MRO Magazine

Cincinnati Incorporated targets 30-50 percent capacity increase with plant investments


Industry

February 22, 2010
By PEM Magazine

Cincinnati Incorporated is turning the tables on the economic downturn and positioning itself for the recovery, much as it prompts its own customers to do. The company is investing 10 percent of 2009 sales – and another 10 percent in 2010 – to re-tool its plant and implement lean practices from top to bottom. Investments in machine tool upgrades and training will reduce lead times on built-to-order machines by 50 percent and increase capacity 30-50 percent without adding labor hours while reducing manufacturing costs and improving competitiveness. The manufacturer of laser cutting systems, press brakes, powdered metal presses and shears has completely rebuilt its major machine tools with new controls, drives and spindles. All employees will have received lean training within the next six months, as well.
   
According to Michiel Schuitemaker, president and CEO of Cincinnati Incorporated, the company is taking advantage of the excess capacity created by the economic downturn to rebuild key machines including a 100-hp Waldrich Coburg portal gantry mill, a twin-traveling column Mazak horizontal machining center, and a Makino HMC with a 40-inch work cube. "At the onset of the recovery, quick delivery is going to be as critical as price," says Schuitemaker. "The rebuilds coupled with lean practices will be crucial to our objectives of increased velocity and plant capacity, even with a reduced workforce, while allowing us to hold prices down through internal cost reduction." With the current economic conditions, manufacturers have faced the double-edged challenge of having to reduce staff and resist price increases to offset revenue loses. While Cincinnati has reduced staff in the last year, it has kept machine prices at 2007 levels.
   
Cincinnati is one of the last build-to-order U.S.-based machine tool makers, and has shipped more than 60,000 machines in its 111 years of operation. Its new demand-based, JIT system helps reduce work in progress and cuts lead times down to as little as two weeks. "We have right-sized everything we buy or produce to the quantity we have demand for," said Schuitemaker. "Our goal is to make custom machines to meet our customers’ unique needs in the same time frame as others deliver standard stock machines."
   
The company, even at 100-plus years, is demonstrating a young outlook and willingness to embrace new ideas and technology. "A core competency is production of our own machine control hardware and software," said Schuitemaker. "We recently incorporated surface mount manufacturing capabilities by purchasing pick-and-place robots and automated soldering machines. This allows us to reduce lead times and use smaller components for smaller footprints on more complex circuit boards."
   
Also demonstrating Cincinnati’s commitment to lean practices is the new web-based machine diagnostics/monitoring system that allows customers access to remote trouble-shooting services, and saves them time and money. "We found that a third of our service calls can quickly be solved using remote diagnostics," said Schuitemaker. "And if a service call is required, remote diagnostics allows us to identify and ship the required parts so they are at the customer’s site even before the service rep arrives."
   
Cincinnati releases regular software upgrades to its customers to take advantage of the latest manufacturing techniques. Schuitemaker stresses that Cincinnati engineers and builds its machines to the standard of ruggedness expected in the North American market – so rugged, in fact, that many machines 15 to 20 years old fetch their original purchase price in the used market. “It’s like having a 20 year money back guarantee on Cincinnati machine tools,” Schuitemaker jokes. With this focus, the company also uses nearly 100 percent North American components.
   
For more information on Cincinnati Incorporated’s laser cutters, press brakes, shears and software products, visit its web site at www.e-ci.com.