Adding A Flow Waterjet Has Improved Turnaround For Stainless Outfitters
Outsourcing to a laser shop was costing this fabricator a lot of money and, on occasion, missed deadlines. Adding a Flow waterjet has improved turnaround from weeks to days, reduced waste, and brought them new customers.
Stainless Outfitters of Barrie, Ontario has been in business since the early 1990's, primarily catering to the marine industry building boat railings, T-tops, radar arches, anchor carriers, virtually any stainless on a boat.
Their work includes prototyping for boat manufacturers as well as insurance repair work and customizing boats for individuals. They primarily work with stainless steel, but see a wide variety of materials pass through their facility.
Over the years they have expanded their business to medical and industrial applications. They have also added a variety of machine tools ranging from CNC turret punch and tube benders to milling machines and polishing equipment. But they were still outsourcing a lot of their work.
The Problem With Outsourcing
Stainless Outfitters outsourced laser as well as some router work.
"There were a couple years that we were paying a laser shop $50,000 to $70,000 annually," says Andrew Fenton, owner. “I used to run a laser and I know it’s not easy to set it up to run just one part. So, it made sense that they had a minimum charge. But there were many times that we were scrambling to find other work to go with the one part to make the minimum charge reasonable."
In addition to the high cost of outsourcing, the timing of getting their parts back could cause problems.
"The boating season in Canada is short. Sail boat racers regularly break something on their boats and they need the part right away. The laser shop's delivery times were a big problem for us. When someone has a half million dollar boat break, he doesn’t want to wait; and he is willing to pay for fast turnaround," Fenton notes.
It was time to bring that work in-house. They were considering a laser or a high definition plasma machine when they saw a Flow waterjet in operation on the popular television show featuring Orange County Choppers.
"The broad range of materials they could cut and the ease of programming one-off parts looked like it would fit our needs perfectly," explains Fenton.
"We looked for a company and a machine tool we could depend on. We also wanted to bring as much work in-house as soon as possible," says Fenton of their search. "Selecting a system that we could quickly learn was important."
Waterjet Brought The Work In-House
The equipment they selected was 4'x 4' Mach 3 (Bengal) with FlowMaster® software. Stainless Outfitters found that the new Flow waterjet allowed them to bring all of the work in-house that they had previously outsourced to laser and router shops. Their plan to greatly reduce turnaround time for their customers was soon realized.
The versatility to cut nearly any material on the waterjet is part of the reason, but the quick set up time of a waterjet and the power of the FlowMaster Intelligent Control System are also key factors.
"By bringing in the waterjet, our turnaround time went from weeks to days," notes Fenton.
FlowMaster is a powerful, yet simple control system specifically designed for waterjet cutting. The Windows®-based software uses SmartStream™ modeling that takes the guesswork out of creating a part. Input material, thickness, and edge quality and FlowMaster takes care of the rest behind the scenes.
FlowMaster sets the correct acceleration, speed, and piercing parameters with its advanced capabilities and integral modeling. All machine and pump functions are controlled and displayed by FlowMaster allowing operators to easily control the cutting system and monitor the progress of a cut.
"The FlowMaster program was easy to learn and it's kept pace with us as we have become more experienced," says Fenton. "Our customers are amazed at how we are able to turn their ideas into a finished product so quickly."
FlowMaster Intelligent Control System allows them to program and cut a part in minutes, and the learning curve was fast. Stainless Outfitters can quickly design and cut a replacement part of any size or shape. The waterjet also allows them to cut unique designs out of unusual materials at high speed and precision, such as carbon fiber and StarBoard®, a non-slip polymer.
"Now we are able to cut swim platforms and ladders with radius cut slots and lay them in a stainless steel frame. They look like show pieces on our customers' boats," says Fenton.
Unexpected Benefits Of The Waterjet
Stainless Outfitters not only met their goal of reducing outsourcing cost and time, they are also finding new customers, optimizing material usage, and increasing quality.
By adding the waterjet, they attracted new customers including local machine shops who have them rough out die blanks to save machining time. They have picked up work ranging from custom sinks and countertops to cutting architectural rails and tile. They even custom cut stainless and other materials for kinetic and architectural artists.
"With the waterjet, we've been so busy, we haven't had to advertise. All of our business comes from word of mouth," says Fenton. "We aren't outsourcing anything to the laser shop anymore. In fact, they are now outsourcing their glass, bronze and copper work to us."
They are now able to maximize the number of parts they get out of their material when waterjet cutting. The width of cut (kerf) is only 40 thousandths of an inch. FlowNest optimizes their use of material by tightly nesting parts and even allowing common line cutting where geometry permits. They can stack thin material and cut out multiple parts at once.
Previously, they ended up with a lot of scrap material in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. Programming to fit odd shaped scrap on FlowMaster is easy. They have also found uses for material that had once been waste.
"When we buy our stainless, it comes with a sheet of plywood," explains Fenton. "I'd try to send it back but material suppliers didn't want it. So, we'd store it or give it away. With the waterjet and FlowMaster, I can cut the exact size and shape of the outer perimeter of the work piece into the plywood, fit the work piece into the cutout, and use it to secure the part. You can’t do that on a laser."
Stainless Outfitters has not only met their goal of bringing work in-house previously outsourced, but also found a tool that expands their capabilities, quality, and brings in new customers. As Fenton sums it up, "Everything we do needs to look good. We have faster turn around and better looking parts. Having the waterjet has increased our productivity ten-fold."
||Stainless Outfitters is located in Barrie, Ontario and can be contacted at (705) 725-1779. Or, visit their website for examples of their fine work at www.stainlessoutfitters.com.|
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