CNC Engineering Inc.’s business is centered on machines, but its key element is its staff, Vice President Patrick Harrington asserts. “We’ve surrounded ourselves with very talented people,” he declares.
They include its team of gifted engineers, which are among the best in the business. “We’re always on the look-out for the right type of engineer,” Harrington asserts.
Based in Enfield, Conn., CNC Engineering provides FANUC integration services for multiple industries, including aerospace, automotive, bearings, and oil and gas clients. “Aerospace is year in and year out probably our largest customer,” Harrington says.
Co-owner Gary Caravella started CNC Engineering more than 30 years ago. Although his father specialized in manufacturing, “Gary studied electrical engineering,” Harrington says, noting that the younger Caravella focused on updating various machine tools.
Today, “We’re the largest FANUC retrofitter in North America,” Harrington says, adding that control upgrades and packages comprise CNC Engineering’s main business. “We developed a grinding package to go with our core Lathe and Mill packages that unit-wise, accounts for about 50 control upgrades a year.”
A longtime veteran of the grinding industry, Harrington joined CNC Engineering 17 years ago and is a minority owner in the firm. His previous experience includes working for Bryant Grinder in Springfield, Vt., which “was one of the leading grinder manufacturers in the world,” he says.
That experience led to Harrington forming a sister company, CNC North Inc., in Claremont, N.H. Initially, the firm provided mechanical support for Bryant Grinding equipment, as customers “kept asking us to do more and more than the control upgrades,” Harrington recalls. “We’ve evolved to the point where we not only rebuild Bryant equipment but have done a variety of other grinding machines.”
CNC North is also designing and building new CNC Grinder Equipment. “We have supplied new machines to Tinker Air Force Base, Landing Gear manufacturers and Caterpillar,” he says. “We have another new machine on order now for an OD Grinder that will be working on various landing gear components.”
CNC Engineering copes with the ups and downs of its industry by offering value-added services, Harrington says. For instance, “Not only do we design and install a control retrofit on the machine, we also develop custom software packages for the customer’s specific application,” he says.
Additionally, many competitors prefer to complete work at their own locations, but CNC Engineering does the complete opposite. “Over the years, we have perfected our process for in-field retrofits and we can save our customers a considerable amount of time and money by leaving the machine in place,” he says.
CNC Engineering’s retrofit process, called Certified Pre-assembled Retrofits (CPR), are completely engineered, assembled and tested at its facility in Connecticut before being shipped to the customer. These pre-assembled retrofit packages expedite the installation process, minimize machine downtime and eliminate machine rigging expenses. “If someone is looking for a total rebuild or remanufacturing solution for other than a CNC Grinder, we team with other mechanical houses who specialize in a machine type, to deliver a turnkey solution.”
CNC Engineering’s suite of services also includes CNC rotary table integration and Renishaw machine tool probe integration. “We specialize in Tsudakoma rotary tables and Renishaw probes,” Harrington says. “This is another area where our experienced engineers are the key to our success. We also work hard to maintain a strong partnership with the OEMs, Koma Precision and Renishaw.”
CNC Engineering does very little manufacturing on its own, but the company still utilizes lean, Harrington says. Using the Kaizen process, the company evaluates internal opportunities for improvement and creates a team to develop and test solutions.
CNC Engineering used this procedure to eliminate delays during panel installations in the field. “What we found is a lot of the interruptions were due to not having the right tools,” he recalls.
The company now makes sure its installation teams always have the right supplies on hand through its “job boxes,” Harrington says. Each box, which is approximately four-and-a-half feet in both length and width, is stocked with equipment and tools.
“A fully stocked job box is shipped to the customer’s facility with every CPR hardware package,” he adds. “This particular Kaizen project took about 60 hours to complete, and it’s probably one of the most significant improvements we’ve made since committing to lean.”
Bringing in New Brains
Harrington sees a strong future for CNC Engineering, particularly in the capability for the development of software specific solutions for its clients’ machines.
“Many of the retrofits done today are based on control system obsolescence. Years ago, many companies developed their own control system,” he recalls.
“We have developed custom software solutions that emulate specific features and functions not offered in standard control packages,” he continues. “On certain applications, it provides us a little advantage over our competition.”
But now, he says, most manufacturers want to have a common hardware platform. “Our custom software, combined with industry leading FANUC hardware, means that manufacturers don’t have to lose any of the functionality they’re accustomed to.
“Plus they have a reliable, efficient and innovative CNC system – ensuring the very lowest total cost of ownership,” he says.