102 The FABRICATOR NOVEMBER 2017
van Sorgen said. “And we keep track. The moment something does not go well,
we can see which shift it took place and what material and job it was cutting, so
we can then make decisions.”
Within a few days, or sometimes hours, the completed order goes onto the
delivery truck. The company’s on-time delivery rate is approaching 99. 9 per-
cent. And true to the company’s name, the fabricator runs three shifts, 24 hours
a day, 365 days a year, even on Christmas.
Although the shop floor has eye-opening laser capacity, it has no large auto-
mated storage and retrieval system. “Those need a lot of space and you can put
a lot of material in it,” van Sorgen said. “For us, that adds costs.”
But material handling still is automated, thanks to AGVs (see Figure 7). Shal-
low stacks of different sheets line the factory perimeter—just 36 hours’ worth of
raw stock. The only day that may require a little extra is Dec. 24, just because
material suppliers don’t deliver on Christmas.
Supplier reliability is critical. “Without it, our whole system just doesn’t work,”
van Sorgen said, adding that for this reason supplier performance is monitored
continually. Delivery performance trumps price, always.
Sheets are moved to the AGVs, which then ride on a path lined with small
magnets several meters apart. The magnets, combined with software, keep the
AGVs on the right path, maneuvering around other AGVs and delivering material
to the right machine at the right time.
Workers don’t “operate” the lasers in the traditional sense. They instead manage the process, ensuring the right material is loaded at the right time and retrieving parts, and observing the process to ensure cut quality is maintained. If
parts require nothing but cutting, employees place them in boxes or (for very
small quantities) in envelopes, staged and ready with the mailing label or delivery slip.
If the part requires bending, it is moved to the forming area to one of six (soon
to be eight) LVD ToolCell press brakes, which change tools automatically. The
operator scans a job into the control, and the ToolCell takes over, swapping out
punches and dies as the material is staged for bending. Following a 3-D bending
simulation on the controller, the operator bends the job.
No laser on the plant floor is more than three and a half years old. As van Sorgen explained, the state of the art in lasers is progressing so rapidly that replacing machines makes business sense. And by turning its inventory so rapidly and
efficiently, the company has the cash to reinvest.
Although van Sorgen said he does source painting and welding to local suppliers, he has no plans to bring those processes in-house. The same applies to
assembly. This strategy, he explained, gives the company focus.
He used a bakery analogy. Sure, a person can bake bread in the home, but it
takes a lot of time and resources. Getting it hot and fresh from the bakery takes
less time and, if you go to the right bakery, gives you better quality when you
want it. The same thing
applies to cut and bent
parts from 24/7 Tailor
The Future Is Now
LVD opened its Experience Center (or XP
Center) in April 2017. It
greatly expanded its existing showroom. Past
the modern glass entryway sits the latest machinery, including the
Phoenix fiber laser with
material handling automation, and with a cutting head with mechanisms that change the
beam diameter in the focusing optics to achieve
the optimal focal point in
both thin and thick material.
The showroom has an
LVD laser tube cutting
machine and a Strippit
PX-series punching machine with its bending
tool and rotating V die
(picture a rotating Pac-Man), with the ability to
form high flanges.
The showroom also
has a plethora of bending equipment, including
the ToolCell automatic-tool-change press brake
On the left, a magnet on the floor of 24/7 Tailor Steel helps guide automated guided vehicles (AGVs) to deliver raw stock to the lasers. On the right, two AGVs are on the move.
The backgauge of a ToolCell press brake has grippers
that change out and rearrange punches and dies automatically.
To adaptively form when incremental (bump) bending
large radii on the Synchro-Form press brake, arms in
front of and behind the tooling measure (using both
camera and laser technology) and manipulate the
workpiece throughout the bending cycle.