by Mary Scianna
Indexable drills, boring heads support BC marine product manufacturer’s quest for productivity improvements and growth
Canada Metal (Pacific) Ltd. is riding the waves of success. The marine product manufacturer’s current sales stand at $36 million and by 2018, it expects to hit revenues of $50 million.
“We’ve continued to grow during an economic slowdown and it’s based on [president] John Mitchell’s strategy for growth,” says James McGill, production manager for CNC and die-cast operations at the company.
Canada Metal (Pacific), based in Delta, BC, manufactures sacrificial anodes for OEMs and aftermarkets, anchors, marine chains and shackles, a variety of marine-related products, and die-cast machine components for telecommunications, transportation and forestry markets for customers around the world.
Its production operations consist of four facilities: a 3,716 sq m (40,000 sq ft) operation in Delta, BC, that houses engineering, metallurgical testing and production capabilities (die casting and machining), a 4,180 sq m (45,000 sq ft) manufacturing plant in Ningbo, China, a facility in Italy, the result of the company’s acquisition of Seaguard Italy, which produces marine and industrial cathodic protection systems, and its most recent addition, a distribution operation in Virginia Beach, VA, to better service customers on the Eastern seaboard.
At the heart of Canada Metal (Pacific)’s manufacturing operations lies the production machine shop. And as the company has grown and expanded with new marine product lines, so too has the machine shop. Indeed, one of McGill’s responsibilities when he joined the company more than four years ago was to improve the machine shop to better support the growing variety of products Canada Metal (Pacific) was producing. The flexible shop is designed to accommodate small one-offs and two-offs to large production runs of 10,000 parts.
“We had to improve technologies and make our machining more versatile. So over the years, we’ve invested in machines with Y axes on lathes for milling, live tooling, higher speed milling machines and a robotic cell consisting of two machines and a robot. In three years, we spent approximately $1.5 million in machine tools. Our shop is split roughly in half between machines from Mori [DMG MORI] and Haas.”
An important goal for the company is to improve manufacturing efficiencies. And while automation and robotics is one of the obvious ways to achieve that, the range of production runs made it a challenge to justify the cost of robotics, until about four years ago. McGill had just joined the company and was at lunch with the company’s salesman and a customer.
“One of the customers at the table said he’d love to get out of machining these gas caps and I said we’d love to get into machining of them. I’d just come back from Chicago at the [DMG] Mori facility and I’d seen a robot set up. So I called Ellison and asked them for a quote. John [Canada Metal president] stepped up to the challenge and we purchased the robotic machining cell and we’ve never looked back. The work has doubled since we got the system and our ROI was about two years.”
The robotic machining cell consists of two DMG MORI DuraTurn machines and a Fanuc robot. The cell produces approximately 250,000 gas caps a year.
The right tools
In addition to machine tool investments, the company has also invested in the right cutting tools, adds McGill. A BCIT trained machinist with 26 years of experience, McGill says he’s seen many shops who simply don’t understand that cutting tools are just as important, if not more, as the machine when it comes to improving machining performance and quality.
“I’ve been in shops that have $2 million machines and they’re running $0.50 end mills they purchased at a hardware store and they can’t figure out why their expensive machine isn’t working well.”
When McGill joined the company and was tasked with improving the machining operations, he made the decision to invest in Iscar tooling. Today the company uses DCN indexable heads (0.3761 size), a pre-drill for spool bore reaming in production pump assemblies. McGill says the tools help maintain tight tolerances, have helped to reduce cycle times and have predictable production life.
“We use other suppliers, but Iscar is our major supplier. We also invested in the Matrix tool management vending system. Iscar has made it so simple to get what you need. If I’ve lost a screw with two clicks, I have a part number, we telephone our ACT rep (A.C.T. Equipment Sales, a distributor for Iscar in BC and Alberta) and we have our tooling. We’re busy enough that I don’t want to have to wait for tooling and having the ease of re-ordering is a plus.”
Iscar also supplies the company with Picco custom ground bars used in the production of customer-specific round threads for fuel caps, produced in the robotic machining cell. McGill says volumes for the round thread are about 150,000. “The bars are also custom ground for use in the groove relief of caps being produced with volumes over 250,000. The Picco clamping tool and the custom grinding help us reduce change-over and setup time in our robotic cell system.”
“Cat’s Meow” for precision holemaking
Just as important is the durability and quality of performance he gets from the tooling and Iscar’s technical support. McGill cites a recent example. Canada Metal (Pacific) called in its Iscar representatives, Stuart and Jonathan Wood, to help the team assess tooling for precision holemaking for a new line of hydraulic pumps.
“We called them in from the start and they offered their technical knowledge and even flew people out from Israel to see how we could benefit with the Bayo T-Ream, an interchangeable reaming head system. We were hoping to have them design a smaller reamer for us but they were upfront and told us they didn’t think they could get the performance out of it in a smaller size.”
According to Iscar, the high speed reaming system allows users to increase the feeds dramatically. It consists of an interchangeable carbide reaming head with a quick-change bayonet mechanism that’s suitable for reaming applications of H7 hole tolerances.
Canada Metal (Pacific) was so impressed with the concept and the performance of it, they re-engineered their product’s configuration so Iscar could create a reamer of a size that would perform.
“We think this reamer is the greatest invention. It holds tolerances within tenths (0.0003th tolerance on a copper infiltrated material in large production runs) and the tool life, so far, is incredible. Because we believe in the tooling and what it could do for us, we re-engineered the configuration of the product in our hydraulic division. It’s a product we’re basing our future growth on, and Iscar was in on the bottom floor with this to help us. This product is the cat’s meow for precision holes.”
He cites another example of Iscar tooling performance for DCN drills that helped the company improve productivity
“We use a 0.331 SumoCham DCN drill to quickly remove stainless steel in the slot of a clevis, then finish the slot with an end mill to size. It was part of a two-minute overall reduction in cycle time. DCN drills have become a mainstay in our drill operations in our stainless steel swivels ranging in size from 1/4 to 1.00 in. The DCN0551 and MTSR thread mill are used exclusively for the production of M16 threads with production ranges from 40,000 to 60,000 threads on several part configurations.”
Another Iscar tool recently introduced at the shop is the FDND slot cutter. McGill says the tool has helped to reduce slot cycle time from two to one minute, saving 800 minutes in the first month of production, “reducing lead time and giving our sales team a competitive edge in a niche market.”
Plans for the future
Canada Metal (Pacific) is in growth mode, says McGill, which means the company continues to eye new machinery investments. Indeed, McGill’s wish list includes five axis machining and additive or hybrid additive manufacturing.
“Five axis would be good for specialty work. We were looking at work for Boeing for the Dreamliner but the volume of work wasn’t enough to justify the cost of a five axis machine, but we’re keeping an eye on it. We’re also following 3D manufacturing but we’re not sure if it’s something that will work for us.”
The company is also in the midst of launching new products as part of its growth strategy, notes company president John Mitchell in a March 2015 article in International Boat Industry magazine.
“We have some new additional product launches coming that we’re excited about, and some new OEM business with a major supplier that is also going to help drive our numbers. In our custom die-cast business, we do a lot of work outside of our anode products, producing components such as engine oil coolers, and that’s another important element of our growth strategy.” SMT