Staying Ahead of Customer Needs with the Help of CNC Technology
Bridge Tool & Die is a major player in the Carbide tooling market since 2005 and has been transitioning from the use of manual grinders, the tooling industry norm, to the use of automated CNC grinders to increase productivity, capacity, and quality in the hopes of being able to better serve its customers who are continually looking for better and cheaper solutions. This transition began back in December of 2015 when Bridge Tool & Die implanted a Three-Pronged Strategy to enhance their manufacturing processes by reducing machining time and increasing consistency. The three prongs were: retrofitting their existing manual grinders with CNC, setting up multi grinder work stations, and purchasing high-end CNC machines. Using this approach, an operator would theoretically be able to operate three machines at once – one manual, one CNC, and one semi-automatic grinder. Most recently, in 2017 Bridge Tool &Die invested in a Studer CT960 CNC multi-axis grinder to further improve quality and capabilities, boasting of grinding parts in a third of the time, halving the polishing time required, and achieving tolerances of 0.0001” in an industry where the market normal is tolerances of 0.0004”. As well, the new CNC machine is lowering costs for Bridge Tool & Die, as it is expected to require two fewer operators to run, reducing labor costs for the company. Glenn Bridgeman, the owner of Bridge Tool & Die, states that “The need for increased technology was not driven by reducing operators in our shop . . . Rather, it offers us the ability to keep all of our experienced operators, and address capacity versus technology-allowing us to grow over 15% per year.” Will Bridge Tool & Die continue in its trend towards a more automated grinding process? How will industry competitors react to their ability to achieve above normal tolerances? How soon before automation with CNC becomes the new norm and all manual grinding, both at Bridge Tool & Die and elsewhere, becomes obsolete? How will Bridge Tool & Die continue to improve its processes beyond the use of CNC grinders?