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July 2000: Modern Application News


"With surface finishes in the range of 80 RMS, customers don't have to do as much machining; the cuts are flat and more parallel." So says EMJ district manager Rich Kramer. The Earle M. Jorgensen Co. (EMJ), located in Brea, CA, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles, is one of the largest independent metal distributors nationwide. The company's 1,900 employees service more than 45,000 customers from a network of 29 service centers. EMJ distributes a full line of metal products and its customer base includes aerospace, defense, automotive, chemical, computer and electronic equipment, surgical and medical instruments, and a variety of special machinery. Sales in 1999 were $915.8 million.

The firm's Hayward District Branch in Hayward, CA, about 25 miles southeast of San Francisco, has 53 employees. According to Clay Richey, EMJ's manager of plant operations, the branch has a large and diverse customer base primarily from the computer and electronics industry in Silicon Valley, food processing clients in the San Joaquin Valley, and oil refineries in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties (comprising the eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area).

But while business has been good, EMJ District Manager Rich Kramer is always looking for potential sources of new revenue. He and Mel Smith, assistant manager of plant operations, extensively researched bandsaws from a number of manufacturers.

"We were starting to get backlogged and it was taking us longer to cut materials for customers," Kramer said. "We needed to find a bandsaw that was faster and could provide us with the tighter tolerances our customers require."

Enter Saw Service of America, one of the leading North American dealers for Amada Cutting Technologies. Sandy Young, the company's Northern California regional manager, recommended that EMJ try Amada's CTB-400 CNC bandsaw, specially designed for high-volume production. The bandsaw easily handles aerospace alloys, works with tough materials such as titanium, and can achieve cutting rates up three to five times faster on difficult to cut materials, and with surface finishes up to 80 RMS or better.

The first CTB-400 was installed at the EMJ Hayward facility in January 2000. A few weeks later, EMJ added a second bandsaw. EMJ also opted to purchase Amada's new automatic conveyor system and tables to complement the two new CTB-400s.

"With the conveyor we can load up to two different jobs," Richey said. "If we have a job for 'X' amount of bars, for instance, we simply load it up and can feed and cut with no problem. Previously, if we put a second bar through, we had to manually load it and first take the bar off a crane. Now I don't have to have someone standing there. We have literally doubled our productivity with this system."

The two CTB-400s are now placed side-by-side in an 80,000 square-foot warehouse. The bandsaws cut 300 and 400 series stainless, carbon, alloy and aluminum bars from three inches to 13 inches, in two shifts, from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., Monday through Friday.

"The CTB-400s have given us the ability to process jobs that we couldn't do before such as cutting large diameter materials down to very thin pieces to tolerances we could not previously hold," Richey said. "This has opened up an entire new market for us because we previously had to send these types of projects to outside vendors for processing." Smith added that accidental material drops are minimized because the index vises hold the material secure, and the outboard vice works in unison with the index vise to move the cut part and raw material away from the blade when the band is retracted out of the cut.

Customer feedback has been positive. Cut tolerances are so precise with the CTB-400 that a few EMJ customers have joked that the machining is already done.

"We can now handle specialized aluminum jobs," Kramer says. "We just finished a project for a NASCAR hub manufacturer providing saw tolerances that were about three times better than what we were able to do before. We're participating in a broader market now because the CTB-400 cuts so much faster and more accurately."

"The CTB-400 allows us to reduce our scrap piece size," Richey said. "With 11" round stainless, for instance, once we got down to five-inch lengths, we would have to cut them out. Now we can go down to almost two inches before we have to cut out the balance. In addition, with tighter tolerances we have reduced our customers' machine time which translates into savings and higher productivity for them."

EMJ operators find the CTB-400 'user friendly' because the CNC control panel is dependable and easy to program. Blade speed and head feed pressure decrease on entry and exit of the cut (ramping up and down like a CNC lathe or mill), ensuring high accuracy and longer blade life. The metal band is fully supported with carbide teeth and the linear machine bearings provide the saw head with vibration-free travel, accuracy, and long life.

"I'm very impressed with the mechanics and ease of use," Smith said. "We can store cutting speed and feed for all types and grades of materials in the computer and these parameters can be recalled at any time for future orders of the same material. The CTB-400 is quiet and the beam strength is better than what I've seen with other bandsaw models."

EMJ may order additional CTB-400s at other plants in the near future. In the meantime, Kramer said the bandsaws have not only improved productivity, but have created a new source of revenue for the Hayward facility. He expects the payback period to be less than a year.

"The CTB-400s are allowing us up to meet our customers demanding delivery schedules," Kramer said. "They are superior to any other bandsaw we have."

Return to: 2000 Feature Stories