Manufacturing cells that group together machine tools for processing components made from similar materials and families of parts are key to a lean environment, allowing manufacturers to better manage their workflow and ultimately operate faster and more productively. Daman Products Co., Inc., a leading hydraulic valve manifold shop based in Northern, Indiana, has long relied on manufacturing cells to achieve higher productivity levels, improve on-time delivery as well as increase its responsiveness to fluctuating market conditions.
Daman specializes in both standard and custom-engineered manifolds. The company runs three shifts up to six days a week and divides its workflow between four different machining cells – designated A, B, C and D – based on material type, product size and standard versus custom work. Two cells are responsible for machining aluminum parts, another for ductile iron and one for machining both types of materials.
The company relies on its horizontal and vertical machining centers from Mazak to give each cell the appropriate level of versatility and capacity required for effectively accommodating the varying needs of more than 2,000 customers. A typical cell configuration at Daman consists of two or three standalone machine tools.
Daman purchased its first Mazak machine in 1985 and currently has 13 total. Over the years, as more and more people wanted to benefit from Daman’s quality and expertise, the company started incorporating manufacturing cells as a way of becoming a highly efficient single-source, full-range manifold supplier.
The manufacturing flexibility provided by machining cells allows Daman to produce lot sizes ranging from one piece to thousands and various components from simple circuit blocks to complex integrated circuits. Typical manifolds require part tolerances that are within +/- .015”, however, based on customer needs, Daman must often hold tolerances within +/- .005” as far as part feature locations are concerned. As a whole, Daman meets or exceeds the standards set forth by the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA), as well as specifications by the International Standards Organization (ISO).
While incoming orders dropped significantly between December 2007 and June 2009 – as they did for most of the manufacturing industry during that time period – the company celebrated a record-breaking year in 2011 with a 30 percent increase in orders due to the economy picking up steam and the hydraulic and pneumatic industry experiencing an overall increase in business. In fact, by the end of 2011, fluid power shipments were up over 22 percent when compared with 2010.
To keep up with its surge of incoming orders and accommodate its projected double-digit growth for 2012, Daman had to increase the production capacity of two of its existing cells, so it added two new Mazak Horizontal Center Nexus (HCN) 6800-II Machining Centers – one of which features a special 240-tool hive system. Both machines were acquired from the shop’s Mazak distributor Machinery Systems Inc. in Schaumburg, Ill.
Daman is also in the process of adding a 24,000-square-foot addition to its current 47,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. And according to Larry Davis, president of Daman, the company’s decision to do so and increase capacity through new machine tools evolved naturally. “Increased sales demands, particularly with our custom orders, and consistent extensions in lead times led everyone in the company to the same conclusion: it’s time,” he noted. “And with the expansion, we anticipate adding two more manufacturing cells within the next one to five years.”
The new HCN 6800-II with the tool hive resides, along with two other machines, in Daman’s Cell B, which is one of shop’s prized productivity-improving possessions. When that HCN 6800-II first hit the shop floor last spring, it was operating alongside the only expandable 240-tool hive with the most sophisticated software available in the industry.
“Once we put the Mazaks to work, we immediately started benefiting from their reliability, repeatability and durability,” said Davis. “Add to that the machines’ speed, and our cycle times also dropped significantly.”
A constant buzz of activity generates from Cell B, which currently builds large standard and custom aluminum parts. On average, Cell B produces up to 40 different jobs per week, 75 percent of which are custom. The company plans to go 100 percent custom with the cell in the near future. Cell B is capable of producing parts as small as 0.5” x 1” x 2” and as big as 10” x 10” x 32”, but Daman, overall, machines parts as long as 69”.
According to Tim McIntyre, Daman production team leader for Cell B, the HCN 6800-II has significantly increased the cell’s production capacity through its generous 24.8” x 24.8” pallet size with a load capacity of 3,300 lbs. and high-speed technologies, which include a powerful 10,000-rpm, 50-hp CAT-50 taper spindle and a rapid machine traverse capability of 2,362 ipm.
Moreover, by utilizing linear guides on all axes, the HCN 6800-II enables Daman to maintain high levels of accuracy at fast feed/rates as well as reduce non-cutting time. The 2-pallet changer that comes standard on the HCN 6800-II further decreases Daman’s non-cutting time and significantly reduces part cycle times by allowing employees to load, unload and inspect parts on one pallet, while the machine continues to work on parts fixtured on the other pallet. Other efficiencies come by way of Daman completing 95 percent of its parts on one machine as opposed to moving parts from one machine to another for sequences of operations.
While most people in the industry use G-code programming, McIntyre prefers the simple, smart MAZATROL MATRIX NEXUS conversational programming that’s available on the HCN 6800-II. “We’re able to significantly reduce our programming time thanks to the MAZATROL CNC controls,” he said.
McIntyre further noted the large tool storage capacity of the tool hive brings forth some of Cell B’s greatest efficiencies. “We can load and unload tools while we’re working on other jobs. That’s reduced our set-up time to virtually zero,” he said.
Unlike chain-driven tool magazines, the hive and HCN 6800-II operate separately, with a robotic arm moving the tools to and from the pocket-changing area. Employees enter data into the tool hive system in advance of production. Interactive programming allows the system to communicate job-specific tool requirements directly to the machining center. The hive holds twice as many tools as a conventional magazine, and approximately 200 of the most commonly used tools by Daman, which include a variety of solid carbide, high-speed steel and carbide brazed cutting tools, now permanently reside in the hive.
Daman employees have developed a program that enables them to effectively evaluate cutting tool life, so they can remove tools from the hive before they break. A presetter measures the diameter and height of each tool offline, while electronic microchips embedded in tool holder retention knobs store the tool data. The chips serve as conduits between the presetter and tool database, transferring all of the important information into the machine tool.
In addition to boosting its efficiency through advanced manufacturing cells, Daman also synchronizes its workflow using a “WinWork” philosophy, which places high value on the company’s more than 100 employees. WinWork is all about streamlining internal processes and creating an empowering work environment that gives employees what they need to make each customer’s success a top priority.
The company doesn’t believe in multiple layers of management, rather it goes to great lengths to hire the right people and give authority to people who know what to do with it. In fact, Davis said he and vice president, Dave Mischler, are very hands off when it comes to what happens on the shop floor.
“The employees on the manufacturing floor know their jobs better than upper management ever could,” said Mischler. “We don’t want them to have to waste time going through several different managers to get permission on something. We let employees control their own work, including buying their own tooling and material.”
Mischler also said ongoing communication with employees is another key component of Daman’s WinWork philosophy. “We can’t stress communication enough,” he said. “Everyone has full access to our work schedules, knows why company-wide decisions are made and can see the big picture of our business.”
Such communication practices have gotten Daman employees to care about sales, not just what is happening inside the company. They see the orders and know what is coming their way. They even notice if orders are slow and ask what they can do to help.
“What we’ve done is transform traditional jobs into dynamic, vital parts of an efficient organization,” concluded Mischler. “Everyone at Daman is on the same page, which enables us to not only give our customers the products they want, but also the high levels of responsiveness they deserve.”
When Larry Davis’ father, Jack Davis, founded Daman in 1976, he didn’t have any manufacturing experience or any orders in hand. Jack did, however, push the company forward through perseverance and fiercely defending the belief that quality sells, and that impressing the customer at every opportunity is vital to success — a mantra that Larry and the Daman team obviously continue today. Not only does Daman purchase the most reliable, high-performance equipment, such as its two new Mazak HCN 6800-IIs, to stay on the cutting edge of manifold design, the company also implements realistic programs and strategies that put the interests of its customers first.