Overlanders CASE STUDY
Better Part Nests
Software that produces efficient part nests can reduce scrap and increase part production
With the flexibility to cut sheet steel using either lasers or turret punch presses, Overlanders Manufacturing L.P., British Columbia, Canada, was equipped to give their customers fast turnaround and quality parts. But one important thing they needed to make their cutting equipment even more productive was software.
Overlanders Manufacturing was formed in 1978 as a family owned business building products such as winch bumpers and roof racks for 4x4 trucks and autos. “We built these products for about 10 years, but slowly got out of them as we began to do more job shop contract manufacturing for other customers,” says George Moore, Engineering Manager. “We sold the product line over 10 years ago and then concentrated on our contract work.”
Through the years they have grown and added equipment allowing them to fill any custom sheet metal requirement from cabinet manufacturing to small precision parts and tubular products. “We can process parts from the most basic design to the most complex, including assemblies of multiple components to surface finishing and silk screening. Since I started with the company 22 years ago, we’re doing over 10 times the work that we once did,” notes Moore.
The company works with many different types of steel which is either punched using one of three turret presses or cut with one of the two lasers the company owns. “Our products range from 24-gauge thickness to ¾ in. thick plate steel. We produce parts for highway trucks, agricultural equipment and components that are used for grain bins and grain dryers. Some of our products are even used in the aftermarket for high-performance automobiles. We do parts for turbocharger kits along with engine brakes. We have roughly 100 active customers right now,” says Moore.
But to be successful in this type of work, the company needed flexible equipment and engineering expertise. “We pride ourselves on being flexible and providing within our capabilities a full package for our customer. We aren't just cutting parts and sending them out the door. Any company can do that. We offer added value for the parts we produce, which our customers like.”
To make sure their equipment runs at peak efficiency, Moore says they are always looking for the latest equipment and the best software to run it. Recently they added a Muratec 2548 turret-punch press with a FG 1250 loader made by Murata Machinery USA Inc., Charlotte, N.C., that allows them to process materials lights out.
Part of this punch-press package was software called SigmaNEST made by SigmaTEK Systems, Cincinnati, Ohio, that runs the entire machine including the automatic material handling system. SigmaTEK provides software that enhances machine efficiency for sheet metal fabricators through its SigmaNEST CAD/CAM nesting software solution.
Moore had been researching the purchase of a new Muratec turret-punch press for almost three years. During his investigation, he found out that Muratec was working with SigmaTEK for the 2548 punch press and the loader system. “Not only did we know about SigmaNEST, and were we interested in it, but when Muratec said they were going to use the software, it was definitely a no-brainer that we should work with SigmaNEST,” he says.
SigmaNEST is a complete nesting and manufacturing software solution that also creates and optimizes the code that runs the machine, telling it exactly where to go on the material and what holes to punch, mentions Moore. It also provides all the input information that the operator needs to produce a job such as the material type and thickness and tooling requirements. “It allows us to get excellent nesting capabilities, and it can schedule jobs using a work order that can be built using our MRP system.”
Brian Blair, Regional Sales Manager for SigmaTEK in the North West says that he sees the need for more streamlined manufacturing in today's custom manufacturing environment, which demands a diversity of parts in small part quantities. “The days of the 1000 count part runs are behind us now. It's more likely that manufacturers get orders for 20 of these and 50 of those. So our SigmaNEST software program brings a dynamic element for this type of programming to manufacturing. We have been partnered with Murata for several years, and have been working on the automation for this 2548 turret punch press with a loader recently. The implementation at Overlanders gave us a prime opportunity to really see what the system can do.” One of their lasers uses a material handling tower with 10 material shelves and can run untended 24 hours a day he mentions.
Moore says that they actually looked at the SigmaNEST software over 10 years ago when they installed their first metal cutting laser in British Columbia.
“When we first looked at SigmaNEST software, we just had our first laser, and the company came to us with this amazing nesting program. But at this time we felt that we didn't have enough work to justify the investment. We ended up using the software that came with the two lasers we bought. Then recently, we decided to improve our software. When we bought our new punch press this year, we purchased the SigmaNEST software to improve our nesting capabilities with the lasers and our turret-punch presses along with the part handling capabilities of our new punch press. We have the SigmaNEST software on five different machines: these include both of our lasers and three punch presses.
Blair mentions that their software is a separate purchase that isn’t offered as a standard software package for a machine. “Moore could have looked at other options for nesting software, but the reality of it is we are the only ones that are ready and capable to run this equipment today with all that's required of the systems, such as part stacking and sorting. Plus with our nesting abilities, we can easily handle diverse part mixes and multiple parts which isn’t the norm for most punch press software. With SigmaNEST we’re able to bring in multiple parts at once, share tooling and make parts more efficient to run even with smaller part quantities.”
Moore says that the integrated SigmaNEST software solution simplifies the operation of their equipment. “Right now I don't have years of experience with it, but I've used similar types of software for over 20 years. I can compare SigmaNEST to these, and I can say that its nesting capabilities and ease-of-use are just amazing.”
Comparing it to the software once used on his other equipment, Moore says that SigmaNEST is already faster for punching and laser work. “And I'm not even up to speed yet. I'm very impressed with how it works. It's very intelligent software.”
By using SigmaNEST as the main software on all his production critical machines, Moore can easily ensure that every operator is trained and up to speed on SigmaNEST.
“If you have multiple software packages that are all different, and you're transferring CAD files between them, it can be a bit of a horror show,” notes Moore. “Having one software package definitely helps our operators.”
SigmaNEST has boosted the equipment’s productivity by minimizing scrap and reducing setup times at the machines. “The more production you have with the less material you use, the better you're going to do,” says Moore.
Overlanders facility has roughly 40,000 sq. ft. They have 57 employees and two shifts working 18 hours a day. The new punch press with its material handling tower can run 24 hours a day unattended, Moore says. “It’s the software that makes this all work properly,” he notes.
He adds that SigmaNEST did a great job in training and support of the software. “They had classroom training in their office and provided us with in-house training at our worksite. One of their support engineers came here and trained three of us for four days. This personalized training worked very well.”
Overlanders Manufacturing L.P., Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, 604/856-6815, fax: 604/856-5610, www.overlanders.com, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SigmaTEK Systems, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, 513/674-0005, fax: 513/674-0009, www.sigmanest.com, e-mail: email@example.com