Gang-tool lathes help Strite solve customer problemsWritten by Rob Colman April, 18 2006
by Jerry Cook
Cambridge, ON - When Joseph Strite, president and general manager of Strite Industries Ltd., launched the company in 1964, it was based on a simple but fundamental credo that served as a catalyst for the success that Strite has achieved since.
“The company has basically been set up to solve customer problems,” emphasizes Strite. “We don’t do standard quotations. Instead, we react to our customers’ problems. If they have a problem buying something or getting something made or the part isn’t accurate enough, they will contact us.”
Given its dramatic growth in recent years, Strite Industries is obviously very good at solving customer problems. When Strite Industries began operations in 1964, the company had six employees based in a 5,000 sq. ft. facility. At that time, the firm manufactured small, close tolerance components for inertial navigation systems for customers in the aerospace and defence industries.
Today, the firm has 270 employees based in its 100,000 sq. ft. facility in Cambridge, ON. In addition to its aerospace and defence work, Strite Industries now manufactures precision components for the orthodontic, automotive, communication and medical sectors among others.
In particular, a critical element in Strite Industries’ ability to provide its customers with solutions has been its long-standing relationship with Hardinge Inc., Elmira, NY (hardinge.com).
“We started the company in 1964 with a Hardinge machine. I had been familiar with Hardinge and its equipment for a long time,” says Strite, adding that he has always been impressed with the reliability and capabilities of Hardinge equipment.
“Today, Hardinge machines are still very advanced and very well-priced,” he sates.
That faith in Hardinge equipment led the company to install a number of Hardinge machine tools over the years.
Today, Strite Industries is likely one of the major users of Hardinge equipment in the country with dozens of machines including the most recent installations-two Hardinge QUEST GT27SP gang tool lathes.
Strite says that the company’s investment in Hardinge equipment totals approximately $6 to $7 million.
According to Strite, the company considers a number of factors when it is searching for new machine tools.
“We’re aware of the other equipment in the marketplace. I’ve spent a lifetime looking at machinery and I know the difference between a good machine and a bad machine.
“When we are looking at equipment, it depends on the process and what we need the machine for and the history of machines that we have previously bought and our experience with them.
“For instance, has the machine lasted five years or 10 years? Has the machine been good at keeping tolerances?
“There are Hardinge machines still working here that go back 40 years,” says Strite.
Strite Industries specializes in producing ultra-precision components for a variety of customers in various markets.
Some of the firm’s customers include companies such as Litton (aerospace guidance systems), IMAX (70mm camera and projector parts), I.B.M. (main frame computer cooling components), Nordion (nuclear medical components),Garrett (turbo charger components), Toronto General Hospital (orthopedic devices), and many more.
Approximately 90% of Strite Industries’ sales are into export markets including the United States and Europe.
“Our orthodontic work is growing almost out of control right now,” says Strite, adding that the company’s orthodontic sales represent approximately half of the firm’s total sales.
In fact, the firm manufactures what is essentially its own proprietary orthodontic product-the SPEED appliance system. The SPEED appliance system was jointly developed by Dr. G. Herbert Hanson and Strite Industries.
The company provides a variety of different services including CNC turning, CNC machining, jig boring, drilling, plating, wire and die sink EDM, CNC milling, thread grinding, form grinding, cylindrical grinding, and more.
The company maintains a stringent quality control system employing techniques ranging from 100% inspection to statistical process control.
Strite Industries has a wide range of inspection equipment including optical measuring systems, optical comparators, gauges, SPC data collectors, coordinate measuring machine, and more.
The firm works with a variety of different materials including mild and stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, high-nickel, brass, bronze, plastics, a variety of alloys, and more.
The firm specializes in manufacturing high precision, close tolerance components. “Working to within millionths of an inch is no problem for us,” notes Strite.
For example, an automotive turbo-charger component that the company manufactured required tolerances of .0008 in. (groove widths); flatness to 50 millionths; bores to .0004 in.; squareness to .0003 in.; and concentricities to .0005 in.
Another job involving the manufacture of camera components and assemblies required tolerances on cam forms of plus or minus .0001 in.; finishes of 4 R.M.S., and flatness of plus or minus .0001 in. over 4 in. length.
Strite Industries has earned a variety of certifications including ISO-9002, EN-46002, ISO-13488, as well as the European Union’s CE certificate for its SPEED orthodontic appliance system.
In fact, Strite Industries has undergone a Best Manufacturing Practice (BMP) review by the U.S. Navy’s BMP Center of Excellence.
This review enables the U.S. Navy to identify contractors who have developed Best Practices in a variety of manufacturing and service areas.
“We do a lot of prototype work especially if it has the possibility of turning into a large volume job for us,” he says. The firm’s part runs range from one-offs up to tens of thousands of pieces.
According to Strite, there were several reasons behind the company’s purchase of the two GT27SP gang-style lathes.
For one thing, the firm wanted to increase its production capacity. “We are forever searching for more production capacity and Hardinge had the right machine. We are getting more work now especially on the orthodontic side of our business,” he states.
The Hardinge GT27SP gang tool lathe combines high performance with high productivity.
The machine is capable of surface finishes of 8 micro-inch, part roundness of .000015 in., and continuous machining accuracy of .0002 in.
The machine features a precision 1 1/16 in. bar capacity collet spindle. The unit’s 5 hp spindle drive offers a speed range from 80 to 8,000 rpm.
The GT27SP can accommodate up to 12 tools and provides rapid traverse rates of 708 ipm (X-axis) and 945 ipm (Z-axis).
Because of the machine’s gang-tool configuration, cut-to-cut time is drastically reduced because no time is lost on turret indexing.
The GT27SP’s pre-tooled top plates can be removed and interchanged within .0002 in. in under one minute.
In addition, tools can be added or removed from any location without disturbing any other tool.
Strite Industries extensive experience with Hardinge equipment meant that operator training on the two new QUEST GT27SP gang tool lathes was a simple and straightforward procedure.
Keeping up with its growing volume of work through continuing investments in new equipment is an important area of emphasis at Strite Industries.
“It’s a continuing problem-keeping up with the demand,” he says. In fact, according to Strite, the company has already installed eight new machines so far this year.
Looking ahead, Strite says that the company plans on purchasing additional equipment in the near future. “We want to buy more equipment. Actually, we need and are looking for more plant space right now,” states Strite.
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