Santa Ana, Calif. — Ambrit Engineering Corp. is undergoing wide-ranging transformations including plant realignment.
In an unprecedented step for the firm, Ambrit will discontinue operations from Dec. 19 through Jan. 4. Usually, Ambrit operates during that period except for the holidays.
During the shutdown, contractors will reposition equipment, resurface floors, double the size of the Class 100,000 clean room and prepare for the installation of a total of four new Arburg injection molding machines in January and February.
The aim is to better serve Ambrit customers, Terrence Saul, president and CEO, said during a Nov. 12 plant visit in Santa Ana.
John Mattimoe, long-time owner and chairman of the board, hired Saul in early 2014 to drive changes at Ambrit. Previously, Saul transformed operations and increased capacity of a contract metal manufacturer in Sioux City, Iowa.
Saul started the lean transformation process at Ambrit in mid-2014 and, during 2015, hired two professionals with Six Sigma Black Belt credentials and two others with Six Sigma Green Belts. Three other employees are candidates for the quality-driven certifications.
In addition, “we are recruiting young engineering talent,” Saul said.
Phil Tapia joined Ambrit in June and serves as director of technical operations and process improvement. He was certified in 2009 as a Six Sigma Black Belt and has extensive experience in machine repair and field service work including time with the Milacron and Husky organizations.
Saul and Tapia talk the same language. “We were both Eagle Scouts and Army sergeants,” Saul said.
Ambrit had sales of $12.95 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, said Les Middleton, who directs sales and marketing and also runs the engineering group.
The medical market accounted for 60 percent and aerospace for 7 percent.
Previous fiscal-year sales were $11.97 million, and the target for the current year is $14.5 million.
“Our goal is to add more medical and expand aerospace while basically retaining the percentage breakdown with a larger total volume,” said Middleton, who joined Ambrit in 2011.
“Arburg is our machine platform moving forward,” he said. “We have a long-term partnership with Arburg.”
Arburg's capabilities for rapid-release coupling for the screw and central connection of all cylinder module supply units were key factors in pushing Ambrit toward the technologies of Germany-based Arburg GmbH + Co KG. Arburg's western U.S. regional technical center is located in Irvine, Calif.
Over the next seven years, Arburg electrics may replace existing equipment in the Ambrit shop, Middleton said.
Currently, the clean room has five all-electric Cincinnati Roboshot presses of 33-110 tons, and the commercial molding area has 16 presses of 40-500 tons including 12 Cincinnatis (including two Roboshot electrics), three Nisseis and one Toshiba, an electric that arrived in 2012 and has a clamping force of 120 tons.
Among early metrics-driven overall-equipment-efficiency improvements, Ambrit from May through November reduced scrap by 30 percent, cost of materials by 7 percent, inventory by 50 percent and reliance on temporary labor, Tapia said.
Ambrit realigned its kanban scheduling system and posted an electronic board that instantaneously monitors every molding machine on several parameters.
Ambrit is certified under ISO 9001:2008 for quality management systems and ISO 13485:2003 for medical devices and, during 2016, will try for certification under AS9100 for aerospace industry requirements.
Ambrit projects spending $1.2 million during the 12 months ending September 2016 for equipment realignment, new machines, clean room and other capacity expansion changes, Saul reported. The previous fiscal-year capital investment was about $500,000.
In a step toward full automation, Ambrit ordered a downstream automation system from A.S.K. Technologies of Yorba Linda, Calif., for delivery in late February. The system will remove parts from the press, degate them, laser print, hot stamp and present coin holders to the operator for inspection and packaging. The customer is the profession coin grading service division of Collectors Universe Inc. of Santa Ana, Calif.
“We will go to one operator on the coin holders,” Middleton said. Now the multi-faceted tasks require seven operators.
Ambrit operates three dedicated three-axis robots from Star Automation Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wis., and a sprue picker from Sailor Automation Inc. of Placentia, Calif.
Ambrit's mold shop has computer numerical control machines including three Bridgeport mills, two Charmilles electrical discharge machines, a Hurco lathe and a ProtoTrak mill.
For quality, Ambrit procured a SmartScope Flash 500 system from Optical Gaging Products Inc. in 2014 and also utilizes a VisionScope system from Avalon Vision Solutions LLC.
ABF Construction of Highland, Calif., is general contractor for enlargement of the clean room to 2,800 square feet from 1,400 square feet.
“After the changes, we will have 10 presses in the clean room,” Middleton said. That will include the five current Roboshots, two 55-ton Roboshots being moved from the commercial area and three new Arburgs: two 110-ton Allrounder 470E presses and a 66-ton Allrounder 370E.
The other new Arburg, a 38-ton Allrounder tilt up model, will go into the commercial molding area.
Ambrit has 130 employees including four tool makers and a general machinist.
“Over 18 months, we have spent about $250,000 on training,” Saul said, “and we are continuing to train the work force to understand our higher requirements.”
Training providers include the Lean Six Sigma Institute LLC in San Diego, Suhas Kulkami's Fimmtech Inc. of Vista, Calif., RJG Inc. of Traverse City, Mich., and others.
Ambrit employs three RJG-certified Master Molders 1. In February, one of them will begin training in Michigan en route to Master Molder 2 status, and the others will follow in a continuous improvement project.
Ambrit was founded in 1972 in 2,500 square feet, moved in 1976 to a larger facility and then in 1986 relocated to its current Santa Ana location that now occupies 33,000 square feet. The realignment's smaller footprint for equipment will give Ambrit space for growth within the existing facility.
“We are aligning with what customers want,” Middleton said. Those customers include large-device medical original equipment manufacturers and firms reshoring work.
“We are located favorably,” he said. Ambrit ships some production to customers in Mexico.