CAPEX planning on scaling the organization to match the needs of our customers. “Scaling” is the important word in that sentence. Creating scale within our industry is not always a seamless exercise. Like many other skilled trades, there exists a shortage of skilled labor. That means there’s not always a clear equation that says 1 person + 2 machines = $X of growth
You can generally estimate what a machining center is capable of producing within a prescribed window of time, but the spindle utilization rate achieved plays a critical role in whether or not that potential is realized.
Utilization rate is driven by presence of skilled labor, but the ability to spread the talent you have across the production floor is only possible if you work to achieve machine standardization.
Commonality of CNC equipment (both in construction and programming language), allows operators to be familiar with all the machines on the floor, not the just the ones they attend. The result is faster operations, from setup and programming, as well as maintenance and troubleshooting. This consistency allows for a flow of expertise across the workforce. The shared knowledge increases the quality of our custom-engineered tools and facilitates fast deliveries.
Inspection of our cutting tools is done the same way. Standardized inspection processes and equipment across multiple facilities gives each product the same quality signature from one shop to the next. You can be sure that the end mill you receive from Florida, the drills and reamers you get from Michigan and catalog products from Massachusetts all meet our high standards for quality.
The Automation Advantage
If you want to maximize utilization of your work force, investing in automation is essential. Let’s look at this concept in action, using cutting tool grinders as an example. First of all, automation is key in quality control and JIT deliveries. And of course, it’s impossible to run 24/7 without loading/unloading robots. Automated probing tools check measurements like diameter and flute depth and make adjustments on the fly to save time and keep tools within tolerance.It also decreases downtime via manual inspection processes and limits the use of physical contact gauges, like mircometers, which can damage cutting edges.
Automatic grinding wheel changers house redundant or special tools so that a grinder can continue to run without additional setup time. This versatility, created by some judicious spending, gives us the flexibility to quickly change orders on the floor.
Meanwhile, while automation keeps the line moving, our master toolmakers can utilize their expertise in other areas more critical to our customers, like new tool design and turnkey application support.
The exception to the standardization rule would be when we are tooling up for a new customer, or a new advanced technology.
GWS will always consider the purchase of special purpose machinery and equipment to fulfill a customer’s need, (after a thoughtful and thorough cost analysis process, of course). This could be a CNC machine tool that maintains a super high tolerance or a new coating vessel to apply a special treatment. The evaluation of specialized equipment is done carefully by our engineers so that they are able to choose equipment that meets the standards of GWS and ultimately those of the customer.
When the demand for the new application grows to a certain point, we purchase more machines of the same model to invoke the standardization rule once again.
Return on Our Investment
Careful investment in capital assets ensures that we put the finest technology available to work for our customers. That, in turn, means even faster turnarounds and higher levels of quality at a fair price.
But mechanics aside, our biggest investment is always in our relationship with you, our customers. We consider that to be priceless.
Contact us if you have a cutting tool problem that no one else can solve. We’ve invested in the people, hardware and software to come up with the answers.