Modern Machine Shop

MAY 2018

Modern Machine Shop is focused on all aspects of metalworking technology - Providing the new product technologies; process solutions; supplier listings; business management; networking; and event information that companies need to be competitive.

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Page 85 of 179

MMS MAY 2018 84 SHOP MANAGEMENT From Making Parts to Making Profits New management layers bold, data-driven decision-making atop a legacy of moldmaking expertise. Old iron can make good chips, but it is not likely to set a shop apart. Just ask Don Dumoulin, a veteran of firms including Procter & Gamble and Glaxo-Smith Kline who came out of retirement to purchase a mold and die shop in 2013. Inspired and moti- vated by U.S. manufacturing activity, he never would have made such a move without seeing particular promise in this particular sector and in this particular shop, which was not the only one he considered. And yet, the shop's potential did not fully materialize until the arrival of the newest "iron:" a five-axis machine on a granite base that has eliminated hundreds of hours of manual polishing and reduced the need for EDM. The shiny new machine is not the only evidence of Precise Tooling Solutions' recent efforts to differentiate itself. During Modern Machine Shop's visit, the 50,000-square-foot f loor was awash with massive Cummins engine blocks in various stages of machining, just one of many contract job opportunities opened by the new five-axis machine. (Larger parts are a particular focus.) About 2,000 square feet of the Columbus, Indiana, facility is dedicated exclusively to producing ErgoSmart equipment, a line of ergo- nomic workstations and machine bases acquired in 2016 and sold to many of the same customers that purchase plastic-injection molds. New work has not distracted from the core specialty of a shop that operated until last year as Precise Mold. On the contrary, Precise Tooling Solutions' 50 employees still build and modify as many molds as they ever have, Mr. Dumoulin says. The difference is that in the past five years, the shop has opened enough extra capacity to reduce the share of long-dominant automotive tooling from 80 percent to less than 60 percent of the overall mix. The ErgoSmart business, meanwhile, is similar to previous contract work and fit natu- rally into existing workf lows. Getting this far did not require changing the fundamentals of how machining has been done for four decades here. Mr. Dumoulin says that is mostly the purview of those who work on the shop f loor, admitting that his characterization of the new five-axis as a "Ferrari among machine tools" is based entirely on testimony from veteran machinists. What has changed is the company's approach to strategic decision-making. Intuition, valuable as it may be in some contexts, must be backed by data to hold any weight in a modern, internationally competitive business, he explains. For a machine shop, this means there can be no question about, say, the locations of needed tools or inventory. There can be no misunderstandings about disrupted workf lows. There can be little tolerance for uncer- tainty about where bottlenecks truly lie, or which potential new technology is truly necessary. More broadly, legacy customer lists and deep shop- f loor experience are not always enough to remain MATT DANFORD | SENIOR EDITOR

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