Hunter Engineering grabs control of it's own Destiny

Hunter Engineering grabs control of it's own Destiny

December 11, 2013 9:32:32 AM

A key component for any manufacturing organization’s growth is the ability to control one’s own destiny. For Hunter Engineering in Durant, Miss., this has meant bringing back in house operations that had once been outsourced, increasing speed and efficiency while reducing costs. The addition of Mitsubishi Laser machines over the years has been a big piece in moving toward self-reliance and away from dependence on subcontractors. 

RX Scissor Lift

 

Hunter Engineering specializes in a multitude of parts in the automotive-repair industry, namely wheel alignment systems, lift racks, wheel balancers, tire changers, brake lathes and other automotive repairshop equipment. And the company’s client list is as diverse as its product offerings. 


“We really accommodate a wide range of users,” says Doug Foht, Senior Manufacturing Engineer. “We can supply big tire OEMs like Firestone and Goodyear, a lot of large automotive manufacturers like GM, Ford, Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen/Audi, Jaguar/Land Rover, and BMW, plus some in-factory audit installations. But we also sell to mom-and pop shops.”


INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY 


In order to maintain throughput and keep up with demand, Foht turned to Mitsubishi Laser in 2008. Hunter had been using a 2,000-watt Mitsubishi LXP laser since 1998, so Foht’s familiarity and positive experiences with the company led him back. The new installation, which included one LVplus II Iaser on a modular MSCIII cell with an eight-shelf tower and four over/under carts for finished goods, made an immediate impact. In 2011 another LVplus IIwas purchased along with two more over/under carts and a rail extension for the MSCIII cell. This doubled capacity, which was necessary to keep pace with demand.


“It increased production dramatically. It saved us about 8,000 hours of labor per year, compared to where we were before those two lasers,” Foht says. “Going from a single 2,000-watt to dual 4,000-watt lasers also greatly increased our capability for cutting plate. It allowed us to take a lot of projects off of our plasma cutter and onto the laser, freeing that machine up for parts that are big and don’t have tight tolerances, like the 20-foot-long ‘runway’ sections of the lift racks.” 


The increased power, productivity, and capability with tight tolerances and smaller parts allowed for more capacity to bring outsourced projects in-house. “For example, we had been purchasing the safety locks for RX Scissor Lift from a vendor,” Foht says. “We brought that in-house because we realized we could. We changed the design—¼ inch is a sweet spot for the LVplus II—to get glass-like edge quality. Then we just layer and plug weld; it has been a huge success.”


The machines also freed the engineers to be more creative in their design. Before, they had been limited to designs that were able to be sheared and punched, or were forced to rely on designs with only right angles. The Mitsubishi lasers allowed the projects to be more free-form and consolidate operations since once-weldedtogether components comprised of three to four pieces are now completed in a single operation. With the lasers on the job, hardly any shearing or punching is even done at the Durant shop anymore.


NEXT STEPS 


Four years after the initial installation, Hunter Engineering is again beginning to exceed capacity for the two lasers. This increased demand has Foht on the lookout for another Mitsubishi machine. Instead of adding a third laser to the existing cell, he’s betting on continued growth and increased productivity by leaning toward more full automation—a single-tower offload cart and a single laser on another MSCII cell. These cells are modular, so down the road when the shop reaches capacity again, it may add a fourth laser for two separate, fully automated cells. 


“These machines are heavy—they’re not the easiest to move,” Foht jokes. “So as we grow, we have to grow smart—it’s a bet on ourselves.”

 

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