by Andrew Brooks
Poised to grow – but ‘hanging on’ for now
- Quality Machining Services (QMS)
- years in business: 32
- location: Windsor, NS
- facility size: 2,601 sq m (28,000 sq ft)
- no of employees: 40
- key manufacturing processes: CNC and manual machining, waterjet cutting, bending, shearing and welding
Quality Machining Services (QMS) is a custom machining, fabrication and certified (CWB 247.1) welding shop. Based in Windsor, NS, northwest of Halifax, the company also provides in-house assembly and testing for its customers and delivers a range of finishing processes out-of-house.
QMS was founded in 1987 with a four employees. The company grew quickly and now has upwards of 40 employees.
The shop’s biggest customer is in the automotive sector–a large tire manufacturer–but QMS also works for customers in the industrial, defense, commercial and marine markets, among others, says production foreman Shawn Brown. “We don’t do any mould and die work here, but we do build parts for a customer that does,” Brown says.
The company has an extensive pool of manual and CNC mills and turning centres. The CNC side is dominated by Mazak VTC and VCN mills and Quick Turn lathes, but other machine builders including OKK, Matsuura and Nakamura-Tome are also represented – the latter by an AS200 MY turning centre that’s so new it hadn’t even been hooked up when Brown spoke with Shop Metalworking Technology.
The AS200 MY is a compact machine for its capability set (1650 x 1600 mm / 63 x 63 in.), one of the attractions for a shop that’s almost reached the limits of its current space. The machine also has Y axis capabilities (Y axis stroke is 82 mm +/- 41 mm), but as useful as those capabilities are, they aren’t the main reason QMS acquired the system. The main reason was simply to help deal with the volume of turning work QMS does.
“CNC milling and lathing makes up the majority of what we do,” Brown says. “All of our milling centres are extremely busy. We can do lights-out operations here, but generally we’re running just one shift most of the time. We add on an afternoon shift when we need to–and then we can do the lights-out on top of that when it’s required.”
Heading the lineup of lathes is the Mazak Quick Turn 450 CNC turning centre. The unit boasts a standard large spindle bore capacity of 184.9 mm (7.28 in.). “All of our milling centres are busy, but our Mazak 450 is probably the busiest of the bunch,” Brown says.
As Shop Metalworking Technology reported in our August issue, the 450’s large capacity is critical for the four-inch-diameter shafts QMS turns for moulding machines. And special Iscar inserts coated with Titanium Nitride (TiN) PVD with a medium grade polycrystalline CBN (PCBN) substrate are required to turn the hardened 4140 steel, which has a Rockwell hardness rating of 60. Brown and operator Nick McCarthy made the switch to the special inserts about a year and a half ago, and while they’re a bit more expensive than what QMS was using before, they’ve more than paid for themselves.
The shop also turned to Iscar for help with its bolt turning and parting, which makes up a sizeable chunk of the company’s workload. At the same time that Brown decided to go for the tougher turning inserts for the shaft work, he also acquired Iscar’s Multi Connection JHP turning tools. The tools have a bottom fed high pressure coolant channel, which feeds the coolant directly onto the insert during turning. That keeps the temperatures down, eliminating the main source of insert breakdown. The coolant jet also prevents chip buildup around the insert, eliminating a second source of tool wear and failure.
The main challenge QMS faces now, Brown says, is one that will be familiar to most shop owners: the difficulty of finding skilled labour.
“We’d like to grow, but the biggest challenge is finding employees,” Brown says. “What we do is we go to the colleges and schools to find people. We’ll bring them in and in some cases they decide to stay on with us rather than go back to school. Probably four or five of our current employees came here that way.” Like many other shops, QMS also relies heavily on in-house training to develop the skill sets it needs.
Another challenge is location. “One of the challenges we have is being here in rural Nova Scotia,” Brown says. “Anything we need to outsource generally has to go out of province. As an example, everything we get that needs to be heat treated needs to go to Ontario.”
Insourcing more operations isn’t an option right now. Brown says the shop floor has available space for just one more machine, so developing an entirely new line of work isn’t in the cards. And in the wake of its acquisition of the new Nakamura-Tome, QMS probably won’t be filling that remaining space anytime soon.
In fact, with the work orders it has on hand, and its recent investment in high-end technologies and tools, for the near term anyway QMS has its hands full and probably doesn’t need to make any major moves for a while. The growth will come, as it has in the past.
As Brown puts it with a modest touch, “we’re hanging on for now.” SMT