When customer demand exceeded Schulte Machine Works capacity in 1984, a changeover from manual programming to CNC milling and turning was prompted. Although the shop maintains 7 CNC lathes and 8 CNC vertical machining centers , the brand has always been whatever suited the customer need the best. The exception has been it’s choice in software. Ultimately, with GibbsCAM, business has grown 25% per year over the past five years without hiring additional employees.
Schulte Machine Works was founded in 1982 as a one man operation machining parts for oil field equipment by Weldon Schulte. As the business grew, Mr. Schulte’s three sons , Marcus, Greg and Matthew, all joined their father as partners .
Today, Schulte Machine Works occupies an 11,000 square foot facility with 25 employees. Although they still make parts for the oil field industry, their success has expanded the business to include major customers in electronics, avionics, pipeline valves, forklifts and heavy and agricultural equipment. With each new customer came a new CNC machine, suited specifically to them. It became apparent that learning all the idiosyncrasies of each CNC control was affecting efficiency and productivity.
“As we acquired different CNC lathes and mills, we made the transition to becoming a fully CNC equipped shop,” says Matt Schulte. “By 1996 we began to see that while our machining processes were being handled productively, we were experiencing very long machine idle time and a lot of wasted man hours to punch in the G-code and to proof each new program at the machine for its next job. Also, because each control was different, we could not easily transfer a program from one machine to another.”
They began their search for software that would be able to streamline machine programming. For the demonstration they chose a complex part that would normally have taken a day for the programming. Jason Heyse, from Texas Offline, demonstrated how the Virtual Gibbs production milling package could generate a machining program for any machine in the shop in about an hour and a half. The Gibbs program was the only one in its price range with the toolpath verification in 3D rendering at any angle. Schulte set up its new CAM program in a laptop located adjacent to the machine that it would serve. Even machinists who had no previous experience with the software were able to write programs with only one or two days training. Today the shop has three seats of Virtual Gibbs residing in laptop computers with plans to install one new software seat for every two milling machines that it brings aboard.
With new jobs being programmed offline and downloaded to a CNC machine while the machine runs another job , the software has made a marked difference in productivity. The flexibility of the machine-specific post-processing software drivers supplied by Gibbs has maximized production with six different brands of VMCs in the shop. Although they rarely need to change anything, they always do a quick visual check of any program parameters at the CNC before running the part. Because of the unique advantages of Virtual Gibbs, Schulte now uses the CAMs previewing capability in its job quotation process. By previewing possible machining sequences, the shop can more precisely figure costs and therefore bid more competitively.
To their surprise, the CAM system is also able to provide assistance in design-engineering functions. Quite often they find they are able to revise the part’s design for improved manufacturability without changing its functionality for the customer. This can save the customer money and benefits them as well by rendering a part that is easier to make.
Schulte Machine works cites the attributes of its CAM programming as playing an important role in the shop’s success. “ We buy a new machine for its physical machining performance regardless of its standard control,” states Matt Schulte. “With Virtual Gibbs set up next to each machine, and the conversational control features of all of our controls, we can have our cake and eat it too.”
See complete article in Metal Working Digest
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