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In 2017, the Sehmbi family decided to expand their decades-old fabricating business by opening another shop. J.R. Sehmbi would assume management of the newly formed Mill Finish Industries of Brampton, ON, while brother Mani and their father would continue to oversee nearby Millomat Stampings, founded by the elder Sehmbi in 1985. None of them anticipated where it would lead.

 What’s in a name?

When asked about the name, J.R. Sehmbi explained that Mill Finish Industries’ original mandate was to focus on Millomat Stampings’ finishing and polishing work. Now chief executive officer, he would also take over the production and expansion of a product line the family established in 2012—fixturing tables, jig tables, and accessories—as well as some of the company’s lower volume contract work.

Somewhere along the way, however, Mill Finish evolved into a full-blown job shop. That became abundantly clear earlier this year when Sehmbi invested in the company’s first fiber laser, a 3000-watt Mitsubishi SR-F from MC Machinery Systems Canada Inc. Doing so was an easy decision, he explains, noting that fiber offers twice the speed of CO2 at half the operating cost.

He should know. Millomat Stampings bought its first laser cutter from Mitsubishi—a 3500-watt CO2—eight years ago, followed by a 6000-watt laser almost two years later. Sehmbi spent many hours in front of both machines, becoming a die-hard Mitsubishi fan in the process. So when he opened Mill Finish, the decision over which laser to invest in was an easy one.

“We have looked into other brands of lasers over the years,” he says. “They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but when it came to Mitsubishi, the quality was unbeatable. We never had any problems. As for the decision to move away from CO2, fiber’s benefits more than compensate for the higher price tag. The operating costs are far lower. There's absolutely no maintenance or associated downtime. And like I said, the speed and edge quality are phenomenal. It's a win-win situation all around.”

Ill-timed

The timing could have been much better. Within weeks of bringing the machine online, the pandemic was in full swing. “It was probably the worst possible time to spend three-quarters of a million dollars,” Sehmbi says. "I have to say, though, that here again, MC Machinery Systems hit a home run for us. Without any prompting, they approached me and said, ‘Hey, times are tough. We understand what's going on. Take whatever time you need to get your feet on the ground before starting payments.’ To me, that really shows how personal a company can get, especially when working with a small shop like mine.”

Fortunately for Sehmbi, the pandemic itself prompted some job opportunities. Mill Finish was soon using the new fiber laser to process social distancing signs, parts for sneeze guards, and medical-grade stainless-steel tanks for area businesses and pharmaceutical firms. Since then, the company’s regular aerospace, aviation, and military work has picked up, as have orders from a longstanding customer in the digital media display industry.

The road ahead

Despite the rocky start, Sehmbi’s continued success has quite literally opened a new door for his small company. Beginning in November, Mill Finish will relocate to a 929 sq m (10,000 sq. ft.) facility in nearby Orangeville. Sehmbi will then eliminate his night shift and bring those employees onto days in preparation for lights-out manufacturing. That's because he recently made another big equipment investment—an 8,000-watt GX-F advanced fiber cutter with an Element R compact warehouse automation system from Mitsubishi.

“At the end of the day, the biggest bottleneck is always your sheet metal processing, especially for us,” Sehmbi says. “That's why beam on-time is critical. However, we noticed some time ago that we would never eclipse the 50 per cent mark, not with ongoing worker shortages, delays in material handling, and so on. The only way to get around this and increase laser utilization is through automation.”

He expects the new system will bring his beam on-time figure to 80 per cent. And predicting that his next bottleneck would be the bending station, Sehmbi also invested in a Diamond BH Series press brake with 4.1 metre (161 in.) bend length, together with an offline programming and simulation system, also from MC Machinery. Lastly, as if all that wasn't enough excitement, Mill Finish will upgrade its ERP software to JobBOSS from E2, then integrate it with his new programming system.

Says Sehmbi, “We’re growing exponentially day by day, and want to be the best we can in order to accommodate everybody possible. The first fiber machine had already made us much more competitive than we once were; automation will only take us to the next level. So yeah, we have our work cut out for us over the next few months, but I’m confident we’re making the right move and have the right equipment to do it with.”

Kip Hanson is a contributing editor to SHOP Metalworking Technology and author of the books Machining for Dummies and Fabricating for Dummies

MC Machinery Systems Inc.: www.mcmachinery.com

Mill Finish Industries: www.millfinish.ca

Millomat Stampings: www.millomat.com

Mitsubishi Electric: www.mitsubishielectric.com

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