Manufacturer Smith Fastener produces precision parts for customers across the United States in industries such as mining, automotive, and oil and gas extraction. A recent order from the biggest of those customers, one of the country’s largest manufacturers of industrial equipment, posed a dilemma for the Mountain State metalworking operation.
While Smith’s machine shop could produce the 700 parts on the computerized mills in its South Charleston facility, it could not do so cost-effectively. In-house production would require multiple computer programs and several machine setups. And time, as the proverbial saying goes, is money. That additional time would not simply have eaten into any profit margin, it would have devoured it.
To fulfill the order and keep its No. 1 client happy, Joe Payne, Smith Fastener’s machine shop supervisor, turned to the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) at Marshall University for assistance.
“We were in danger of losing a huge amount of money on this job,” Payne explained, “but because of RCBI’s assistance, we were able to meet our customer’s request without taking a big loss, which would never have happened before.”
Payne and his company leased time on the 5-axis machining center at RCBI’s South Charleston Manufacturing Center to craft the brass electrical parts used in the mining industry much faster and more efficiently. One computer program, one machine setup. The savings were huge.
“Producing these parts on our own equipment would require three different setups and take about 15 to 18 minutes a piece to make, depending on the operator,” Payne said. “Using the multi-axis machining center at RCBI, it took 177 seconds or two to three minutes to produce each part.
“It’s hugely time-saving,” he said. “Timeframe-wise, it has gone from what would have taken months to two weeks to make the 700 parts.”
RCBI offers more than $20 million in advanced technology for use by manufacturers of all sizes. And with more than 650 years of combined industry experience, the RCBI staff has the expertise to enable West Virginia businesses to fully leverage that technology.
“We afford West Virginia manufacturers a competitive edge,” said Derek Scarbro, RCBI deputy director. “Many smaller operations can’t afford to purchase their own 5-axis machining center, which can cost upward of a half-million dollars, or equipment such as our metal 3D printer, which can approach a million dollars. But they can come to RCBI, take advantage of our technology and staff expertise to fulfill contracts that otherwise are out of reach.”
Payne said he hopes that someday Smith Fastener, which in addition to serving large national customers, also offers walk-in machining services to smaller clients, can purchase its own 5-axis equipment. Until then, his company will use RCBI to meet demand.
“We did 700 parts this time and we’ll probably do a couple thousands in the next few months,” Payne said. “We’re going to be looking at doing 5,000 a year, and we’ll being doing those here at RCBI.”
For more information about the services offered Smith Fastener, a division of Motor City Industrial Company, visit https://smithfastener.com. To learn more about RCBI’s manufacturing services, visit www.mfg.marshall.edu/industry/manufacturing-services.
– June 27, 2022