North American mold manufacturer Hi-Tech Mold & Eng., Inc. has an impressive success story behind it. So impressive, in fact, that it's worth taking a closer look behind the scenes. As always: A broad entrepreneurial perspective and using the right technology are two sides of the same coin.
Hi-Tech Mold & Eng.
Fraser, Michigan, United States
Optimal process solutions
We're saving time, we're manufacturing much more effectively and we're achieving better results faster and with fewer personnel.
This success story started back in 1982. With only four employees, Siegfried "Siggy" Schulte founded a small family business in Fraser, Michigan. Fraser is approximately 30 kilometers northeast of Detroit and not far from the headquarters of Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and many automotive subsuppliers. The company now has approximately 450 employees around the world. It supplies customers in the plastics processing industry in the USA, China, Mexico, Brazil and Germany with dies, fixtures and gauges. The company, which has since moved its headquarters to Rochester Hills, Michigan, also includes conceptualization, design and repair services in its portfolio. Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. also responded to growing demand in 1998 with the founding of a second site in Winchester, Tennessee. Siegfried Schulte is now a silent partner in the company; his son Robert is the managing director. Searching for the reason for the company’s impressive success quickly reveals its secret. Despite its continually growing everyday business, Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. has always kept an eye on strategic necessities. These include the implementation of up-to-date technology as well as the addition of automated structures and processes – and the preparedness to call on the right partners when necessary.
Tebis came into the picture in 2001 – at first with only one workstation. The decision was made after a comprehensive benchmark study with other CAD/CAM systems, with Tebis as the clear winner. Taverner, vice president in charge of operations, explains: "Tebis is simply the perfect software for our company. The NC programs yield first-class surfaces. Precise collision checking with the Tebis Simulator before NC output is also of inestimable value." The CAD aspect also played a large role, as the company focuses primarily on product design: "Data transfers with CATIA proceed without a hitch. Data redundancy is reduced to a minimum and all necessary specifications are complied with. Geometries can also be quickly adjusted after import thanks to the integral CAD functionalities." Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. now relies entirely on Tebis. The software is implemented throughout, from work preparation to the manufacturing floor. The number of CAD/CAM workstations alone has quickly increased to 22. But other modules from the Tebis family are also represented, including the Organizer, Simulator and Electrode Design. However, the collaboration between the companies goes far beyond the simple use of the Tebis software. Significant emphasis is placed on the continuous optimization of processes and the best possible utilization of potential – because that's what sets companies like Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. apart from the others.
As a company grows, the importance of standards and innovative process solutions also grows. Increasing numbers of personnel who have to access the same information, many machines and tools that have to be utilized as efficiently as possible and the provision of custom services for a broad range of customers make it absolutely essential that work steps are coordinated between departments and that repeating procedures are automated along the entire process chain. With this goal in mind, Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. finally worked with Tebis America to conduct a process analysis in late 2011. Two significant results had crystallized out at the end of the investigation. On the one hand, it was found that Tebis BREP modules should be implemented in work preparation. On the other, NC libraries and templates represented a significant opportunity to optimize processes and to better utilize potential.
Tebis Surfacer, a part of the BREP product family, can be used to optimally prepare parts for subsequent milling processes. For example, any desired surfaces can be combined, significantly reducing the number of segments – improving the entire surface layout. Trial runs at Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. revealed that the milling processes could be reduced by an average of 20% just by using Surfacer. These results were also verified in practice. Today it's impossible to imagine manufacturing design without Surfacer.
Over the course of 2012, the departments for 2.5D, gun drilling and electrode machining were expanded – and it was also just the right time to implement the recommendations for improvement from the second part of the process analysis. Keyword: NC automation. "The decision to structure our processes based on the Tebis standardization concept has revolutionized our work methods in design and manufacturing," explains Cheyne. He summarizes the benefits: "We're achieving significantly higher quality levels as well as shorter processing times by using NC templates including feature recognition and machine-specific tool libraries. We’re using the freed-up potential to develop new ideas, refine processes and promote the development of our employees. Using templates, even new employees with no programming experience can generate simple NC programs after just a single week of training. In short: We're saving time, we're manufacturing much more effectively and we're achieving better results faster and with fewer personnel."
The Tebis Simulator has also taken on a permanent position in the process chain. "We couldn't do without the Simulator for collision checking. All of the components, including the machine, tools and toolpaths are accounted for," explains applications specialist Cheyne. "But we are also using the Simulator as a planning tool to configure workpiece setup and positioning. This lets us process every part using the smallest possible machine." Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. has more than succeeded in implementing the Tebis philosophy in its everyday work. This success is also confirmed by the company’s ranking in "Plastic News," the globally recognized information platform for the plastics industry. Hi-Tech Mold & Eng. has moved up to number four among the most successful die and mold manufacturers in North America.