From the day Thomas LaMarca Sr. went into the moldmaking trade as a recently immigrated teenager, he knew that creating a thriving business required outside-the-box thinking. More than a half-century and three generations later, ISO9000-certified L&Z Tool still prides itself on a commitment to state-of-the-art technology and good-old-fashioned American work ethic.
“My father was kind of a renaissance guy, who always saw the future, understood his trade, and was always looking for a better, faster way to make the product,” says Tom LaMarca Jr. “That was ingrained in me and I try to ingrain that in my sons, who now work for the company. This pattern was set for us and it’s why we are in business when others aren’t.”
This M.O. allowed L&Z to not only survive, but also thrive—in a time when business in its home state of New Jersey was quickly evaporating. Once a hotbed of activity for job shops, the number of manufacturers in the state has dramatically dwindled—from what LaMarca estimates to be more than a hundred 30 years ago to less than a dozen today. LaMarca takes great pride in the fact that his shop remains—and that he has been able to contribute to the local economy.
“We buy American, and we try to support other American companies,” he says. “Our employees are American people, building American tools, and spending money in America.”
Business is good because L&Z doesn’t discriminate when it comes to work—manufacturing molds, dies, and tools for everything from medical devices and automotive parts to rakes and toys.
“You name the industry, we either currently work in it or have fairly recently,” LaMarca says. “We are unchallenged by any kind of work. We’ve manufactured molds from 4 inches by 4 inches to up to almost 30,000 lbs.”
Advanced technology for greater success
LaMarca credits much of L&Z’s flexibility to its two Roku-Roku machines—extremely precise, high-speed milling machines.
“The Roku-Roku machines are very flexible—and not dedicated to one type of work,” says LaMarca. “The machine doesn’t know whether it’s making an electrode for a jet or a lawnmower mold. It fits our needs very well.”
L&Z uses the two Roku-Roku machines to create electrodes for five EDM machines (including two Mitsubishi EAD12 machines). The automated cell also includes robots for a fast, self-sufficient machining process.
Because L&Z manufactures components with very tight tolerances—as little as tenths of thousands of an inch—they need machines with repeatable accuracy. The Roku-Roku machines handle this well, LaMarca notes because they are constantly compensating for thermal expansion. This dependable precision is crucial in EDM.
“One of the keys to successful EDM is having electrodes that are identical. When you have an exact duplicate of the previous electrode in size and shape, it doesn’t have to find its way and make a new home,” LaMarca says. “So having accurate electrodes, which the Roku-Roku machines deliver, gives us an edge on time savings, which is extremely important to us.”
In addition to extreme accuracy, the Roku-Roku machines provide a clean environment.
“Electrodes are often made of carbon and graphite, and that creates black dust that can end up all over the shop,” LaMarca says. “The Roku-Roku machines have a vacuum system that keeps everything very well contained so you don’t contaminate the shop. That, along with the cutting performance, is a combination of all that one could dream of when making electrodes.”
Despite his raves about the technology, it was something else that originally drove LaMarca to begin working with MC Machinery. A trusted contact worked with the company—
who convinced LaMarca to try its new EDM and milling technology.
“When it comes to decision-making for machine purchases, you have to analyze the people behind the claims,” says LaMarca. “To me, my contact at MC Machinery represents honesty, integrity, technical understanding, and ability beyond your typical machine salesman. When he came to us representing MC Machinery, I knew he would only represent the best.”
The decision proved to be a smart one: LaMarca is “extremely, extremely happy” with his machines—and the support behind them. In fact, MC Machinery technical support people even have access to observe the machines remotely, so they can make recommendations as needed.
“Training and support have been everything that one could ask for, and they are extremely up to date with communication and problem-solving,” LaMarca says. “Any issue you present to them, they make the best efforts to solve it as quickly as possible.”
LaMarca says there is “no question” he will expand with MC Machinery in the future.
“You can provide high quality, but if you can’t provide it in a timely manner, then you’re no longer a player. You have to bring in the big guns that will bring you to that next level—and it’s a moving target,” LaMarca says. “To stay at the front of the line, you have to stay up to date with technology. Mitsubishi is definitely there—constantly trying to improve, looking for the better mousetrap. They do their homework, and they don’t bring anything to market that isn’t proven. You really know you’re in good hands.”
LaMarca knows this trust is the foundation for a long and fruitful relationship.
“It’s about finding a company you can trust—the same reason why people come to us; they know that we deliver in a timely fashion, are reliable and really stand behind the product,” he says. “What we try to be for our customer, MC Machinery is for us.”