Factory of the future

Whether it's the decision to manufacture in-house, to outsource, or to satisfy a demand increase for an existing product, there might come a time when manufacturing needs simply exceed existing capacity.

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Whether it's the decision to manufacture in-house, to outsource, or to satisfy a demand increase for an existing product, there might come a time when manufacturing needs simply exceed existing capacity. In that case, high-technology contract manufacturing could be the answer. Located in Cicero, Illinois, CGI Automated Manufacturing Inc. had a goal to be the most technologically advanced contract manufacturer in the Midwest region of the United States. It was the first to install a six-shelf punching cell in that region. It also has automatic loading and unloading on other turrets, and a laser cutting system. CGI's focus was to become a truly integrated extension of its customers' operation, and Bystronic technology helped it realize this goal.

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Cutting fast is a trademark of the Bystar laser.
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The Bystronic Bycell laser processing system that the company purchased loads and unloads material automatically, permitting it to run lights out. Additionally, this speedy system offers fast setup, quick-change heads, a nozzle cleaning device, auto-focus capability, towers for material handling, and the ability to cut various material sizes. CGI is the only company in the Chicago area to have this type of automation on its laser system. The Bystronic 4 kW Bystar laser, coupled with the Bycell automation, has helped it become a leading supplier to its existing and potential customers. This technology enables CGI to computer-control its entire operation: from quoting on a job to delivering the finished product. It can truly be said that the company has become an integrated extension of its customers' operations.

A brief history

CGI Automated Manufacturing is a leader in the metal fabrication industry in the Midwest. The company utilizes state-of-the-art equipment and automation in the fabrication of light- to medium-gauge sheet metal parts and serves a variety of industries.

Dick Gurzynski, from Carson Industries, purchased the company in 1976. Carson Industries had a stamping operation and assembled both chain and macramé hangers for plants. During the first two years of business, the company had two employees and operated out of a leased facility in Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

In its second year of operation, Gurzynski moved the business to a building he purchased in Cicero. For the next seven years, the business operated quite effectively with 8 to 10 employees. More stamping equipment was added as the customer base grew with sales of stamped products. Gurzynski handled the operational side of the business as well as bringing in new business.

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This automatic laser system is the keystone of the company's business.
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In 1984, the business outgrew that facility and a 20,000-square-foot facility, also in Cicero, was purchased. Gurzynski's son, Gary, graduated from Bradley University with a degree in mechanical engineering and joined the business. Under Gary's direction, additional equipment was purchased for the larger facility. The first CNC turret was purchased in addition to various CNC press brake equipment. With its new equipment in place, Carson-Gee Industries began manufacturing light fixtures.

The following year, Gurzynski's daughter, Janice Nieman, joined the business on a part-time basis. Nieman, who holds a degree in accounting from the University of Illinois and an MBA from the University of Chicago, computerized the operation. Nieman joined full-time in 1988.

Since 1984, Carson-Gee Industries has grown from an eight-person stamping operation to a 60-employee fabrication and stamping operation. The facility also has expanded to 38,000 square feet. Plus, the name of the company changed to CGI Automated Manufacturing, Inc. Gurzynski retired in 1999, and his children, Gary and Jan, now run the company.

Products and services

CGI's competitive category is light- to medium-gauge sheet metal fabrication services, offering stampings, components, spotwelded assemblies, welded assemblies, and labor only. The market segments it serves are lighting, store fixtures and displays, OEM, service centers, telecommunications, and a diverse miscellaneous grouping made up of conveyor systems, electrical control boxes, appliances, etc.

The company offers CNC turret punching along with expertise in forming, welding, spotwelding, stamping, riveting, and fastener insertion. It can further apply its production skills to supply assemblies or subassemblies.

Prior to in-stalling the Bystronic Bycell System, CGI owned a 2 kW hybrid- designed laser system which provided only limited speed and accuracy. The non-single-source components on the system led to frustrating service issues and increased downtime.

The selection

When the company began its search for a new laser system, it visited plants in Iowa that featured Bystronic laser systems. CGI recognized that the Bycell delivered the speed and material handling required and knew from previous experience that automating material handling would maximize beam on time, which stood as the whole value-added portion of its strategy. The only way to increase productivity was to automate material handling; otherwise, the investment would sit there, not earning any money.

CGI looked at various complex material handling solutions. The advantage of being able to load and unload material, the power of 4 kW to cut thicker material, coupled with the 10-shelf raw material tower with four finished-goods shelves, would further save space and provide the material handling capacity wanted in the shop.

CGI's customers request the processing of heavier materials as well as more challenging applications. Now, instead of turning away these requests, CGI can cut light- to medium-gauge material, and run prototypes faster and more reliably than previously possible. Today, the company is experiencing less downtime, providing the short lead time customers demand and cutting the light to medium plate runs as needed.

The new laser cutting system is two to three times faster than CGI's previous system and is capable of cutting heavier material with better precision. The newfound productivity is staggering, estimated at a 50% to 70% increase in throughput.

The result

CGI's business has changed over the last few years with customers requesting shorter lead times from one month to, in some instances, days or hours. Customers also are requesting that heavier material be cut along with the running of more prototypes coupled with shorter runs. The new laser system has allowed CGI to meet those short lead times and handle the shrinking lot sizes. Considerable efforts have been made to reduce unit costs to make the company more competitive. It is now possible to run lights out, providing more flexibility in the running of jobs—running three times faster generates three times more work for the shop. Best of all, it is now able to expand business into heavy material processing.

The Bystar laser cutting system is the central focus of CGI's business. This one machine feeds work to every sector of the shop. It is reliable, provides exceptionally high throughput, and helps keep customers satisfied. CGI has higher productivity, rapid part turnaround, and, because of full automation, a significantly lower cost per part. Z

Kevin McWard is a regional sales manager for Bystronic Inc. (Hauppauge, NY, www.bystronic.com).

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