In addition to the investments in mill-turn equipment, H&O Cylindrical has also automated some of its machine tools with robotics, as in this example. Image: H&O CylindricalClick image to enlargeby Kip Hanson

Three countries, three machine shops, and a long history of successful manufacturing

THE PROBLEM: Reducing machining operations while improving part quality
THE SOLUTION: Invest in live tool, twin spindle, Y axis CNC lathes

Sometimes when you buy a new machine tool, the payback is very quick. Other times it takes a little longer to turn the corner. This was the case for Thomas Johansson, president and owner of H&O Cylindrical Precision in Waterloo, ON. After purchasing the now 73-year old company in 1996, he immediately began investing in new equipment. 

This effort reached a peak somewhere around 2011, when he and his team took delivery of their fourth Okuma LT200-MY CNC lathe from long time partner EMEC Machine Tools, machines that were far more capable than any of the others purchased at that point in this 62-person shop’s history.

That’s right about the time that business slowed down. Significantly. “I was feeling pretty bullish back then, and figured the additional capabilities that come with a Y axis, mill-turn centre would create some new business opportunities for us,” he says. “They did, but it just took longer than any of us expected. Where many shops see a two year return on their investment, ours took three times that, something I attribute to the slow economic recovery.”

 

From Sweden to Canada and the US
Johansson never planned on owning a machine shop, let alone three of them. Born in Sweden, he went to the US for college, where he studied finance and economics. Instead of going to business school afterwards, he decided to gain some experience and make some money by taking a job in the banking industry. Five years later, he applied for a US work permit but quickly found that immigration policy in the States is a moving target. He was declined.

Okuma’s LT2000 EX CNC lathe is the successor to the popular LT200 series that H&O owns.   Image: Okuma AmericaClick image to enlarge“I’d saved enough money, had the initial approval and right paperwork, and had hired an attorney to deal with everything, but when I went to Canada to re-enter the US under the right status, the process turned out to be less smooth than anticipated,” he says. “I ended up staying a couple weeks with a friend from college, and he introduced me to H&O, which after some negotiations, I ended up purchasing. And even though I did not actually live in Canada, I was very warmly welcomed when I declared my desire to invest in and work in a manufacturing business there.” 

As its name implies, H&O Cylindrical Precision specializes in round parts. The company is ISO-certified, offers precision grinding, honing, hot forging, and machining services, and has a broad customer base that includes military and aerospace suppliers, with requirements for everything from core pins and other plastic injection mould components to parts for the now defunct US space shuttle program, heavy motors and machinery, oil and gas, and more. 

“We’re just very versatile,” says Mike McDougall, H&O plant manager for more than 30 years. “Shafts, stems, bushings, pistons and tubes...give us pretty much anything round, and we’ll make it.” He laughs, “We’ve even made parts for toilets.”

 

Each of the machinists at H&O is responsible for setting up and programming their own jobs.  Image: H&O CylindricalClick image to enlargeA not so steep learning curve
Despite the fact that no one at H&O had any experience with Y axis turn mill machines, McDougall says his people found the Okuma LT200-MY lathes easy to setup and operate. The programming, which each CNC machinist is responsible for, is the same as the other dozen or so Okumas on the shop floor. Once the intricacies of twin spindle and live tool machining were figured out, “the guys just picked them up without any trouble.”

Johansson shares in that ability to pick things up. Aside from H&O, he also owns Prestige Products, a Swiss turning shop in Minneapolis, and Noords, a machine shop in Sweden. “After I left banking, I decided to invest in manufacturing companies,” he says. “In all, I looked at three businesses, and ended up buying each of them.” 

As with H&O, Johansson has tried to keep each of his shops as technologically current as he can, although the less than robust economy over the past few years has slowed that effort somewhat. Still, he has no regrets with any of his Okuma purchases, nor with the Tsugami CNC Swiss lathes he’s had installed at Prestige Products over the years, and he plans to continue investing in new equipment when the time is right.

