Always Advance: One Supplier’s Attack Plan For Defense Work

ADEPT Technologies operates under a business philosophy of ‘move forward or die.’ Such a simple and direct approach has been the driving force behind the company’s transformation from a stereotypical machine shop to the fully integrated national defense manufacturing facility it is today, and one that could be considered a model for how machine shops might look and operate in the future.

From day one, a key component to ADEPT’s transformation has been a continuous re-investment into its manufacturing facility and employees, even when economic times are tough. These investments, over the years, have yielded a move into a sleek high-tech building that looks nothing like the typical machining facility with an on-site cafeteria staffed by two full-time professional chefs that prepare employees free daily lunches and an on-site fully equipped employee wellness center. The company maintains an aggressive marketing campaign and, most importantly, a manufacturing floor kept constantly updated with latest cutting-edge systems and machine tools.

According to twin brothers Brad Fielder, president of ADEPT, and Chad Fielder, vice president/CEO of ADEPT, there is nowhere else that the company’s ‘move forward or die’ philosophy applies more than to manufacturing technology. The brothers make it a practice to re-evaluate and replace existing machine tools with new systems every five or so years, sooner if they discover a system that could provide immediate benefits.

This practice has also contributed to keeping practically all ADEPT’s manufacturing processes in-house so that the company can be a full-service, one-stop supplier to its national defense customers. In addition to machining, the list of ADEPT’s process capabilities includes engineering, painting, welding, assembly, molding, and testing.

During one of its manufacturing equipment rotation cycles, ADEPT needed to replace a few older basic model CNC milling machines. It did so by incorporating innovative vertical machining center and multitasking machine technology from machine tool builder Mazak Corp. of Florence, Kentucky. The new machines consisted of several VERTICAL CENTER NEXUS vertical machining centers and an INTEGREX 100-IV ST Multi-Tasking machine.

The machines play a critical role in allowing ADEPT to meet its three main defense-work goals of manufacturing high-quality parts, providing them at competitive prices, and shipping them on-time.

“The Mazaks give us the cutting edge of machine tool technology. When we brought the machines on board, they catapulted us to the extremely high level of manufacturing we are currently at,” said Chad Fielder. “Mazak continuously improves upon its machine technology and constantly develops advanced equipment that we will incorporate. It is one of very few machine tool companies that can provide us with a full spectrum of equipment and expertise, from simple lathes to five-axis Multi-Tasking machines. In a way, Mazak works under the same ‘move forward or die’ philosophy that ADEPT does – always advancing.”

He adds that the Mazak machines are durable, fast, accurate, and flexible, and the support from local Mazak distributor Pinnacle Machine Tools in Meridianville, Alabama, helps further ensure that ADEPT will always get the most out of its Mazak equipment. Through Pinnacle Machine Tools, ADEPT acquired its six VERTICAL CENTER NEXUS 510C-II vertical machining centers, a VERTICAL CENTER NEXUS 700E/40 II vertical machining center, and an INTEXGREX 100-IV ST Multi-Tasking machine.

The bulk of ADEPT’s work consists of 4-axis and 5-axis machined part designs that involve highly complex shapes and features. Job lot sizes can typically run at single prototype part levels, at 100 or less parts, or in the thousands for annual production orders. The diverse materials the company works with include stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, 5083 armor grade aluminum, HY 80 steel armor, and exotics such as carboloy and composites.

What differentiates ADEPT from its competitors is that it easily handles both large and small-scale work and seamlessly moves back and forth between the two. The company is ISO certified and, in 2003, gained its ASI 900 certification for producing flight-critical and flight-safety-type components. It is also Nadcap certified in welding, plating, painting, and various other processes. In 2009, aerospace manufacturer Northrop-Grumman named ADEPT as a Corporate Level Supplier of the Year, out of a field of 10,000 other suppliers.

