Morton Industries: Mastering Tube Bending and Laser Cutting

In the world of machine tubing, Morton Industries appears to have found quite a successful niche. Starting out in 1946 as a welding operation, Morton gained a reputation for fabricating farm implements, platforms and ladder assemblies. Finding its success in machined, tubular and assembled product manufacturing, Morton Industries has emerged to become one of the top tube benders in the United States. The firm currently ships more than 4,000 different part numbers per month. The firm also recently ac­quired Bradley Services, Inc., which produces similar products.

“We build parts for some pretty big clients like Deere, Komatsu and Caterpillar,” President Chris Ober says. “In fact, our clients often comment that if no one else can manufacture the part, they should call Morton Industries – because we can.”

And it’s probably not too far from the truth. Morton Industries has invested in state-of-the-art 3-D, flat laser and tube laser capabilities as well as the latest tube-bending equipment to craft the precise tubing for its clients’ applications. Able to bend tube diameter configurations from 1/8 inch through 7 inches as well as thin-wall, 22-gauge tubing through solid bar, the equipment can accommodate a range of materials including carbon, galvanized, aluminized and stainless steel, in addition to aluminum and other alloys.

“Morton is one of the only companies in the country that offers laser cutting with bending coupled with 3-D laser and flat laser capabilities,” Ober asserts. “We’re willing to invest the capital and tooling to create whatever part our customers need.”

Additionally, Ober attributes much of the company’s success to seasoned employees who work with clients to address challenges. “We have a team that’s been working together for a long time,” he says. “We work well both together and with clients, and our technical expertise is outstanding.”

Great Expectations

Morton’s customers require parts with zero defects that are manufactured to exact specifications. “Not only will we work with them to achieve this,” Ober says, “our engineers try to implement methods that can save costs.” In other words, the engineers at Morton Industries ask, “What is the best way to design this part?”

For example, Morton’s team will work closely with a client’s design engineers to determine ways to eliminate the need for fixtures, allowing the parts to interlock together, thereby reducing the tooling costs associated with a traditional type of assembly. The firm also can eliminate secondary operations by implementing laser technologies. “If we can work with the client’s engineers to put a hole that’s needed at a certain point before the tube is bent to the necessary curvature,” Ober explains, “it eliminates portions of the tooling and secondary operations that are normally needed, which reduces the client’s overall costs.”

The ability to supply specialty parts that may be used in large mining or agricultural equipment gives the company a competitive edge price-wise. “We’ve invested heavily in quick-changeover fixtures in our fabrication areas,” Ober asserts. “All fixtures bolt onto a main base plate and can be stored when not in use and retrieved when that specific job needs to be run.” He adds that Morton’s extensive storage system simplifies the company’s equipment parts retrieval for quick changeover.

Morton Industries’ manufacturing operation also includes a cleaning process to ensure parts are free of contaminants. After fabrication and welding, all parts are leak-tested at the plant to ensure they are 100 percent defect-free. A secondary cleaning operation prepares parts for a powder-coat painting process, if needed. “Our manufacturing process basically follows a Six Sigma quality approach with elements of lean manufacturing throughout,” Ober says.

Making Safety Fun

Safety is of prime importance to Morton Industries. “We’re very proud of our safety record, considering the hazards our employees encounter,” Ober boasts. “Our employees work with sharp metal, saws and acids on a daily basis.” As an incentive, the company promotes a “safety” bingo game. Each player receives a bingo card and numbers are drawn daily, and the gift card amount increases to up to $500 for every safe day of work until someone wins. If there is an injury or accident, the game ends without a winner and the prize reverts to $100.

Morton also has a wellness program that encourages employees to exercise and eat healthily. “We’ve had several fun competitions centered around active lifestyles and weight-loss programs,” Ober says. “People are rewarded with extra paid vacation days.” Periodically, Morton offers its employees a healthful lunch to boost awareness.

“We want to show our employees that the management staff cares about their well-being,” he notes.

An added bonus to these employee incentives is that the company’s overall healthcare costs have de­creased slightly.