A smart investment

Mitsubishi lasers double parts manufacturer�s previous year�s sales in just six months

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Mitsubishi lasers double parts manufacturer's previous year's sales in just six months

Don’t talk to Rodney Westich of Duggan Manufacturing (Shelby Township, MI) about calculating payback on high-technology investments. He has a better yardstick. He bought four Mitsubishi laser-cutting machines over a 12-month period beginning in mid-2003. The results: Duggan’s manufacturing sales in the first half of 2004 at 4.1 million exceeded its 2003 total of $3.9 million.

Duggan specializes in creating prototypes and doing short- to medium-run production on parts with applications in trucks and automobiles. In business for about 3 1/2 years, the company started in a small garage; it has now graduated to a 28,000-square-foot facility bristling with hydraulic presses up to 1,200T, four CNC machining centers, a number of CMMs, and, now, the four lasers.

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Duggan Manufacturing keeps its Mitsubishi laser-cutting machines busy in its 28,000-square-foot facility.
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Employment has mushroomed to 60 people, who work three shifts, six days a week. Stamping mostly galvanized or AKDQ cold-rolled steel sheet metal, the workers typically follow four steps in creating a prototype or production part for a customer, according to Westich: blank development, creation of drawing quality tool, production of formed blank, and laser-cut prototype or product production.

The parts Duggan Manufacturing produces include a variety of small brackets and other components a few inches in length. They typically go into automotive systems such as window lift mechanisms. Production runs range up to about 25, 000 pieces, and up to about 11,000 pieces on the lasers.

In the early days of the firm, Westich says, the parts and prototypes they produced were finished with trim dies and final outsourcing. As the business grew and customers’ tolerances became tighter, Duggan began to outsource laser cutting to trim the parts.

“We reached the point where we were farming out $60,000 worth of laser work a month,” says Westich. “The problem was, our customers needed turnarounds of anywhere from three days down to three hours. Outsourcing the cutting took three days or more. We couldn’t service our accounts to the level we wanted.”

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Duggan uses the Mitsubishi lasers to produce a variety of small components for use in automotive systems.
Click here to enlarge image

Westich contacted a Mitsubishi dealer in Ohio. He also considered machines from other sources, but the result was an order for a Mitsubishi VZ1 2015 (5X 7) with the 3020D 2 kW resonator.

Things moved very quickly then. “I couldn’t believe how fast the distributor and Mitsubishi reacted,” Westich testifies. “The paperwork took less than 24 hours. The machine was installed 10 days from the date of the quotation, which is exceptional.

“We ran that first machine around the clock for nine months after we started it up. It had a backlog of work before it ever arrived,” the Duggan executive continues.

Westich also sent his first operator for training the day he shook hands on the deal. The operator was ready to go when the machine was, and that operator subsequently trained eight others.

A used, 1993 Mitsubishi Model 1212HC laser with 1.6 kW resonator followed, and two more new VZ1 2015s came shortly afterward. All four machines were purchased over an 11 1/2-month period ending in March 2004. Westich says that all have been busy continuously since they arrived. Duggan now uses a CNET computer program for design work, and does some offline programming to set up work on the machines.

“We’re very happy with the lasers,” Westich declares. “They’ve been extremely dependable-we really haven’t had a single breakdown or problem with them, despite running them around the clock. The edge and part geometry we’ve been getting are of extremely high quality and accuracy. The cost to run the machines is much lower than what we were doing before. And the machines were reasonably priced, very competitive with other machines.”

Duggan Manufacturing has no plans to add automation to its present setup-“We’ve got no room for it!” Westich laughs-but is interested in another five-axis laser, perhaps in 2005.

“Anytime you can double the previous year’s volume in six months, you’re doing well,” Westich concludes. “The recovering economy is a factor, of course, but the main thing is that the lasers have enabled us to take on more, higher-quality business.”

Material supplied by MC Machinery (Mitsubishi), Wood Dale, Illinois (www.mitsubishi-world.com).

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