ADEPT’s manufactured defense components can range from armor plating for military ground vehicles, to electronic chassis for defense aircraft, to huge missile-shipping containers and flight safety critical bearings for the U.S. Army UH60 Black Hawk helicopter. It is these Black Hawk bearings where the Mazak equipment, specifically the INTEGREX 100-IV ST Multi-Tasking machine, proved extremely critical to the manufacturing process, and actually helped to win the contract from the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Al.

According to Brad Fielder, ADEPT is the first outside supplier permitted to produce such parts for the Black Hawk in the past 20 years. He said that ADEPT, unlike larger suppliers, has the speed and agility to quickly process such work and meet changing job demands.

“We accomplish in one week what would take larger companies months. That’s because we do everything here and incorporate only the latest machine tool technology, such as the Mazak INTEGREX 100-IV ST,” said Brad Fielder.

The flexibility and done-in-one capability of the INTEGREX 100-IV ST lends itself perfectly to ADEPT’s prototype and production work. And for the Black Hawk flight-bearing job, the titanium parts are simply clamped once and come off the machine complete.

Large bearings are machined from forgings, and smaller versions from bar stock. With the INTEGREX 100-IV ST, ADEPT will advance from the prototype stage of the job to an annual production volume of 3,000 for each of the four different bearing styles involved with the contract.

“If we didn’t machine these bearings on a Multi-Tasking machine, the process would require multiple setups on multiple milling and turning machines and a lot more operations than with the INTEGREX 100-IV ST,” explained Chad Fiedler. “The INTEGREX 100-IV ST allows us to go from raw material to completely finished parts using one machine and only three operations. In addition, this boosts part accuracy and improves overall quality.”

ADEPT’s INTEGREX 100-IV ST features a 6-in.-diameter chuck and machines parts measuring up to 21.46 in. in diameter and as long as 28.94-in. Its main and second spindles both rotate at 6,000 rpm with 15 hp, while the milling spindle provides 12,000 rpm/7.5 hp machining capability.

Its six Mazak VERTICAL CENTER NEXUS 510C-II machines provide ADEPT with setup flexibility and ample machining room, with tables measuring 51.18 in. x 21.65 in. and X/Y/Z-axes of 41.34 in., 20.08 in., and 20.08 in. respectively. The shop easily accommodates a wide variety of defense-part machining requirements with the machines’ CAT-40 12,000-rpm/25-hp spindles, rapid traverse speeds of 1,417 ipm, and 30-tool storage capacities.

ADEPT’s VERTICAL CENTER NEXUS 700E/40-II is the largest size vertical machining center produced at Mazak’s Kentucky manufacturing plant. The machine’s worktable size is 80.0 in. x 27.5 in. Its 40-taper spindle delivers 12,000 rpm and 25 hp and is amply supplied with tools from a 30-tool storage system. Machine table travels in the X axis measure 80.00 in., Y axis 27.56 in., and in the Z axis 28.35 in.

About ADEPT Technologies

ADEPT Technologies is an ISO 9001:2008, AS9100:2004 Rev. B, and Nadcap Registered SDB8(a) Native American Owned Company. ADEPT is a growth oriented, complete precision manufacturing, machining, welding, assembly, and fabrication facility specializing in military/defense, aerospace, aircraft and commercial industries. The company is located in Huntsville, Alabama, and its website is www.adept-technologies.com.


About Mazak Corporation

Mazak Corporation is a leader in the design and manufacture of productive machine tool solutions. Committed to being a partner to customers with innovative technology, its world-class facility in Florence, Kentucky, produces over 100 models of turning centers, Multi-Tasking machines and vertical machining centers, including 5- axis models. Continuously investing in manufacturing technology allows the Kentucky Mazak iSMART Factory™ to be the most advanced and efficient in the industry, providing high-quality and reliable products through its “Production-On-Demand” practice. Mazak maintains eight Technology Centers across North America to provide local hands-on applications, service and sales support to customers. For more information on Mazak's products and solutions, visit www.mazakusa.com or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.