Meet Lamson Manufacturing
Manthi Nguyen, a first-generation American, began her career as an Electrical Engineer with General Motors in Advanced Manufacturing Research. Her work involved integrating robotics with machine vision and factory control systems, so Manthi was introduced to automation early on. A Maker before the Maker movement, Manthi also found a calling in Angel Investing. So, when the opportunity to acquire a small machine shop presented itself, Manthi invested in herself and jumped on the chance. She changed the name to Lamsom Manufacturing, Inc. and, in 2017, began producing products under new ownership.
The shop, formally known as HiTech Manufacturing Corp, already had a strong reputation for precision manufacturing of quality products with fast turnaround time and excellent customer service. The staff of highly skilled machinists who, to Manthi’s credit, stayed on were doing good work but getting by with 20-year-old CNC equipment. While these machines were functional, they were expensive to maintain, and her team could only work an eight-hour shift per day. So how would Manthi grow her shop quickly in an environment where skilled machinists are harder and harder to find?
Beginning The Journey
Manthi knew she needed to invest in new equipment. She started by calling the largest reseller of Haas Machines on the West Coast, Selway Machine Tool Company in Union City, California, just 35 minutes north of her new shop. She purchased two Haas VF-4s from Selway in December 2017. One machine was equipped with a 4th-axis rotary device which helped Lamson’s machinists quickly understand the benefits of moving beyond three-axis machining by indexing the part to machine features on multiple sides in one workholding instance.
Her next investment was in two Haas 5-axis machining centers; a UMC-750 and DM-2 with 5-axis Trunnion. This technology allowed for the machining of parts on multiple sides, reducing setup time considerably, but the one eight-hour shift per day had not changed, setting the foundation for what was to come.
The 5-axis machining centers represented a significant investment, so to increase production, it became clear to Manthi that it was time to invest in automation. She began looking at Robotic machine tending to increase CNC machine utilization. She and her team quickly found that the cost of purchasing and integrating a robot would only make sense for high-volume production runs because changing over a robot to run different parts is time-consuming. Lamson is a high mix, low to mid-volume manufacturer, so they needed a system with sufficient flexibility to change over and load different parts daily.
Understanding her needs, Selway introduced Manthi to the technical team at Trinity Robotics Automation. Trinity designs and manufactures Automated Pallet Systems in their Ontario facility in Southern California, which features a factory showroom. An additional showroom will open in September 2020 in Santa Clara in Northern California.
Trinity’s automated pallet systems are designed around a robot that loads a pallet from the storage system into the CNC machine. Each pallet is mounted with its own workholding device and individual parts, eliminating the requirement to re-program the robot or change over end-of-arm tooling.
Automation At Its Finest
With solid guidance from the Trinity technical team, Lamson embraced automation and, in early 2019, purchased a Trinity Robotics Automation AX5 pallet system. The goal was to increase productivity on their Haas UMC-750, and do it quickly. Trinity installed the AX5 system onsite, and Lamson ran production within five business days. The system includes pneumatic workholding delivered via a custom rotary union through the machine table on the UMC-750. An Auto-door is connected to allow robot access, and the Trinity system is wholly integrated with the CNC machine via an ethernet connection.
Once the Lamson team was comfortable with the UMC-750/AX5 combination, they turned their attention to the DM-2, which ran a single family of parts continuously at maximum capacity. The DM-2 is a small, high-speed machine, and the Trinity AX1 was an ideal match, automating the single family of parts, which now consume approximately 30% of the machine capacity when running 24/7. This freed up the machine to make additional parts for the month's balance. Because CNC programs are stored in the machine controller, the team can swap a new set of cutting tools to change over to the next project.
The Result (ROI)
An AX pallet system from Trinity Robotics Automation has the potential to increase the throughput of a CNC Machine by 3X without increasing headcount and freeing up skilled operators to focus on higher-value tasks.
Here is the typical scenario of the Return on Investment (ROI) a high mix, low to mid-volume manufacturer can expect:
In an eight-hour day, at a shop rate of $75 per hour, a shift generates $600 in revenue. Adding an AX system upgrades the capacity of that CNC machine to 20 hours per day, resulting in a daily income of $1,500. A five-day workweek generates $30,000 in revenue on your CNC machine per month, resulting in a typical ROI in less than one year.
The automation transformation happened at Lamson because Manthi understood the value of automation. She knew the upfront costs would pay off by allowing her team to focus on working smarter, not harder. Her Machine Operators no longer need to tend a machine every time a part cycle finishes-automation does that for them. Loading and unloading the system is focused work; The operator arrives in the morning, spends an hour or two unloading all the parts that ran overnight, and loading in new material ready for production. That process is duplicated at the end of the day, ensuring the system is loaded up for the overnight run. Automation changed the whole mindset of Lamson Manufacturing.
Investing in new equipment, even in the challenging business environment of Q1 2020, Lamson's productivity gains have allowed them to grow substantially over 24 months. The future is bright for Lamson with a combination of a highly skilled workforce and fully automated 5-axis systems.
"Since we implemented automation, our throughput has grown considerably; we can now take on jobs that we never could of in the past."
General Manager-Lamson Manufacturing
Lamson Manufacturing is a Silicon Valley based CNC machine shop providing components for the Medical Device, Aerospace, Automotive, and Defense Industries. The company has used Trinity Automated pallet systems for the past year to increase productivity on their 5-axis machining centers.