Quebec fabricator processing jumps from 80 to 250 tons weekly with lights out drill/saw line
While studying accounting at university, Martin Lachapelle changed career directions towards steel fabrication when he decided to set up Lainco Inc. in 1995.
Together with two employees, he opened a 1,000 sq ft facility to fabricate miscellaneous steel for a variety of customers. Two years later, his brother Eric Lachapelle, a civil engineer, joined the company.
By 1999, the Lachapelle brothers had outgrown the original facility and moved with 10 employees to a 7,000 sq ft plant they built on the present site in Terrebonne, Quebec. Over the following years, this facility grew in multiple steps to its current size of 40,000 sq ft.
Today, Lainco is a leading steel fabricator with its own in-house engineering and drafting departments specializing in fast-track design and build projects for the industrial, institutional/governmental and commercial sectors in Quebec, Ontario, and the Northern Territories.
When Martin decided to take his company to the next level, he determined he needed to seek an automatic solution with minimal direct labor.
“If I installed the same level of automation that many of my competitors already had, I was only trying to catch up. I needed to take automation and efficiency to a higher level.”
As Martin began to explore the possible solutions from different manufacturers of scribing, drilling and sawing systems, it became apparent that there were two main criteria that his investment needed to include:
- The ability to run “lights out” for unattended functionality, even at night or weekends when the factory is closed.
- The ability to automatically download all the layout information from 3D CAD models into a CNC program to scribe the layout location and the relative references for specific details at a scribed location.
Having done extensive research in the drill/saw machinery market, Martin found that there were those suppliers who offered an automated solution to one degree or another but ultimately, they lacked the integrated “lights out” technology he was after. “At the end of the day Ficep was the only firm who had the required technology and who could show me actual installations that were able to run lights out or unattended as I required.”
“Prior to the implementation of the Ficep 1001 DFB single rotating spindle drill/saw line, Lainco was able to process an average of 80 tons per week using conventional manual methods with 27 shop employees. I am now able to fabricate on a routine basis between 200-250 tons per week with the same number of shop employees by using the line not just for drilling and sawing but also for scribing layout locations on all four sides.”
Martin reports that as a result of Ficep’s automated scribing, Lainco is now able to substantially reduce the fit up time, eliminate mistakes and drastically reduce the amount of time the material is located in the fit up bay.
“Basically, we have captured the previously unused potential of our workforce. We have finally reached maximum efficiency. ” During normal working hours his system attendant is continuously unloading/loading trucks, loading stock length material into the magazine loading system while the Ficep 1001 DFB transfers stock length material onto the infeed conveyor, measures and confirms the material stock length, loads the proper CNC program, performs all the drilling, scribing, sawing functions, removes trim cuts, remnants and finished lengths without any operator involvement.
“Before we leave at the end of a work day, we make sure our stock length magazine is fully loaded, turn out the lights and let the Ficep perform its magic. In the morning when we return, the stock lengths that were on the loading table when we left have been turned into cut to length sections complete with holes and full four side scribing ready for my fitters.”
Furthermore, Martin indicates, “Because our productivity and volume capacity has tripled, we are able to take on bigger, heavier and more complex projects. This has tremendously impacted the growth of our company.” Lainco has since hired more engineers, draftsmen, sales and project management staff to take on the size and volume of projects the shop is now capable of producing. A night shift has been added and a weekend shift to maximize the full utilization of their facility is in consideration.
Martin states, “It is not always possible after an investment project like this to be able to confirm that you were able to meet or exceed your objectives, but in this case Ficep has met the complete challenge. We could not be happier!”