US Metal Crafters positions itself for future growth by adding two fiber laser machines in its shop to maximize production throughput
From mom-and-pop shop to a full-service manufacturing operation, US Metal Crafters has reinvented its business. Not only has this fabrication shop undergone a complete transformation, it has positioned itself for future growth.
US Metal Crafters is now a one-stop-shop for metal fabrication services. Offering services for laser cutting, metal stamping, roll forming, fabrication, assembly, and an in-house tool and die shop, US Metal Crafters is one of the few American manufacturers that can offer this wide of a range of fabrication services. With over 32 years of combined industry experience, US Metal Crafters resides in Archdale, North Carolina with more than 120,000 square feet of production capabilities.
As part of the business transformation, US Metal Crafters saw the need to adjust its target customer profile. The organization was looking to land large volume jobs and establish partnerships with OEM companies due to its complete fabrication processes. Since US Metal Crafters adjusted the volume and quality of services for its new strategic customer base, this demanded the right fabrication equipment.
US Metal Crafters had an outdated laser machine and needed to upgrade in order to increase the quality of cut parts and throughput. “We were previously running an old 2000w CO2 laser from the ’90s, and whenever we would try running a job it would either be broken or incredibly slow. We knew we couldn’t get the quality of customer we wanted with the older laser,” said Mike Hansen, General Manager of US Metal Crafters.
Since the company’s previous laser machine was not going to cut it for its targeted OEM orders, US Metal Crafters knew it was time to begin searching for a new solution. Research began with examining laser machines in hopes to find a contemporary and reliable solution compared to the previous CO2 laser.
When evaluating the different laser manufacturers, one company that stood out to US Metal Crafters was Mazak Optonics. “We were familiar with the chip side of Mazak since we have a couple of lathes and mill machines. We saw firsthand that those were built well and were reliable to work with,” says Hansen.
When further investigating Mazak lasers, Hansen had the help of Shaun Rieff, a Mazak Optonics distributor from Capital Technologies, Inc. Hansen mentions, “We weren’t too familiar with fiber technology and all the nuances of it when we were looking for a new laser.” Thankfully, Rieff was able to help educate US Metal Crafters and find the right solution for the fabricator.
In the first quarter of 2019, US Metal crafters invested in a 3kW OPTIPLEX CHAMPION 3015 FIBER laser machine to support the fabricator’s new business strategy. Hansen says, “Ultimately, our decision came down to having confidence in the laser machine as well as Mazak’s service and parts department. We liked the reliability of the laser and it fit our financial aspect, too.”
Reiff was a major asset to Hansen and his team when making the decision to go with a 3kW OPTIPLEX CHAMPION FIBER. “Shaun is not only great to work with, but he has been great on educating us on fiber laser technology and helped us with the transition from CO2 technology,” mentions Hansen.
After installation, the OPTIPLEX CHAMPION FIBER was able to turnaround parts substantially faster than the previous CO2 laser they were operating. However, with all the orders flowing in from the new customer base, the fiber laser quickly filled its capacity. This prompted US Metal Crafters to invest in additional laser-cutting equipment to increase capacity to fill large run orders.
Only six months after the first laser was installed, a high-power OPTIPLEX FIBER III 8kW laser was added to the production facility. Hansen explains, “We liked the OPTIPLEX FIBER III 8kW because we wanted the additional power for thicker materials and speed for thinner materials. We built up confidence in running the OPTIPLEX CHAMPION FIBER and we were ready to go from there.” Adding an additional laser machine with high-power capabilities ramped up throughput for US Metal Crafters.
Having a dual laser operation enables US Metal Crafters to increase production to match the speed of throughput from the lasers. The new OPTIPLEX FIBER III laser-cutting machine cuts at least three times as fast as their OPTIPLEX CHAMPION FIBER laser. Hansen explains, “We have seen an increase in sales from adding the new laser to our operations. Before, we got to a point where we couldn’t meet our customer's delivery expectations, and now we have the capacity to take on the additional orders. It’s become a situation of continuously feeding the beast.”
To compound the increase in revenue, US Metal Crafters has taken advantage of the fiber lasers’ limited consumables. Compared to the previous CO2 laser, the cost of consumables and repairs has dramatically decreased. Hansen explains, "The cost of hard consumables has dropped considerably compared to our CO2 laser. The constant repair bills have also stopped."
Another benefit US Metal Crafter is seeing from investing in two Mazak fiber lasers is time savings. Downtime has decreased dramatically with the new fiber lasers compared to the previous CO2 laser that the company was running. Lead times have also been greatly reduced. “Our lead times are now incredibly short. We can be extremely responsive to our customers' needs, and sometimes even get a job completed within 24 hours,” says Hansen.
With the right combination of fiber laser technologies to complement the new business strategy, US Metal Crafters has uniquely positioned itself for continuous growth. “Overall, investing in the two lasers was definitely a good decision. It’s had some challenges with us learning the new fiber laser technology. But overall, they have been a great asset to our business,” says Hansen.
Article published in the March issue of The FABRICATOR Magazine.