Maintaining growth has been central to the success of Cincinnati, Ohio contract manufacturer The Metalworking Group and has taken many forms including acquisitions, both business and technology.
The Metalworking Group began as a business in 1982 with the acquisition of Techni-Fab Metal Products, a fab shop specializing in electrical enclosures and other sheet metal components. The following years saw the business add Murrer Tool & Die (1983), the stamping assets of Opitz Metal Products (1986), American Metal Finishings (1989), and Aerospace Precision Metalworking (1990). Today the company has more than 200 employees and provides stamped, machined, and fabricated parts and assemblies for industries as diverse as medical, military, machine tools, waste management, and fitness equipment. Processes include laser cutting, stamping, press brake bending, turret punch pressing, CNC machining, robotic welding, and conventional and powder-coat finishing.
Acquiring technology and expertise has also been an avenue of growth for the company. “A significant percentage of earnings are always reinvested into the latest technology advances,” says Brad Brune, Vice President of Sales and a 15-year veteran of the company. In 2002, The Metalworking Group acquired Precision Profile, adding laser cutting to its menu of forming and sheet metal fabricating services. Last year, the company added to its laser assets with the purchase of a Mazak HyperGear 2D laser cutting system. “We wanted laser cutting not only to address increased demand from our customers, but to achieve higher efficiencies in-house,” explains Aidan Stringfellow, Vice President of Manufacturing. In 2002, The Metalworking Group’s laser department consisted of a 2,000 watt laser it ran 24/7. In 2006, the company added a 3,500 watt laser and acquired the 4,000 watt HyperGear in 2007. HyperGear’s higher-powered laser resonator not only allowed the laser department to increase its speed and overall productivity, it also expanded the range of metal thicknesses it could process, up to 1 inch in hot and coldrolled steels. Even with the added capacity, The Metalworking Group’s laser department still runs three shifts a day, five days a week.
“Business is running very strong,” says Brune. Sales in 2007 were up more than 60 percent over 2006, and another 30 percent increase is forecast for 2008. “Where we formerly outsourced laser cutting, the new HyperGear not only helped us bring more work back in house, it gave us greater control over our production processes,” Stringfellow explains. With a large quantity and variety of part-processing assignments, the HyperGear is often the first stop for the sheet metal The Metalworking Group receives daily. Where before, the company relied on its turret punch presses to profile and process sheet metal, now it finds profiling on the laser more productive, with the turret punch presses more productive for processing parts with a large number of holes and slots.
“At times, laser cutting can be the first of as many as six or more processes a part goes through,” Stringfellow says. “And depending on the part requirements and volume, other times we find ourselves processing parts complete on the HyperGear. With the lower setup times and the higher resonator power on the HyperGear, it’s quicker to laser cut than to profile and stamp parts, and no dedicated tooling is required.”
“Being a contract manufacturer, we also offer complete project management support,” Brune adds. “Whether we’re manufacturing from prints or designing parts from initial concepts together with our customers, it’s important to have the resources to support entire programs. The HyperGear is giving us good quality parts consistently and reliably, and the overall effectiveness of the department increases our capability.”
Stringfellow agrees, “Laser-cutting more material generates growth. It’s a faster motor for delivering more parts downstream.”