Westminster Tool Invests 10% of Revenue into New Machining Equipment
Westminster Tool’s injection mold department has consistently grown faster than ever before in response to the increased demands in medical device manufacturing. In 2020, we invested over 10% of revenue in updating, replacing, and expanding equipment across the shop to improve efficiencies and keep up with the demand.
The area that saw the largest enhancement was our hard machining department. We now have three high-speed 3-axis machines and one high-speed 5-axis machine where there was only a single Mikron HSM500 before, which has increased our overall milling capacity by over 400%. The goal was originally to increase throughput by reducing our overall lead time, but the benefits have already begun to make an impact in other ways.
By adding more machining capabilities—including faster milling times and more advanced automation—we can bring in more work because of the improved efficiencies. The 5-axis capabilities, for example, open us to more intricate types of jobs because we can now hit complex geometries and angles difficult to achieve before.
The automation alone currently provides a promising impact on unattended time for all the new machines. The adoption of automated pallet handling not only promises to reduce setup time but makes lights-out operation possible. Once up and running, the new Mikron HSM_400U LP’s pallet pool attachment will make it even easier for the machine to run almost entirely unattended.
We also welcomed an additional wire EDM machine—a Sodick ALN 400G. The investment stemmed mainly from the expected increase in aerospace production, a projected rise of 30% in 2021 that will require additional wire EDM capacity. The added benefits include new opportunities for cross-training and a chance for production workers to gain even more manufacturing experience before joining other areas of the shop.
With new equipment comes a larger equipment footprint, so over the holidays, we embarked on a complete reconfiguration of the shop floor. We spent weeks planning and re-imagining what operations would look like here with the new equipment. Shutting down the shop for a few days allowed us to move equipment and fully optimize the shop’s workflow.
The big move placed all milling equipment in a single, centralized cell. It also included moving the electrode milling machines closer to the new 5-axis machine with hopes of combining the two departments by mid-year.
Aside from doubling our machining capacity, one of our most valuable experiences with the new equipment has been with opening training opportunities. By freeing up more machines in the milling department, our experienced machinists have more time to train and cross-train other employees.
Cross-training is a critical part of our culture here, but sometimes production requirements made it hard to use the machines for that training. Previously we had enough work to keep the single mill running 24/7, leaving few opportunities for training. The new machine has already allowed one of our hard mill apprentices to double her training progress in just three weeks, a milestone that would have taken double the time previously.
These investments are just the beginning of our plans for increasing automation and robotics throughout the company. In addition to COVID-related demand, the medical industry continues to progress year after year. And as the demand for high-precision medical molds grows, Westminster Tool plans to continue rising to the challenge and growing its market share.
Check out the pictures below to see how much our shop floor has changed between 2014 and 2021.
To find out how we can help you on your next project, please visit westminstertool.com/contact-us.