Fabricating Job Shops: Razor’s Edge
- October 8, 2019
A New Brunswick shop resolves bottlenecks with a new bending machine
Razor Contract Manufacturing has been growing rapidly since its inception in 2010. With the expectation of more growth to come and to eliminate future bottlenecks, the Saint John, NB, shop recently expanded operations and invested in new bending equipment.
Razor Contract Manufacturing of Saint John, NB, was founded in 2010. The shop specializes in metal fabrication, working in a range of materials including carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Razor’s 38 employees build air conditioning frames for commercial and military use in a facility that is just under 35,000 sq. ft. The facility is relatively new, and more than doubles the size of the company’s previous digs. Just a week before he spoke with Shop Metalworking Technology, owner Steve Allison finally had everyone under the massive new roof after gradually transitioning operations from Razor’s previous 15,000 sq. ft. shop.
Unusually, the business is designed around a single very large customer: TLD, one of the largest suppliers of aircraft ground support equipment in the world. Razor does have a few other customers, but the degree of its reliance on TLD’s business can be gauged by the fact that, last year, TLD accounted for $6.8 million of Razor’s $7 million in sales. The last couple of years have seen very strong growth, and Allison anticipates around $9 million in sales next year.
A high proportion of Razor’s work is bending. With the increasing volume of work, Allison decided it was time to reinforce Razor’s TRUMPF V200 and TruBend 7036 press brakes, so in May he added a TRUMPF TruBend 5230 CNC press brake. A month earlier he had also acquired a new TRUMPF TruLaser 3040 CNC fiber laser to boost cutting capacity.
In terms of press force, bending length, usable open height and some other critical parameters, on paper the 5230 is identical to the V200, although the age difference is significant.
“The V200 is 20 years old and there are some parts it struggles with,” Allison says. “The 5230 goes through them like it’s nothing, and it does have 15 per cent more tonnage, while we’ve lost some tonnage with the V200.”
But the biggest single improvement Allison has seen with the 5230 is in training operators. “It’s so much easier than it was when you had nothing but paper documents and no computer screens. We’re training press operators in weeks as opposed to months.”
As Allison explains, with an old machine like the V200, when you start a new job that has 50 parts, you need 50 separate documents, and you still can’t 3D visualize the part onscreen, as you can with the 5230. “The new operators can go through the sequence of bending without even touching it,” Allison says. “It gives you that visual component, where you see what the part’s actually going to do. Seeing that at the screen level—that’s a huge advantage.”
The 5230 has resolved the bending bottlenecks, while the TruLaser 3040 laser, which can cut material up to 25.4 mm (1 in.) thick, has done the same for cutting. “Our old laser never would have been able to keep up with three bending machines,” Allison says. “The 3040 is so much more efficient we’ve actually got time left over.”
The result, ironically, has been to move the bottleneck downstream. “We’re cutting and bending more product, and now we have a new problem; now there’s product sitting on the shelves needing welding. We need more welders.”
Since the 5230 is only a few months old, Allison hasn’t really been able to evaluate the service side, but he says one reason he’s been loyal to TRUMPF over the years is the quality and responsiveness of support staff, so he’s not expecting problems when the first major issue does arise.
It’s also still early to have precise figures on quality improvement, but Allison is sure the results will be impressive. “We’re getting fewer rejected parts because of the 5230’s better visuals. It’s a completely different story now. We haven’t got the reports from QA yet, but the difference is going to be staggering. Before, for every 100 parts you’d get one wrong; now it’s going to be more like one for every 1000 parts.” SMT