Principal Manufacturing Corp.

The variety of methods Principal Manufacturing Corp. – a TS16949-certified company – uses to produce parts primarily for the auto industry sometimes are combined in a single product. For example, plastic may be injection-molded over metal for a particular component. Performing this variety of processes on a single manufacturing campus is a productivity advantage.

“We relate to our customer needs by having a variety of value-added services onsite to provide them with a completed component or an assembly,” Corporate Manager Dave Millunchick declares. “We’re able to take and provide fully engineered components to our customers through our various value-added operations.”

One of the company’s specialties is fineblanking up to 630 tons. Fineblanking is high-precision stamping of steel, stainless steel, aluminum or brass that uses hydraulic pressure to stamp the steel and produces a smooth surface around the edge of the piece.

“In the past, you would have to machine tight-toleranced features into a part after stamping,” Millunchick explains. “The fineblanking process eliminates that extra step by enabling you to produce a tighter toleranced part with holes closer to the edge and a smooth-edged surface that doesn’t need to be polished later. Fineblanking is a unique talent in the auto industry.”

Among the value-added processes Principal Manufacturing provides is overmolding, in which a part such as one fine-blanked from metal has plastic molded around it. “It’s very popular for head rest components and door and truck latches,” Millunchick notes.

Stamping It Out

Having efficient and speedy fineblanking and stamping facilities is crucial to Principal Manufacturing Corp.’s smooth operation. “Everything starts with the stamping,” Millunchick insists. “They feed the rest of our facilities.” Accordingly, the stamping area runs four days weekly on 10-hour shifts.

“By having longer runs without switching, they can produce more parts per hour than they would in a five-day, eight-hour workweek,” Millunchick asserts. A four-day workweek eliminates one startup and shutdown of the equipment. “You maximize the efficiency by not having the start and end of the day,” he observes. “By having less changeovers, you’ve improved your efficiency.”

Not running the machines one day allows them to be maintained on that day. “Monday is maintenance day,” Millunchick says. “So we have given that day to the maintenance department to do what they need to do with the machines. It allows us the opportunity to prepare the tools and the preventive maintenance ahead of time without sacrificing the run time. In the main stamping area, we’ve actually jumped our operational efficiency by almost 15 percent.”

More Automation

Principal Manufacturing Corp. has five buildings measuring a total of 160,000 square feet on its campus in Broadview, Ill. Each facility is focused on one aspect of the company.

The main facility houses the stamping and fineblanking areas, the engineering/quality department and the tool room. Other facilities house the grinding and computer numerical control machining and robotic metal inert gas and projection welding operations. Another building encloses injection over-molding, the inspection laboratory and automation, and lastly tumbling, packing and shipping.

A new material requirements planning system was installed two years ago that connects all the company’s departments so they can plan manufacturing and control inventory, which the company keeps low.

Using automation to load machines allows operators to run more machines. “We’ve also added more training to our supervision level to allow them to help with the planning of the manufacturing process, so that they can utilize their machines with greater efficiency,” Millunchick notes.

“We’re shipping probably at least 1,000 different part numbers out of our facility,” Millunchick calculates. “Each area has to be as efficient as possible to support a large variety of customers, so we try to maximize the efficiency of each type of operation.” He estimates approximately 73 percent of those parts are for the automotive industry.

Principal Manufacturing also produces parts for motorcycles and boats, hand tools and even electric guitars. It ships parts worldwide including to Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Korea, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Family Owned Future

Millunchick attributes much of the company’s success to Paul Barnett – who in 1980 bought the company that had been founded in 1939 – and his two sons who are now in the business. “The Barnetts have owned this company for 32 years and grown it from a small operation of six people to an operation of over 300 people,” he says. “They are doing a great job in helping steer this company for the future.”

Barnett is still with the company. As vice president, his son Ben handles financing, human resources and purchasing. His other son, Ricky, handles production engineering, the tool room and maintenance. Millunchick points out that the business is now global in scope.

“We don’t react just to what happens in our neighborhoods, we have to react to what happens globally,” Millunchick emphasizes. “Our customers are some of the biggest Tier 1s in the world, and when something happens, it can affect their product anywhere.” He cites the Japanese tsunami, the flooding in Taiwan and the economic slowdown in Europe. “Those things affect everybody,” he stresses. “It’s no longer my neighborhood or your neighborhood. We’re one world, truly.”