Jason Cox has watched his company's growth from a slightly different view than perhaps others in the company. As the chief technology officer of Cox Machine Inc. of Wichita, KS, he's a guy who thinks about tools and their most effective use, about lean and cellular manufacturing, and about Six Sigma and Kaizan.
"We really see a continued and strong focus on lean and cellular manufacturing," Cox says. "We see that's the way to go, and we're going to invest in new technology, hard technology, like our Bridgeport machining centers, and soft technology, like the way our staging areas are set up. That's really where we feel we need to go, and we feel we've done a good job so far, but we see a lot of room for improvement."
Bridgeport is key
A manifestation of where Cox wants to go can be seen in two recent acquisitions, two Bridgeport XR 1000 APC vertical machining centers featuring integrated front-load automatic pallet changers and 48-tool ATCs with rapid chip-to-chip change times.
"Before we had standard three-axis vertical mills that were aging," Cox says. "We've chosen the Bridgeports as the vehicle to drive our efficiency improvements in our vertical milling operations. On the standard vertical, you can't turn the spindle while you're changing over and loading parts, and on these you can. So one Bridgeport easily replaces two conventional verticals, and that allows us to grow our business without unnecessary workforce or footprint expansions."
Cox explains the company occupies 75,000sqft and employs 163 in two locations: In Wichita they do all of the machining and assembly, and in Harper, just a short run down the road, the company does all of its fabrication in a facility Cox purchased.
"Primarily, we make structural and control system components and assemblies for Cessna, Spirit AeroSystems, Hawker Beach, Eclipse, Boeing and a bunch of others," Cox says. "But we've come to realize that focusing just on Wichita wasn't broad enough, so we looked beyond and found clients in various parts of the country--and beyond. We do some work in Turkey and Italy, but I think all of that work ends up back on Boeing products."
Cox explains that business is so good, yet it is impossible to find qualified help.
"Our challenge is to grow with the people we have without over-working them" he says. "We don't want to make them work twice as hard. We want them to work the same amount, three shifts a day, but produce...