Nortool: From Supporting Internal Needs to Serving a Growing Customer Base
Nortool is a division of Norco Industries, a privately-held diversified manufacturing company with product lines that include automotive, RV, and heavy duty lifting equipment, as well as coating finishing systems.
Established in 1991 to support Norco’s manufacturing operations, the Nortool division has since expanded to serve a broad range of customers, including some of the leading companies in the automotive industry and other manufacturing sectors.
Nortool prides itself on providing customers with a complete solution from concept to production, including product and tool design consultation, material selection, and manufacturability analysis. Services provided by Nortool range from prototyping to progressive die design and manufacturing, as well as assembly and welding of machined components and precision machining, including 4 axis machining.
Operating in a 360sf facility located in Elkhart, Indiana, Nortool has been ISO 9001 certified since 2000.
Challenge: Growing the Business by Providing Customers with Cost-Effective Solutions and Exceptional Speed-To-Market
Growing the business beyond its initial scope of supporting other Norco divisions has placed Nortool in a highly challenging position. Working with companies that operate in extremely competitive industries, Nortool has recognized the need to help its customers stay in business by providing cost-effective solutions and exceptional speed-to-market.
“We are all impacted by overseas competition,” explains Mark Modglin, Nortool’s Brand Manager. “If we can help our customers get their product out the door faster, we are assisting them in keeping an edge over the competition.”
Solution: Integrating Design and Manufacturing Processes
Taking practical steps towards achieving its business objectives, Nortool has modified its operational practices, accompanied by a transformation of the technologies used to execute and support the entire design and manufacturing cycle.
Process-wise, a greater emphasis has been placed on tighter interaction with customers through an “early involvement” program. The program includes an extensive design review and analysis, where product ideas are taken step-by-step from CAD design through production and assembly. “As a result of this process, we are able to advise clients how to optimize manufacturability, assist in the selection of finishes, help define proper material thickness, and provide additional suggestions for solid tooling practices,” says Modglin. “The bottom line is that we hold ourselves responsible for ensuring the die we provide is highly robust and will produce high-quality parts.”
A close analysis of its production processes has led Nortool to the understanding that greater integration of design and manufacturing was the key to shortening production cycle times, eliminating excessive labor, and reducing overall costs.
“Although we had highly skilled die designers and machine operators as well as the most advanced machines on the shop floor, work was hindered by the different departments operating on separate platforms,” explains David Lindemann, Project Engineer at Nortool. “We quickly realized that in order to truly synchronize our production processes we needed an integrated CAD/CAM solution that fully supports 3D for both design and NC.”
Following a thorough evaluation of different software packages, Nortool decided to standardize on CimatronE as a single, integrated 3D solution throughout its entire design and manufacturing operations.
Results: Faster Time to Market and Greater Customer Satisfaction
Since implementing the CimatronE software, Nortool has been able to reduce process times both in design and manufacturing. “Cimatron’s applications are specifically geared towards die making, so our designers and programmers are doing everything in the Cimatron software,” says Lindemann.
“While the biggest advantage we have seen for a single task is in strip design, the real payoff is in our ability to improve communication between the design team and the shop floor,” adds Lindemann. “Standardizing on 3D and a single unified platform across all departments enables us to eliminate errors, accelerate product time to market, and streamline the management of Engineering Change Orders.
“We have also realized additional benefits in the quoting department,” notes Modglin. “The ability to drop a product file into the software and immediately see what needs to be done is a huge advantage in helping us come up with more accurate quotes and getting them back to the customer quicker than we could ever do before.”
“Our customers are benefiting not only from our ability to do things better and faster, but also from having direct visibility into our process. They can look at what we are doing at any stage of the design and manufacturing, see where we are in the process, and provide immediate feedback if needed.”
Last but not least, says Modglin, “Cimatron has provided outstanding technical support and training, which made the implementation of the new software a pleasant experience that has exceeded our expectations.”