When Lee Pfoutz started at Fenner Drives in 1993, there were more than two dozen highly specialized machines deployed in the department manufacturing the Trantorque single-nut keyless locking device. Everything was hard coded, by hand, and the staff was churning out a steady flow of product.
“Back then, you took a blueprint and a calculator, and you figured out all your coordinates, you memorized all your M and G codes, and then you coded the programs, standing there right in front of the machine. You had nothing else really. All you had to leverage then, was your brain, the quality of training that you received, and maybe a few handouts. And every keystroke counted. Every decimal point, every zero, every character in CNC programming and operation, is always meaningful. If you were off by one decimal place, it could mean a crash that caused the machine to be down for a week.”
Times have changed.
Today, Lee is the production supervisor for Trantorque. The same number of people churn out twice as many parts as they did years ago. Now a fraction of the number of original machines are needed, due to super-fast CNC’s linked by a common program. Operators can run three lines of machines, rather than just one. And while, productivity has soared through the roof, so has quality. And, as Lee notes with no small amount of pride, the department hasn’t had a lost-time accident in more than a decade.
It’s a testament to the dedication of the team and the company to a product that’s proved its mettle in millions of applications worldwide.
“We know our product better than anyone else in the world. And we know how to make our product better than anyone else in the world.”
A Programming Revolution
Perhaps the most dramatic difference in the production facility is the way the equipment is linked together, says CNC Programmer Logan Rupp. The vastly different pieces of equipment are all interchangeable, all running the same program. When a piece of equipment goes down, the work it’s scheduled to do simply is moved to another machine within an hour. With almost no impact on quality, cost, or schedule.
“Say a machine has an issue. An operator can take that product from that machine, pull the program to another machine, and it's back up and running in less than half an hour, 45 minutes. We developed a process for both turning and milling. We developed one master program that can run on any of the mills, and we can send a product with the same program to any one of them, and it will run. All they have to do is call up that program number on any one of our lathes, and it'll run. All they do is set up their tools and it's ready to go.”
A Planner's Dream
Lee tells how that process happened.
“It was the dream of one of our planners, so they just asked the question, and we dove into it. It took months and months to get there, but we revamped our process. And now, we capacity load an entire bank of machines, making the scheduling process lean and streamlined. Production planners no longer need to concern themselves with the capacity of individual machines. Just the overall capacity of the factory.”
Ironically, the ability to switch work from one machine to another wasn’t the immediate objective. It first was considered a fringe benefit but has become a major benefit of the programming revolution the team created.
“So now, Machine B goes down, no problem. We simply move the work to Machine C, D, E, or F. It’s a complete, versatile generic manufacturing platform. That’s what we’re committed to in all our manufacturing processes, whether it’s turning or milling. We have that versatility built in.”
To find out more, visit our Trantorque Keyless Locking Device page. Or, for immediate assistance, call 1-800-243-3374 and ask to speak to customer service or an Application Engineer or complete the contact form.