Heise Industries Inc. has implemented a technology upgrade for machining extrusion and injection blow molds, which it claims is so efficient that the firm has been able to close a plant. President Tad Heise, whose company manufactures tooling for Fortune 500 companies, wanted to reduce the direct labor component of the mold-making process.
With a concept in mind, he approached several machinery manufacturers, selecting one that would work with him to develop and refine the process for their equipment.
After 18 months, Heise took delivery in April of a new, high-speed, computer numerically controlled horizontal machining center, which produces finishes sufficient to eliminate the need to hand polish the cavities.
``In our business, labor is the most expensive part of the process,'' Heise said.
By using high-speed equipment, Heise is able to make cavities without leaving cutter marks, which would otherwise require removal by hand, before being sandblasted. All molds manufactured by the conventional process require hand polishing.
``We've been able to cut 15 percent to 20 percent of the man-hours out of the mold build,'' Heise said, adding that the cavities now can go from the CNC machine to the sandblaster. Molds for containers that require a highly polished surface finish still need to be hand-polished.
Heise said the machinery manufacturer, unnamed because of a confidentiality agreement, took a stock machine and refined it to perform at ultrahigh speeds. The one-year confidentiality agreement assures that Heise has sole use of the process.
``We put way too much sweat equity into this to have them peddle it to our competitors just yet,'' he said.
The technology has allowed Heise to increase capacity dramatically, beyond the ability to fully use both of its domestic operations.
``It's a double-edged sword,'' Heise said. ``Labor is expensive, and highly skilled people are hard to develop. With the implementation of this new technology, we are better able to spread the available talent over a larger quantity of molds.''
The technology also resulted in Heise's decision to close the company's Grandview, Mo., facility as of Nov. 20. All in-process orders, and some of the equipment, will be consolidated to the firm's main facility in East Berlin, Conn., which employs 75. Only sales and marketing will remain in Missouri. Heise plans a 10,000-square-foot addition in East Berlin in 1997.
``[This technology] is an unfortunate development from the standpoint that we have to close a plant,'' Heise said. ``But we have so much excess capacity here and the equipment is so capital intensive that we can't afford to have it in two places.''
Heise, who has been in business since 1965, said the technology is not new, and was originally developed by the aerospace industry.
``The Boeings and [McDonnell] Douglases of the world have developed the equipment and tooling, that we translated to the field of making blow molds,'' he said.
Heise also has a joint venture operation in Mexico City. He is doubling the size of that plant to 6,500 square feet, and is looking to add to the staff of eight. The Connecticut plant provides all the training, CNC programming and engineering skills to the Mexico City plant. Workers train in the Connecticut plant for 16 weeks before returning to Mexico City as machinists.
``This [technology] is the most exciting development to happen in our business since the advent of CNC machinery, no doubt about it,'' Heise said. ``It's the only way to stay ahead of foreign competition and the low-cost start-ups.''