A Turn For The Better

By Lincoln Brunner, Contributing Editor.
Reprinted with permission from MODERN METALS MAGAZINE May 2005

Modern Metals

A new cold saw cranks up productivity at CDI Torque Products.


In manufacturing, reaching the top spot in your corner of the market almost always means more than offering the best product. It also means you constantly refine how you make that product and deliver quality faster than you did before.

Last year, CDI Torque Products in City of Industry, Calif., a division of Snap-on Tools, was looking for a way to increase the capacity of its tube-cutting operation, a vital link in producing its industry-leading line of industrial torque wrenches, which are used to achieve correct clamping force on threaded fasteners.

CDI supplies torque wrenches to Snap-on as well as to other tool manufacturers, such as Mac Tools. The company also produces a wide range of related equipment, including torque testing and calibration equipment, torque screwdrivers and torque multipliers.

The 200-plus-employee shop had used a CNC lathe to cut carbon steel tubes to length and then machine them. Having reached production capacity on its CNC machinery, Michael Wang, CDI's plant manager, attended a trade show to scout new options. There he saw a Scotchman Industries cold saw in action. Wang asked a few pointed questions about the saw and figured it might make a good fit for what he wanted to accomplish. He was right. The level of enthusiasm in Wang's voice noticeably rises when he relates that since installing the CPO 315 RFA circular cold saw in January, the company has increased the capacity of its tube-cutting cell by 30 percent, bumping production in that area to about 2,000 pieces a day.

The new tube cell comprises the saw, an OD/ID chamfering machine, CNC lathes, profilator, punch presses, drill press and turret lathes. The saw is the first station in the cell. Tubes are cut to length and then routed to the appropriate machine for secondary operations. Tubes are then directed to one of several assembly cells.

Most of the tubes that CDI fabricates are used for wrench shafts; the remainder serve as sleeves or extensions. Because cut-to-length tubing touches so much of what the plant does, any processing improvement is bound to improve the plant as a whole. Wang notes that by splitting the cutoff and machining tasks and laying out the new tube-cutting cell around the saw, he's been able to reduce floor space usage by 40 percent while reducing costs by roughly 10 percent to 15 percent.

"That's the advantage of the new layout," Wang says. "The saw impacts two-thirds of my operations."

Keeping it lean

Revamping the layout of its tube-cutting operation runs in step with the company's overall lean, cellular manufacturing approach. Wang calls his operation a "focused factory" that's driven by product line rather than a traditional general manufacturing model. For CDI, that meant rearranging its 100,000-square-foot shop several times to improve material flow. In the past, Wang says, CDI's equipment layout mirrored every other traditional shop; each machine was positioned by function instead of its place within the shop's workflow.

Wang notes that the added capacity and efficiency achieved by the revamp has helped the company meet increased demand this year and also has eliminated three or four different operations in its tube fabrication process.

A cold saw such as the 315 works a lot like a milling machine, according to Mike Albrecht, Scotchman's cold saw product manager. "We're matching up our chip load and surface feed per minute," he says. "We're also using double clamping on both sides of the blade."

Those features tend to give an exposed-application user such as CDI a little cleaner end finish than is typically produced on a band saw, he notes.

The cold saw holds tubing with diameters up to 3.5 inches in lengths up to 24 feet. For its part, CDI typically cuts tubing between 0.625 inches and 2.75 inches in diameter and wall thicknesses from 0.063 inches to 0.25 inches. Wang gives the saw blade high marks on mild steel. "It performs better than we expected," he says of the blade he runs on the saw.

He also says that so far, the saw has met his accuracy and tolerance requirements and that the unit has been easy for his people to operate. "So far we haven't had any trouble with it."

The impetus for growth

Suddenly having more floor space to work with has given CDI new expansion options in land-crunched Southern California. "Saving some space helped us," Wang says. "Instead of leasing another facility, we can stay here and continue to grow."

The company has been advancing for some time and racked up double-digit sales increases for the past four years. The $33 million company has several new products in the pipeline and sees itself becoming a $50 million company in three to five years. That kind of ambition requires introspection to see how processes, such as tube cutting, can improve.

"Manufacturing has to be looking for ways to cut costs," Wang says. "This new saw is one piece of the puzzle for us. To be competitive, our manufacturing [has] adopted lean principles every where we can."

"Instead of complaining about foreign markets taking everything away from us, we have to learn to go out and get it and make ourselves more productive," Albrecht says.



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