Hundreds of Improvement Opportunities

On average, there are about 400 different jobs moving through Planet Tool & Engineering (O’Fallon, MO) at any given time. The five people who comprise the engineering department for this job shop with a diverse customer base define the scope of work and deliver it to six to eight project managers who allocate manufacturing tasks to those who program and operate various CNC mills, lathes and water jet machines as well as perform welding, fabrication and painting operations.

With all the steps involved in these diverse manufacturing processes, there are numerous opportunities to use flexible tools within the CAM software to identify and eliminate inefficiencies. For example, the company has relied extensively on Mastercam’s® Dynamic Motion technology to improve machine cycles and reduce tool wear.

During the past two years, the company has shifted from conventional G-code and conversational programming of lathes. These programs are faster and easier to write with CAM software and they allow the programmer/operators to create unique contours that would have otherwise required the commitment of hours of time from an experienced programmer.

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The Mastercam CAD engine makes it easy to design and align workholding solutions while the part is being programmed. Programmer Chris Branco said that the enhanced model rendering in the latest version of Mastercam allows him to create softer or sharper edges on solid models for increased flexibility in fixture design.

Planet Tool’s Mastercam-resident tooling library plays a significant role in reducing spindle time by organizing cutting tools and making them readily available when needed. Working with QTE Manufacturing Solutions, Planet Tool designed its library so that each tool is sorted according to job number and part number. The tool crib attendant receives a setup sheet that matches the tooling generated using Mastercam. “It will probably save the operator about 15 minutes per part. What we really gain is spindle time because the operator does not have to go out searching for the tools every time he changes over to an new part” says Branco.

General Manager Curt Shatz said: “The goal is to get everyone to the point where they can make changes on the floor in no more than five minutes. We are a job shop not a production shop. We don’t have the luxury of running off a job and fine-tuning it before we turn it loose. We have one shot to make it right and these guys are learning to fine-tune stuff as we go.”

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