September 2011 / Volume 63 / Issue 9|
Straight to the Pointe
By Jan Bottiglieri
|Pointe Precision creates opportunity with new machines and skilled employees.
Courtesy of All images: DMG/Mori Seiki USA
For Pointe Precision Inc., a full-service machine shop in Plover, Wis., customer demand for high-volume part production, tight tolerances and fast turnaround is a welcome challenge.
“I tell customers the benefit of working with us is that we’re a one-stop shop,” said Scot Barton, vice president of sales and operations for Pointe Precision. “We’re responsible for everything. Our only supply chain consists of the different departments within our four walls; that’s how we guarantee quality.”
Pointe Precision occupies a climate-controlled, 60,000-sq.-ft. facility with more than 85 pieces of CNC equipment. Founded in 1995, the company employs 130 employees, many of whom have been with the shop since its inception.
With a range of capabilities—including grinding, milling, thread grinding, drilling, multiaxis turning, Swiss-style machining, laser marking, nondestructive testing and manual and machine deburring—Pointe offers customers reliability and quick turnaround. The shop focuses on aerospace, but also serves the automotive, medical, recreational and industrial manufacturing industries.A Tight Community
Pointe Precision was born from turbulence and change—and the take-charge attitude that gave the company its start still binds it together today.
“When we started the business, I was working as a general manager for a larger company in the community; they decided to close the facility and move its operations to the company’s headquarters,” explained Joe Kinsella Sr., Pointe Precision’s founder, president and CEO. “We saw the opportunity to start anew—keep the experienced employees within the community and continue to do business. It was a win-win situation. We had the experience, so we were able to market that. It’s been a people-driven success.”
Joe Kinsella Jr. handles inside sales for the company, and Joe Sr. includes his wife, Cindy, and younger son Dan in board of directors meetings so they can also be involved.
“In a community our size, it’s nice to have family involvement,” Joe Sr. said. “The larger the organization, the more difficult it becomes to be on the floor talking to the people who work for you. At Pointe, we have more transparency; decisions can be made much more quickly.”
That management style translates to employee confidence, Barton said. “Joe Sr. empowers employees and managers to make decisions. That makes employees feel more engaged in the day-to-day operation of Pointe Precision and in its success.”Machine Advantage
A range of specialty services and a full complement of machine tools have helped build the company’s reputation. Pointe Precision has four Mori Seiki NZ2000 machines, nine Mori Seiki horizontal machining centers, three Mori Seiki vertical machining centers and six other Mori Seiki 2- and 4-axis lathes. Because maintaining control over a customer’s order is an important differentiator for Pointe, the NZs in particular have played a critical role in the company’s strategy.
“The NZ brought us a new technology,” Barton said. “It’s faster, and we can get more work done. The multitasking capabilities of the machine allow us to do things in a single operation that previously took a lot of multiple-fixture operations.”
According to Engineering Manager Sam Crueger, the decision to standardize on new machine purchases from DMG/Mori Seiki USA has boosted more than just reliability. Crueger said: “Our operators are better able to move from machine to machine. This gives us the flexibility to move operators where the work is. The NZs have allowed us to not only be faster, but to do those single-operation applications. The quality is better when a part can be completed on a single machine.”Flying High
Approximately 80 percent of Pointe Precision’s business comes from the aerospace industry. As that industry begins its economic recovery, the NZ machines are giving Pointe a competitive edge.
“Along with all shops involved in aerospace, we experienced the downturn,” Barton said. “We’re at a huge advantage, however, because we invested in new equipment when our competitors were hunkering down.”
As a result, the shop is extremely busy. The company’s NZs are at full capacity, and Pointe is considering new equipment purchases.
The NZs allow the shop to produce parts that consistently meet specifications, which is vital for aerospace customers. “Quality is a given, because these parts are going in jet engines and landing gear. It’s what we call ‘life critical.’ There is no room for failure,” Barton said.
One recent example was a tight-tolerance fuel valve. “The volume of this order (20,000 parts per year) was large enough to justify a new machine tool purchase,” Crueger said. “We needed machines that could handle that high of a volume on an extremely difficult part.”
Crueger explained that with repeatability requirements between 0.0006" and 0.0008", the company needed specific application support to ensure its machines were up to the job.
“We approached DMG/Mori Seiki USA through Ellison Technologies, our distributor, to set up a turnkey solution focused on the specifications of that part,” Crueger said. “We got the machine quickly, and we’re happy with the support from Ellison and DMG/Mori Seiki.”
The ability to guarantee quick turnaround is important to Pointe’s customer-focused strategy.
“We’ve reduced lead times on certain items because we’ve been able to machine them on the NZs,” Barton said. “We’re able to do some things thanks to the live tooling—for instance, the ability to make parts out of bar stock—that represent a higher level of service than before. This has resulted in numerous examples of savings for our customers.”
Pointe’s quality efforts don’t stop at the machine. Another example is the company’s quick-response quoting cell, a process designed to get quotes back to customers in 48 hours or less. It can be a challenge, Barton said, but it gives the company an added advantage.
“We just passed our AS9100 Rev. C and are working diligently towards NADCAP certification to bring us to another level and to meet the aerospace industry’s unique challenges,” he said.People Power
Pointe has eight engineers focused on quality and continuous improvement. An additional nine manufacturing and application engineers are responsible for day-to-day operations, making sure parts are processed as quickly as possible and that everything meets customer requirements.
While high-tech machines help Pointe succeed, they aren’t the whole story, Barton emphasized.
“Without the people, the best equipment is not a competitive edge. We have the expertise to use our machines to their full potential, where some of our competitors may not,” he said. “The NZ machines are up to 35 percent faster than conventional machines, but you need to know what you’re doing to get good parts from them. Our programmers are the best in the industry.”
To ensure that its workforce skill continues to grow, Pointe Precision created a youth apprenticeship program in partnership with several technical schools and high schools in central Wisconsin, including the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“We home-grow a lot of our own machinists; approximately 20 of our employees have already gone through the program. We’re investing our knowledge in future operators,” Crueger said.Poised for Growth
With an experienced staff and advanced capabilities, Pointe is ready for growth opportunities within aerospace and other industries. The recreational industry—archery components and firearms parts, for example—and the medical industry are two focus areas.
“The medical market will always need new and innovative products, and we’re trying to position ourselves to be able to compete more effectively in that area,” Barton said.
Alternative energy is also of great interest to Pointe. “The renewable energy push that the government has going right now is going to be one of the largest and most influential factors in manufacturing,” predicts Crueger. “Windmills and natural gas pipelines, for example, are making for some exciting opportunities.”
Barton agreed: “We’re looking to add more of the same kind of machines we’re using now. From our standpoint, that equipment fits the niche we’re going after: complex, milled/turned parts that meet customer demand for high precision and tight tolerances. Pointe Precision is looking for some pretty big things this year.” CTEAbout the Author: Jan Bottiglieri is a freelance writer based in Schaumburg, Ill.
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