Driving innovation: increased capacity for building complex dies allows growth for forging operation with adding skilled labor.

Position:High-speed machining
 
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At Walker Forge of Clintonville, WI, the skilled labor force is relied upon to bring new and innovative ideas to the table, helping the company's technology stay current--and provide customers with high-quality forgings by producing its own dies quickly and accurately.

"We have to do it ourselves quickly, efficiently, and always to spec," says Mike Olenski, impression die shop engineer/supervisor.

So when the advantages of high-speed machining began to outshine electric discharge machining (EDM), it was time for a transformation. The company is participatory in its style of management, with self-directed work units across its 24/7 operations, and there is a strong engagement between the work force and managers.

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"What makes Walker Forge truly different is the knowledge and ingenuity that flow through every department of our facility," says Rick Recktenwald, plant manager.

Which made a transformation all the easier to accomplish.

Years of experience

From its beginnings as a family-owned hammer shop in 1950, the company has served all types of forging customers, including the transportation, energy, agriculture, and construction industries. The majority of forgings produced are composed of carbon alloy and stainless steel.

Walker Forge is still family-owned and has grown to 300 employees, serving hundreds of customers. Since the early 1990s, the company has been designing and building its own forging dies at its Clintonville location.

"Our mentality is to encourage everyone in our company to come forward with new ways for improvement, and it has paid off every day," Recktenwald says.

Employees are trusted to uphold the quality work for the manufacturer. Their input led to a switch from graphite electrode-based EDM sinkers to high-speed milling. It had become apparent that developments in high-speed machining technology had advanced to the point to which milling could achieve accuracies previously held only through EDM, while increasing the speed of production.

But for the transformation to work, it had to happen quickly.

"In order to operate high-speed machining equipment properly, we knew we would need quality, in-depth training from someone who understood die production and how to achieve the details we need to produce using a milling process," says Olenski. "Some of our employees had been exposed to Makino's training in the past and recommended we check it out."

The decision is made

The company decided to purchase a...

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