It was no different when Lane made a stop at Pioneer Conveyor LLC, Mountain Lake Park, Md., which purchased a Bardons & Oliver RH800 rotating-head cutoff lathe in March. What was different was the answer to one of his questions.
"I saw them cutting a tube, and I said, ‘How long before that’s a finished product going out the door?’" says Lane. "I’m used to people saying ‘months.’ And this guy said, ‘Well, we could have a product on the truck in two hours if we had to.’ I was just knocked out by that. He said, ‘The hardest thing is getting the paint to dry.’"
Lane left Pioneer Conveyor with a heightened awareness of the company’s business philosophy, which only underscored his initial positive impression.
"It’s just amazing how these guys really have a simple but incredibly well-laid-out operation," says Lane. "In my mind, they’re just the ultimate in lean manufacturing. I’m so impressed with what they do there."
Raising the bar
Pioneer Conveyor designs and manufactures both standard and custom conveyor systems for a variety of industries and thousands of customers throughout North America.
The company has on-site engineering, machining, fabrication and manufacturing departments, and it uses cutting-edge technology, including 3-D CAD Inventor design and a custom loaded-belt simulation testing conveyor system.
Pioneer Conveyor has been in business roughly 25 years, and it has been practicing lean manufacturing for the last 15 years.
The RH800 rotating-head cutoff lathe, which is an 8-inch-capacity machine, has played an integral role in helping the company meet its goals for lean manufacturing and having a just-in-time production environment, says Josh Helbig, operations manager at Pioneer Conveyor.
"The machine allows us to produce multiple parts with one setup without having to handle material multiple times, whereas before we had the machine, it required multiple setups," says Helbig. "But now it can all be done just with the initial programming of the machine. So we don’t have to run any stock ahead of time--we run just-in-time for existing orders."
Pioneer Conveyor purchased the RH800 in an effort to increase quality and eliminate subprocesses, and Helbig says the company has had a positive experience with the machine.
Additionally, incorporating the RH800 into its operations helped Pioneer Conveyor save money both directly and indirectly.
"We’ve been able to install it in place of two pieces of equipment and eliminate one direct labor position as far as requiring to run the machine," says Helbig. "We reduced our labor costs by installing the machine."
The company uses the RH800 to cut and counterbore large carbon steel tube for various conveyor products. The machine’s atypical abilities enable Pioneer Conveyor to optimize tube processing. "The machine is a little unique in that it’s not a true lathe, and the metal doesn’t have to rotate," says Helbig. "That’s what we previously [did] and thought that if we could hold the material stationary, we could produce higher-quality and more precise parts."
This capability allows RH800 customers to cut down on material handling, the associated process time and work in process, says Lane.
"The rotating-head machine has the tools mounted on four slides that are contained with a head," he says. "The head simply rotates, the slide comes in and the cutoff blades cut through the material."
Beyond its basic operation, the RH800 has the ability to do some additional operations on the end of tubes, says Lane.
"The machine has a limited Z-travel that allows you to chamfer the end of the part, or in the case of Pioneer Conveyor, to do a counterbore in the end of the part where they press in a bearing housing and then weld that to the tube," he says. "The interesting thing about the rotating head and the way it processes that particular part is that normally, you would cut the tube to length and then you would go into a lathe, process one end of that tube, take it out, turn it around, load it into the lathe and process the other end of the tube.
"With the rotating-head machine that they have, they can actually do the counterbore [and] all of the end finishing, in one operation. And they get a part off that machine every 45 to 50 seconds that is ready for the next step in their assembly operation."
The RH800 can process all types of carbon steel, including seamless steel tube, welded steel tube and solid steel bar up to about 4 inches or 4.5 inches in diameter. It also can process nonferrous metals, but it is geared toward the steel market.
Running the gamut
In addition to conveyor companies, many automotive parts suppliers and hydraulic cylinder manufactures use the RH800. Several capabilities are of particular benefit to these kinds of businesses, says Lane. "They’re very fast in the cutting, and they also produce a very precise blank," he says. "It will hold a 0.002 to 0.003 overall length tolerance, so there’s not a lot of wasted material.
"It also produces a lathe-like finish on the end--the part looks like it was turned on a lathe when it comes off this machine, which provides a great starting point for the manufacturing process. In the case of Pioneer Conveyor, it’s a finished part, and it comes off completely machined with no additional work required."
Additionally, the RH800 is capable of cutting random lengths and provides quick changeover, both of which are a boon to the aforementioned market sectors.
To ensure all customers, no matter what industry they represent, are well versed in how to operate the machine, Bardons & Oliver provides training prior to shipping, as well as after-sale support.
"Even if a customer says, ‘Oh, I know how to run it--just ship it,’ we ask them to come in here anyway because there’s a lot to the machine, and we want people to come in and run it and be trained," says Lane. "Then we go out and do the installation, and we continue on-site training until the customer is comfortable and ready to take over." MM