VERICUT ensures the ‘streets’ are paved with gold
Everything about Danish company Multicut borders on the unbelievable, from how the company was started to the success story it has become today, and even looking forward at the next steps it will implement in the near future. All of which is supported by the world’s leading independent CNC simulation, verification and optimisation software, VERICUT.
From understated but nevertheless impressive 210,000 ft2 manufacturing facilities in rural Denmark, Multicut supports global engineering and manufacturing companies in the wind power generation, renewable energy, aerospace and defence, marine, transport and mass transit sectors. Here, nearly 250 highly skilled staff apply their craft to support a business that has grown an average of 15 per cent year-on-year.
While these figures sound impressive they are defined even further when you know how the business began and the unique business model it follows to this day. As Business Development Director, Frank Duhring, recalls: “Around 18 years ago two young men, in their 20s, walked into a bank with no savings and no family money to speak of. They just had an idea that they could run a machine shop where robots handle all the materials. If it had been my bank, I would have said no. And, by the way, one of them was an electrician and the other was a plumber.”
Fortunately the bank manager trusted their plan and they purchased a Mazak Multiplex mill-turning centre with gantry robot loading and unloading. That first investment started a longstanding relationship with Mazak. Today, alongside CNC machines from other suppliers, Multicut operates around 65 of the Japanese company’s CNC machine tools in every size and configuration, but always with automated material handling.
As if the origins of the business where not unusual enough, the business model the company follows is both sublime and, at first glance, foolhardy. After successfully filling the capacity of the mill-turning centre, Multicut ordered five 5-axis machining centres complete with a pallet racking system and a robot loader. This FMS was the first ‘street’ as the cells are known within the company.
Each pallet is equipped with the workholding required to produce a part, with four different parts per pallet if they can be fitted to the face of a tombstone. Once the pallet is set up it will never be stripped down. Likewise, the cutting tools and toolholders associated with the component will remain in the system. Each toolholder is microchipped with all of the required data, who set it up, how many parts it has run, who programmed the parts, everything that has been done to it. No tool is ever shared between parts.
All of the Mazak machines in the cells and every physical detail, such as the tooling, fixturing and robot system is replicated in detail within VERICUT. Supplied and fully supported by Danish reseller, IPES A/S, the software allows Multicut to simulate the whole manufacturing cycle. From the robot loading of the raw material to the programmed cutting tool path, checking for collisions or even near misses between physical structures such as the pallet and workholding, machine tool elements, or gouges in the raw material.
Once the cell reaches capacity another one is purchased, with the machine tools’ capacities specified to meet the majority of component sizes forecast from a target industry sector. Frank Duhring states: “I do not look at a customer’s volume anymore; I look if they need 115 hours or more of machining time to fill the pallet. We are not concerned if the customer wants just 2, 3 or 5 parts per month, or if they want 25,000. Many industries have stable products and can be viewed as high volume if you consider their requirements over 10 or 20 years. For example, an earth moving dumper truck’s design has not changed much in the past 30 years, so its components can be considered high volume.”
Once a component has been set up and run the next time the customer orders the part it can be ready to machine in just 1 minute, with all information and physical hardware stored in the system for life. So, there is a finite capacity to the cell which is why the company has to constantly invest in additional capacity. Currently, the company could run over 500 different components at any one time, with sizes and complexity ranging from small turned spacers to vast precision machined plates for the wind energy sector.
“If we start to breakdown the pallets in the system we lose what we are about, because the foundation of the company is to only do work once. Eliminating moving work around also helps profit and productivity; moving work just costs time and money, it does not add value. We have gained so much this way, taking away the risk. Otherwise every time a customer comes back you have to remake the tool package and fixtures, and humans make mistakes; that’s reality. We mitigate that with our manufacturing philosophy and VERICUT software,” says Frank Duhring.
He continues: “It is much more cost effective to validate a part using advanced software like VERICUT rather than on a machine tool. The software costs a few thousand Euros while the machine can easily represent 1 million Euro. An error detected in VERICUT might cause a few red faces. However, any damage that an error causes to the machine tool has a far wider impact on the business as it will affect our utilisation and could potentially result in our failure to deliver to the customer.”
Achieving a machine utilisation that is as close as possible to 100 per cent is a critical consideration for Multicut. Once a component is set up it can run and run, so the pressure is to get the machining process to be efficient from the outset. “If you consider utilisation as a square box, drawing a circle inside the box covers the area that many companies achieve for utilisation. However, we want to operate all the way into each corner. Achieving this requires good people and capable machine tools equipped with automation, all supported by advanced software such as VERICUT,” Frank Duhring concludes.
Aerospace and defence is the faster growth sector for the company right now, and plans are already being actioned for the next phase of the development of the business. Once again outside the box thinking is being applied as Multicut looks to establish a completely autonomous manufacturing facility. At this early stage VERICUT is being used to ensure the machine tools shortlisted have the capacity and functionality to complete the machining cycles required prior to installation.