Background: Serving the Automotive Industry with Highly Reliable Tools
When Zelko Rezler and his partner Alan Minello started their tool and die business in 1996, they set out to differentiate themselves by providing top quality tools that would be long lasting and require very little maintenance.
Over the years, the company has earned a reputation for delivering on this promise. Serving primarily tier-one automotive suppliers, Rezmin is known for its highly reliable tools and dies that allow customers to keep production lines running with minimal disruption. While customers come to Rezmin for a variety of tools, the company has developed special expertise in progressive dies.
Challenges: Constant Pressure on Cost from Overseas Competition
Similarly to most North-American toolmakers, Rezmin has been challenged by low-cost competition from overseas shops. "When the accountants and purchasing agents were just looking at the price of the tool, it was difficult for us to compete. They are now starting to realize that they get what they pay for," says Rezler. "We are getting quite a bit of work finishing up or fixing tools that were made overseas and have not been up to the customer quality standards. And we are actually starting to see more work that doesn't go overseas because of quality concerns."
Still, the overseas alternative and the downturn of the economy continue to place a constant pressure on Rezmin to reduce the cost of tools while increasing the speed of delivery and maintaining the quality standards they have been known for.
This constant cost pressure and lack of accurate estimation tools have also made quoting more challenging. Rezler estimates he is spending about 5 hours a day working on quotes. "We used to do the quoting based on our experience," he explains. "If we knew a part was going to be a bit difficult to form, we tended to protect ourselves by over-quoting."
Solution: Automation, In-Sourcing
"To make ourselves more competitive, we had to become more efficient and use more automation," says Rezler. The company has invested in CNC equipment to eliminate much of the handwork processes. Using the new CNC machines, Rezmin is also able to do away with the outsourcing of die sets and efficiently produce them in-house, which results in up to 50% cost savings.
Cimatron plays a big part in Rezmin's drive to efficiency. The company is using four seats of the software in engineering and three seats on the shop floor. Two additional seats of Cimatron Viewer are used by the die makers on the shop floor. "We use Cimatron to design and build in 3D, do the NC programming, and run the CNC machines directly from the software," explains Rezler.
Rezmin is also using the Cimatron Fikus software to create wire EDM programming directly from the 3D design data. "Eliminating the need to translate the data has simplified the data flow. It makes wire programming less labor intensive and more accurate," says Rezler.
To further increase efficiency and speed, Rezmin has recently added 4-axis and 5-axis machines. These machines are primarily used for boring, drilling, and tapping holes on multiple compound pockets. According to Rezler, using the 4-axis and 5-axis machines has removed as much as two thirds of the setup and machining time for these applications. "Cimatron makes 4-axis and 5-axis programming really easy," comments Rezler. "This is relatively a new thing for us, but I was surprised how quickly we were able to get up to speed with the process."
Results: Greater Efficiency and Cost Savings, More Accurate Quoting
Cimatron has helped Rezmin become more efficient, reduce manual labor, and get the work done more quickly throughout the design and manufacturing processes.
Using Cimatron Die Design for blank development and the strip layout, Rezmin has been able to significantly cut down design time. "Complex strips that used to take us 3-4 days to lay out now take 3-4 hours. Simpler strips can take as little as 10-15 minutes," says Rezler.
According to Rezler, the benefits of Cimatron's quick blank development and forming analysis capabilities really pay off in his quoting work. "Cimatron's forming analysis highlights any hotspots, wrinkling, splits, and other areas of potential difficulties. It saves a lot of time and eliminates the guesswork. Most importantly, it gives me the confidence to quote exactly what needs to be done rather than over-quote to protect against the unexpected like we used to do in the past. It allows us to come up with more competitive quotes."
On the shop floor, Rezmin has been able to eliminate much of the time-consuming and expensive manual plate work. "We used to do a lot of work with manual radial drills, laying out screw holes, transferring screw holes, spring pockets, dowels, keys... Now with Cimatron, this is all designed into the solid model and programmed directly to the CNC machine. Labor hours on manual machining processes have been cut down to a minimum."
Rezmin's programmers take advantage of the Cimatron auto drill function to define sequences for different types of holes and pockets. "The ability to define templates for cutting procedures is a huge timesaver," says Rezler.
Driving to squeeze every hour of productivity out of their machines, Rezmin runs two shifts during the day. It also runs lights-out operation during nighttime. "Cimatron is able to define the tools as well as the holders and spindles, so tool changes can be done without operator intervention," explains Rezler. "Thanks to the automatic gouge gap checking, cutter paths are guaranteed not to crash. It makes the operators very comfortable walking away and doing lights-out machining."
Using the same software for design and machining is another big timesaver for Rezmin. "We don't need to go through the cumbersome process of translation," says Rezler. "It has eliminated all issues of miscommunication and missing or corrupt information. The CNC operators pull their data right from the design. Whenever there is a change in the design, they always have the most up-to-date information and we don't have to worry about the integrity of the data."
Cimatron viewer seats on the shop floor provide machine operators with direct access to the part data, so they can pull sizes and dimensions directly from the 3D assembly. As a result, detail prints are no longer needed for most parts and components, helping Rezmin run a greener and leaner shop floor operation. "Overall, we are about 25-30% more efficient than we used to be," concludes Rezler.