As a result of using the servo press to form high-strength steel parts, Big Rapids Products has seen a 25- to 39-percent increase in uptime due to reduced die wear, Siple reports.
Investment in Large Presses
The firm’s investments in larger presses reflect growing demand to stamp high-strength steels and larger parts, Thompson says. Of its 70 presses, the largest are located in the company’s Kentucky plants. These include two 1100-ton presses, two 2000-ton presses and two 2200-ton presses with 300-in. beds. “You can do a lot with 300 in. of bed length,” Thompson says. “It allows for bigger tools and bigger parts.”
The company also recently purchased a 600-ton PTC progressive-die press in preparation for continued demand and growth. “We needed a press for future business,” Thompson said. “The past 12 to 18 mo. have been very busy.”
New presses have necessitated more floor space. During the last 3 yr. the company has expanded its building space to include a new facility in Mt. Sterling, KY, and built a 70,000-sq.-ft. addition to its facility in Big Rapids. Most recently, it expanded one of the Mt. Sterling locations by another 36,000 sq. ft.
“Space was a primary issue,” Thompson says. “We needed capacity for new, large presses and large dies, and to house new products.” The company also needed warehouse space in Kentucky to house just-in-time parts for its customers nearby.
Siple and Thompson profess vigilance when it comes to ensuring that the company has enough equipment and space capacity to take on new work. Timing is not always easy: a large, new press installation can take as long as 2 yr. to complete, Thompson says.
“We are proactive,” Siple explains. “Our team has a formula that we review every week. We look at sales projections and how much we can add safely. When we have new equipment and space, more work comes in. With our square footage and full stable of presses, we are in a prime position to take on more customers without capacity restrictions.”
Redundancy to Ensure On-Time Delivery
The company is not immune to problems, such as presses breaking down or severe press wear. “One advantage we have is redundancy,” Thompson says. “If our big press goes down, we have another one ready to run the job.”
“That’s our philosophy; the same with tooling,” Siple says. “We have redundancy designed in, so if a tool needs repair we have backup-tool details and support shops to allow us to run immediately.”
Is that costly? “It’s a lot less costly than the other way,” Siple maintains.
The markets the company serves, and the sheet metal grades it forms, have evolved dramatically during the last 4 yr., according to Thompson. “We now have new customers in new markets with different products,” he says. “We primarily had stamped stainless steels in our early days, and over time have brought on carbon and galvanized steels, AHSS, and most recently aluminum products.”
With its newer, larger presses and new Kentucky plant, Big Rapids has been able to expand into new, non-automotive markets. “Automotive used to comprise 99 percent of our customer base. Now it is about 70 percent,” Thompson shares. “We have gained new business and customers through our expanding facilities and capabilities.” Such diversification, he explains, has provided balance to the instability that comes with relying heavily on one industry segment.
In addition, the firm has diversified within the automotive segment by supplying components for electric vehicles while still supplying parts for combustion-engine-powered vehicles.
The Future: Growth, Of Course
Big Rapids Products plans on continuous growth and gaining new customers. How? Good engineering, good service and on-time delivery.
“We have owners willing to invest in equipment and buildings, a team that will buy in, and skilled production staff who do good work,” Thompson says. “We work to get the word out about our capacity. We Invite prospective customers into our plants to see how we work. And, we consider everyone in the company—from operators to managers—as sales representatives.”
“What makes our company grow expands beyond the equipment and capacity—it includes our people,” Siple adds. “We have great people.” MF
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms
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