CNC Machining Increases Production and Profits

CNC machining center and barcoding allow a Wisconsin store fixtures manufacturer to streamline its production process and ship a complete store every one and a half days.

By Jo-Ann Kaiser

One of KCI's recent projects was the lobby for Bullseye Credit Union in Wisconsin Rapids, WI.

Wayne Klawes is owner and founder of Klawes Co. Inc. (KCI), a Menomenee Falls, WI-based manufacturer of commercial case goods and store fixtures. Klawes founded the company in January 1993 after parting ways with a company that also manufactured commercial and institutional cabinets.

In its six-and-one-half-year history, KCI's has amassed impressive growth. Klawes moved the firm to its present location three years ago, buying the building and increasing manufacturing space from 8,500 square feet to 13,500 square feet.

He has also made several capital improvements, spending some $380,000 on new machinery in the past 18 months alone. The list of new machines includes a Busellato JET 6000 CNC machining center; DMG 50 CB contour bander and DMG 52 CT contour trimmer; and a Busellato Velox FL/1 dowel, boring, gluing and inserting machine.

An IDM Model 4920 edgebander was added to the production floor in January 1997 and a Schelling FMH 330 panel saw was installed in May 2000. The new saw has a larger computer and features laser printing capabilities at the saw for the bar coding system used in conjunction with the CNC machines. Klawes bought the CNC machining center in order to handle a new account.

"We needed to be able to do store fixtures for a large national account, requiring the capabilities of shipping a completed store every one-and-a-half days," Klawes says.

The job involves manufacturing 'snail'-shaped sales counters and cases. Klawes say KCI worked with the client to revise the layout into a modular design. The system includes 54 different curved counter sections with a variety of cutouts, two basic shell base cabinet enclosures, and 13 different insert cabinets just to facilitate the different store layout configurations.

"Without the machining center, we couldn't have attempted the job. Before the CNC was installed, we had to outsource the work. We knew we couldn't do the shapes the job required manually. To do so would require working with jigs and fixtures and would take too much time. For the countertops alone it would have taken 35 man hours to complete a set of tops for one store. With the CNC machining center, the tops are ready for shipping in just four hours.

The machining center takes over the work previously done on a Morbidelli Globo 363 construction line boring machine. "Our old boring machine had only the capability of boring two straight lines of holes," Klawes says, "while the new machining center offers us complete versatility. If you can draw a part on AutoCAD, the machining center will manufacture it."

The Busellato Jet 6000 features a work area of 5 feet 3 inches by 10 feet 6 inches, 20 vertical drill spindles, eight horizontal drill spindles, one 12-hp electro spindle, one nine-hp router, and an eight-position tool changer.

KCI purchased the optional fourth axis for the Jet 6000, which allows the company to do edge drilling and routing on any shape or angle as required with the use of a universal 0- to 90-degree angle tool holder in the electro spindle position. In addition to cutting labor dramatically, the machine is highly accurate and dependable.

"With modular pieces you cannot afford to have any deviation in size," Klawes says. "Since we have started using the CNC machining center, we have not had any problems with rejects. We have shipped more than 140 stores so far without a single problem with in the field assembly. The machining center eliminates operator error and provides the uniformity we need. Parts come off the machining center and go to the contour bander and trimmer and are virtually ready to be shipped without the need for additional work. The machine does very clean work."

Doing the Research

When Klawes began shopping for a CNC machining center, he had a smaller machine in mind. He did his research by talking to many end users of various brands, discussing the reliability, service, and capacity aspects along with the integration of software programs into the machining center.

Based on his research, he opted for the larger, more expensive Jet 6000 center with more capabilities and has been very happy with the choice. The machining center is used approximately 80 percent of each work day, with almost every part manufactured in the shop passing through the machine for shaping, line/construction boring, hinge holes, dowel holes or edge fasteners.

 

These store fixtures by KCI were installed in the cosmetics section of Tobin's specialty store in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.

The software used in conjunction with the machinery is Pattern Systems International, including Product Planner, Cut Planner, Drill Mate, Labeling and Bar Coding. For the Pattern Systems integration, the company used the Florida-based firm Power Up and from Illinois-based Integrated Software Consulting.

"The two Pattern Systems technicians have a predesigned information system which eliminated the need for months of set up and configuration time and gave us instant use of hundreds of options, complete with machining information for the CNC," Klawes says. "They have also efficiently coordinated the Busellato Genesis software to function with Pattern Systems."

Power Up works with Pattern Systems to produce a catalog featuring information such as all the drilling patterns and different ways to assemble a cabinet.

"It is more detailed and less generic than the catalog provided with Pattern Systems alone and it greatly reduces the computer operating time needed for each job," says, Steve Stevenson, KCI's production manager.

After the machining center was ordered, Klawes and Stevenson took a crash course in AutoCAD Drawing/Design programming.

"They said we couldn't possibly learn enough in the two weeks, but we did it and are fully utilizing the program for the required custom pieces," Klawes says. "Both the CNC machining center and the new CNC saw are programmed for bar codes. We are very happy with the addition of bar coding. It removes the chance of operator error since it eliminates the need for the operator to look at a part, then return to the computer screen and search for the proper program of the part. Once the bar code is read, the machine knows what to do."

Stevenson likes the new machinery as well. "The accuracy and uniformity with the machines is phenomenal," he says, "and they have allowed us to take on more complex radius work while producing a superior product. Everything is done right

the first time with these machines. Before, we were routing with templates and other things. Now a part comes off the machines, the hardware is installed and the part proceeds directly to assembly." Klawes and Stevenson think the possibilities are limitless in the kinds of work they can perform with the machinery in place.

Booming Business

Business has been booming for the company, which averages more than $2 million in sales annually. In addition to the major national store account, KCI does a mix of store fixtures and commercial cabinetry.

KCI's work can be seen in the Midwest in such settings as banks, gift shops, drug stores, retail stores, motorcycle dealerships, retirement homes and offices. Klawes and company are currently working on a line of music library furniture, such as source consoles and listening carrels.

Tobin's, a specialty store in southeastern Wisconsin, features an array of their custom work displaying perfume, cosmetics, clothing and gift items in high-end lighted, glass cabinetry. Also in this store is a custom arched transom window and doorway leading into another section of the display areas.

KCI also runs jobs on the CNC machine center and panel saw for other cabinet shops on an outsource basis.

Much of the commercial casegoods and store fixtures produced by KCI are fabricated from melamine and high-pressure laminate mixture, although some work does require the use of wood veneers and wood accents.

Klawes explains that the store fixture market is constantly changing and fashion-sensitive. "Popular looks with designers today include mixing laminates with metals, ceramic tile inlays, and using solid surface details. Contours and soft-formed edges are really big, while the plain box is a thing of the past, replaced with interesting shapes.

"Another change of doing business today is that customers often want things done and shipped in three to four weeks as opposed to the old days of eight to 10 weeks. It makes our job interesting. You do quite a bit of juggling to keep everyone happy," Klawes says, citing some of the reasons for investing in the sophisticated new machinery.

"But probably the biggest reason for making the change to the new machinery is the current labor market. At the present time, there is a shortage of qualified cabinet makers along with an employable labor force, which creates the need for 'smart' machinery that allows us to utilize our people more efficiently."

Klawes has 13 employees, with 11 on the production floor, utilizing a four-day work week of 10 hours per day, which allows for overtime on Fridays, yet maintaining a full weekend off for the employees to "recharge."

 

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