ABCO Automation, Greensboro, NC, has consistently decreased costs and increased profits by looking for new ways to source custom components used in machine builds.
ABCO builds machines for a vast amount of industries instead of focusing on a select number of industries. “We have an extremely diversified customer base, which is crucial to our success,” explained Brad Kemmerer, president of ABCO Automation. But Kemmerer noted ABCO faces vast competition as well. “The other side to a diversified customer portfolio is that you face a lot of competition, which puts a lot of cost, time and performance pressures on us.” This creates a situation where ABCO heavily relies on its innovations and its supplier’s innovations to remain cost and time-competitive in the custom machine building market.
In 2004, ABCO was looking for a more cost-efficient source for machined linear shafts. The process involved purchasing blank linear shafts from a distributor and then machining the shafts using the in-house machine shop. This process was becoming quite costly for ABCO, which prompted a visit with Misumi senior account manager Donald Schmeltzer.
“When I explained that Misumi Linear Shafts can be configured in one-millimeter length increments and offer a vast amount of shaft end configurations as well as a standard manufacturing time of three days, ABCO quickly understood the benefit of switching to Misumi for linear shafts,” explained Schmeltzer. Schmeltzer also noted that no drawings are required because ABCO engineers can use the Misumi online CAD Configurator to design shafts to their specifications and download the native CAD files directly from the site. This made ABCO quickly realize that it would cost less money and time to use Misumi linear shafts, than to purchase blank linear shafts from a distributor and then machine the shafts using the in-house machine shop.
ABCO began investigating other custom components they could replace with Misumi configurable components. “We found that by reducing the amount of custom components per machine, we are able to not only save time and money but are also able to produce machines that are more modular and offer better performance,” explained senior mechanical engineer Dan Pescariu. “When we first started doing business with Misumi, I was immediately impressed with the precision that goes into every component and the fact that what you configure is what you get,” said Pescariu.
Previously, ABCO has experienced problems with custom components where no two components are the same. Pescariu noted that when dealing with custom components, it’s common to get a one-of-a-kind component that can’t be copied exact again, whereas with configurable components it’s easy to configure a component to the exact specifications needed and repeatedly order that component by specifying the part number. As a result, machine component repeatability and modularity increases.
This was a deciding factor when choosing Misumi as a supplier for the design and build of several high-speed, high-performance packaging machines. “As is typical in this business, we were under an extremely tight deadline and also knew that we would have to duplicate this machine and build the exact machine several times for this customer,” explained Pescariu.
ABCO Sales Engineer Paul Mellander added that in the custom machine business, duplicating machines can be a huge issue to overcome, especially when dealing with custom components. “Unlike custom components, Misumi configurable components offer native CAD files that can be downloaded from their web site as well as short lead-times, published prices and part numbers for every configured component, which can easily be added to the bill of material,” noted Pescariu.
Mellander added that the native CAD files save drawing time for the engineers and with no minimum ordering quantity and no set-up charges, along with a 99.97% on-time delivery rating on all its products. “The deadline for the design and build of these packaging machines was just a couple of months, but once I knew that we were using Misumi as a supplier, I felt more comfortable committing to such a tight deadline with the customer,” explained Mellander.
The Misumi component list for this machine included linear shafts, flanged linear bushings, strut clamps, locating pins, locating bushings, belts, bearings, plates, bolts and rollers. By using configurable rather than custom components, Pescariu found that he was able to reduce the total component count of the machine. This benefitted the machine design because the machine components fit together well and helped shorten testing as well. Moreover, the machine was easier to duplicate, with potential long-term benefits of lower maintenance and less down-time.
Reducing the component count has also saved cost. ABCO President Brad Kemmerer expects his engineers to meet their design and build budgets and encourages them to beat this budget on a consistent basis. “We were able to come in under budget for the design and build of these packaging machines and I can honestly say this is due to using as many Misumi components as we could on the machine,” stated Pescariu. Each packaging machine contained approximately 10,000 components. Out of the approximately 10,000 components, around 3,000 were Misumi components.
Using configurable components has also altered ABCO’s custom machine design and manufacturing process. Previously, the strategy was to design the machine, specify as many standard components as possible, then fill in the rest with custom components. The new strategy involves specifying standard components and then as many configurable components as possible, thus decreasing the amount of custom components.