 

H&O plant manager Mike McDougall has worked at the company for more than 30 years. Image: H&O CylindricalClick image to enlargeHere for the duration
“When you buy something, you should expect to keep it a long time,” he says. “That’s just as true for our three companies as it is for our machine tools. The Okumas especially have proven to be very fast and accurate, but sturdy enough to last however long we need them. They’ve been really good machines. And Brendan Cunningham, our sales rep from EMEC, has called on us for many years. He stops by periodically to inform us about what’s new and available for whatever application we may be working on, even if he knows we’re not ready to buy. It’s a relationship we really appreciate.”

For McDougall, machine longevity might be a wonderful thing, although his biggest concern is getting parts out the door as quickly and cost effectively as possible. To that end, the LT200s have been just the ticket. Not only have they proven easier to operate than anyone expected, but the setup times are shorter as well, a pleasant surprise given the machine’s complexity. 

“They’ve been really beneficial for the work we do,” he says. “Even though our cycle times have gone up due to the additional machining that’s now done in the lathe, the fact that we can drop parts complete more than outweighs the cost of the multiple setups we had in the past. We’ve found that we’re able to do shorter runs and get them done in less time, and our work-in-process has gone down substantially. Parts come off the machines, basically ready to ship.” SMT

Medical machining: A healthy business

Medical device manufacturing can be a lucrative market but there are challenges

by Mary Scianna

One of the lessons of the recent economic down for contract manufacturers and job shops was the value of not keeping all your eggs in one basket.

The ABCs of X, Y, Z (and B & C)

by Ed Robertson

Troubleshooting multi-axis CAM programming

No one ever approached CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) thinking it was going to be easy to implement, but thinking about CAM can be reduced to three primary steps: the first may be called the “pre-processor”—importing digital data models, whether from inside design groups or outside customers and vendors.

HaasTec 2015 Factory Open House

Haas Automation four-day open house at Southern California facility.

March 17-20.

Registration is free. Visit Haas online and click on the HaasTech 2015 banner.

MMTS: Meet Guy Lafleur at Job Shop Night

If you're a small to mid-size manufacturer in Quebec who also happens to be a hockey fan, the province's premier manufacturing event has an offer you won't want to miss.

Grinding software acts as analysis hub

The latest release of software maker ANCA’s CIMulator3D tool simulation software for grinding has an upgraded interface with fresh colors and icons and is even easier to use with intuitive functionality. 

Mazak partners with MachiningCloud

Mazak and MachiningCloud have partnered together to bring enhanced data management to machine shop floors.

Thomas Skinner celebrates 110th anniversary

December marked the 110th year of business for Thomas Skinner & Son Ltd. and the company celebrated the milestone on December 4.

6% NA growth to $1.8 B for machine vision systems

Despite an economic contraction in North America, sales of machine vision systems and components grew six per cent to $1.8 billion US through September, making it the market's highest total for the first nine months of a year in history, according to statistics from AIA, the industry's trade group.

Tough shops

by Mary Scianna

Surviving in Canada’s competitive job shops market

Precision by Dan’s

by Kip Hanson | photos courtesy of Dan’s Precision

This “typical job shop” in Ontario is anything but 

Mitsubishi EDM, Matsuura partner on 3D manufacturing

MC Machinery Systems Inc., Wood Dale, IL, owned by Mitsubishi Corp., is partnering with machine tool builder Matsuura Machinery Corp., Fukui City, Japan, to introduce a 3D hybrid milling machine to the North American market (Canada and the US).

Clamping system ups productivity for aerospace engine maker

A German aerospace engine manufacturer has improved machining of difficult-to-cut materials and descreased processing times because of its investment in Haimer's Safe-Lock clamping system.

The ROI of robotics

by Kip Hanson

Justifying robotic automation for your shop

Plug and Play Profitability

by Kip Hanson

Quebec job shop meets with success on its first foray into robotics

CGTech joins Okuma's Partners in THINC

CGTech, a developer of CNC software for simulations, verification, optimization and analysis technology for the manufacturing industry, has joined Partners in THINC, a network of 40 indusry suppliers using a commom open architecture platform, PC-based THINC OSP control to bring innovative solutions to manufacturers.

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn