California screw maker Santa Fe Machine Works Inc. has invested $1.75 million to move from Los Angeles into a new 15,000-square-foot building in Fontana and buy an advanced milling machine, to keep up with growing demand.
The newly constructed factory is actually about 5,000 square feet smaller than the old space in Los Angeles, but the LA site was inefficient, spread out in buildings on two sides of the street.
``We were working so much overtime to keep our deliveries that we needed to either move forward and purchase more-modern milling machines to make the screws, or watch the work go by,'' said Scott Kelly, chief financial officer.
Kelly said the milling machine - an RMI Phantom 6000 from Cambridge, Ontario-based Racer Machinery International Inc. - will allow Santa Fe Machine to get into intermeshing screws for twin-screw machines. That application requires exact dimensions.
``I can make four or five screws, one after the other, and they're all going to be exact images of each other because it's fully automated,'' said Kelly, who also does sales for the screw manufacturer.
``This machine allows us to cut our lead times drastically, because of the increased milling speed,'' Kelly said.
``We can cut an inch-and-a-half wide, quarter-inch deep at 54 inches per minute.''
The new milling machine also creates a good finish on the screw, cutting down on manual belt polishing, he said. The firm can use the machine to make screws with an outside diameter as small as half an inch up to 10 inches, and up to 25 feet long.
Santa Fe Machine Works was founded in Los Angeles in 1922 by Kelly's great-grandfather. It was a general machine shop, then started making woodworking equipment.
Kelly's grandfather, Tony Brodnick, joined the business and moved Santa Fe Machine into repairing equipment for the steel industry and slaughterhouses. Then Kelly's father, Dennis Kelly, took the company into printing and, in the early 1980s, plastics repair and screw manufacturing.
Those two markets remain strong today. Scott Kelly said plastics-related business accounts for about 50 percent of sales. He said 30 percent comes from the repair of printing equipment.
In addition to making screws and doing screw repairs, Santa Fe Machine distributes barrels from Wexco Corp. The company also rebuilds toggle assemblies and gearboxes, among other types of repair work.
Santa Fe Machine employs 25. It does not release sales.
In the plastics business, the company is a regional player, with about 40 percent of its business coming from plastics processors in the West. But Kelly said the firm also exports some products.
California remains an important market, although it's shrinking as manufacturing leaves the state - another fact that promoted the investment. ``We've just had to be more efficient so we can do more work with less people,'' Kelly said.
Racer designed the Phantom series of milling machines for screw making, said manager Alex Vojinovic. The machine can produce feed screws, parallel and conical twin screws, extrusion screws, mixing screws and other components.
The design minimizes machine vibration while the Phantom makes heavy cuts, reducing tool wear and noise and giving a high-level surface finish on the screw, according to Racer Machinery.
The spindle speed is 6,000 revolutions per minute, with options that can bring the speed up to 8,000, 10,000, 15,000 or 20,000 rpm.