Fabricating while sleeping

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Lights out automation means Alberta fabricator doesn’t have to turn business away

by Patty Jessome

The problem Increasing production and flexibility 

The solution Investing in automated lights out punch/laser technology

Alberta’s Precision Design and Manufacturing owner Ehreth Horinek is taking his Westlock, AB, business to a new level with the combination of laser and punch technology, allowing him to produce and grow even as he sleeps.

With the recent purchase of the Amada EML, with fully automated capabilities, he’s giving his company the upper edge in technology, one that allows him to run lights out. “The EML runs 24/7, even while I’m at home sleeping,” says Horinek. “It finally gives us the ability to meet our customer’s demands.” 

The timing of the machine purchase couldn’t have been better. This year Horinek says the business will grow between 10 and 20 per cent and he’s already seen a significant increase in demand since the installation. “If we hadn’t purchased the machine when we did, we would have worked around the clock keeping up with demand and we would have had to turn business away.” 

Horinek has been running his own manufacturing business for almost 30 years, first starting out in water distillers and then moving into truck accessories. Today, he runs the OEM manufacturing business with the help of his two sons, Dan and Rob, who play important roles to support the business—both programming the machines and sharing duties between day and night shifts.  

Together they chose and oversaw the installation of Amada’s laser and punch combination machine, the 4 kW 

EMLZ3610NT. The unique combination of the high speed punch and hybrid laser has the capacity to form and cut at the same time, speeding up production significantly and giving products an ultra smooth finish. 

One of the big advantages of the EML is the ability to mix long and short runs. “Now we are able to nest our products,” Horinek says. Together the EML and the automated material storage rack with 35 shelves, MARS7510-5EX, also newly added, picks the material, finishes the part, puts the material away and then starts all over again.  

The laser’s precise cuts and quality finish gives Precision flexibility with its current products, and gives the shop a lot of capability in terms of new product and special designs. 

Precision recently introduced two new lines of truck grilles they weren’t able to manufacture before and the company will continue to expand due to the laser capabilities. “You can only do so much with a punch, but with the laser you can do almost anything: circles, arches, and various sizes of letters for logos. It’s simple to use, you draw the part, program it, lay it out on the sheet and you’re running within an hour,” Horinek says. 

This also works well with the company’s truck accessory manufacturing line, which constantly changes as the automotive industry evolves. “New vehicles require new mud flaps, new grilles, light bars, exhaust systems and running boards,” he says. “That will remain a constant in our business and now with our new technology we will be able to produce more.” 

Hands off
Horinek says the automation is another plus, as it allows zero handling of materials. The MARS picks, dumps and racks without anyone touching it, which frees up time for employees to focus on other tasks. “The machine runs itself, there’s nothing you have to do.” Well, almost nothing. For peace of mind, Horinek installed an app on his iPhone, which lets him view the shop via web cameras and alerts him if the machine stops. He is considering the Amada equivalent for the future, a machine monitoring software called v-Factory. It gives the customer the ability to see the parts produced and send messages should something go wrong.  

The Amada lights out automation is allowing the business to grow while keeping up with demand as it continues to ship worldwide from North America to Europe, South America and Asia.  While Precision is in good shape, with annual earnings between $5 and $10 million, Horinek is keeping his eyes on new products that will continue to keep his business in an upward swing. “There’s always someone looking to buy; always lots to sell.” SMT 

Patty Jessome is a freelance writer based in Edmonton, AB.


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