Making a better crusher: software magic and new machines pulverize once costly method.

Position:Productivity solutions

Telsmith Inc., a manufacturer of rock-crushing machinery in Mequon, WI, knows what happens when there's an unprecedented demand from mining companies responding to a dramatic run-up in metals prices compounded by a weak U.S. dollar.

With its backlog at $44 million, the highest level in decades, Telsmith has to do everything it can to meet customer demand.

Telsmith productivity tools are Edgecam software, two big CNC machine tools from MAG Industrial Automation Systems, and high-grade carbide tooling from Kennametal Inc. A third machine tool has been budgeted for late in 2008.

Responsibility rests with Dennis Van Asten, manager of manufacturing engineering, two CNC programmers (Michael Wier and David Worzalla), and the machining operators and supervisors. Their efforts embrace faster setups as well as faster machining.

The CAM programming is done with Edgecam from Planit Solutions. Telsmith has relied on the program for over 10 years, and it is the one element of the productivity program that is not new.

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Telsmith's mantra is "100 percent from the post," meaning that each program addresses everything for every job in the postprocessor. In other words, part-program editing by overly cautious machinists is a thing of the past. These "tweaks" can greatly extend cycle times and deliveries, and it takes close cooperation between Edgecam, Telsmith, and Giddings & Lewis.

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Significant gains

Such cooperation led to sharp gains in productivity in just a few weeks.

"New programming methods on the existing machines have reduced most cycle times by 25 to 40 percent and in a few cases by as much as 80 percent," Van Asten reports.

That alone has generated about $500,000 in documented savings through speedier setups, he notes.

Van Asten, Worzalla, and Wier have been given the go-ahead for long overdue changes in the way Telsmith makes parts. That includes broad new initiatives in Six Sigma quality assurance and the Toyota Production System.

Telsmith makes three types of rock crushers (jaw, cone, and impact) in several sizes for mining, aggregates, quarrying, road-building and related industries, plus screens and feeders. Sales for 2007 were up sharply from 2006. Production employment stayed the same. Employees work around the clock in three eight-hour shifts plus a six-hour partial shift on Saturdays. Telsmith makes all parts in-house except bevel gears and commodity items such as bearings.

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