FMA Communications Inc.

Tim Heston

Senior Editor
FMA Communications Inc.
833 Featherstone Road
Rockford, IL 61107

Plasma Cutting | Articles

Robotic plasma cutting gets flexible

July 29, 2016 | By Tim Heston

It used to take days or weeks to program a robotic plasma cutting cell. Now, like in welding, robotic plasma cutting has become much more flexible and adaptable. Offline programming and simulation, as well as flexible components of the robot cell itself, have made this possible.

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

What makes a good boss in manufacturing?

July 27, 2016 | By Tim Heston

So often, when a dispute arises between a supervisor and employee, it's not about "what." It's about "who."

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Shop Management | Blog Posts

Metal fabrication is a communication business

July 18, 2016 | By Tim Heston

Most view metal fabrication as a technology business. But custom fabricators are complex, albeit usually small businesses. In such complex environments, good communication can make things a lot easier.

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Materials Handling | Articles

Automated guided vehicles get flexible

July 8, 2016 | By Tim Heston

A camera-based automated guided vehicle may have potential in high-product-mix environments. The vehicle takes pictures of its surroundings, remembers them, and then drives itself along that path.

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Bending | Articles

The human side of the skilled-labor crisis

July 8, 2016 | By Tim Heston

In metal fabrication, companies need technical skill, but there’s a humanity to the skill that’s often overlooked. It’s about the relationship between the technician, his machine, and the workpiece.

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Laser Cutting | Articles

A ticket of entry to laser cutting

July 5, 2016 | By Tim Heston

Alkras has introduced a laser small enough to fit on the gantry of a cutting table. It’s being marketed as a ticket of entry for those fab shops—especially small ones—that have not yet entered the laser cutting arena.

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Bending | Articles

Managing part flow in custom metal fabrication

July 1, 2016 | By Tim Heston

Think of how fast modern laser cutting is; now think of a typical press brake. There’s no contest. With this in mind, how can a fab shop best manage part flow? Elements of quick-response manufacturing (QRM) can help.

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Bending | Articles

Big press brake bending, high throughput

June 29, 2016 | By Tim Heston

In large-workpiece bending, material handling and tooling changeover can take serious time. Shorten that time, and bending throughput levels, even for the largest jobs, can jump significantly.

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Laser Cutting | Articles

3 questions to ask for better laser cutting

June 28, 2016 | By Tim Heston

Brent Donner, president of DLC Manufacturing and Fabrication, has spent almost a decade as a laser cutting consultant. Over that time he has noticed several fundamentals that many operators miss: properly cleaning and polishing the optics, centering the nozzle, and calibrating the beam focus.

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Shop Management | Articles

The 2016 FAB 40: Planning their next move

June 22, 2016 | By Tim Heston

It’s been quite a run. Over the past four years many FAB 40 companies have reported big revenue gains. In 2015, not so much, at least on average. Sales at some big companies either held steady or declined somewhat, mainly thanks to weak markets that by now every fabricator knows about: oil and...

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Shop Management | Articles

Metal fabrication and the buying experience

June 17, 2016 | By Tim Heston

SixAxis, a fabricator of safety platforms, portable stairs, and other industrial products, developed its own software with quoting, customer relationship management, and product configuration features. According to sources, software changed the customer buying experience, which in turn helped the company quintuple in size over six years.

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Shop Management | Articles

A metal fabricator you can’t pigeonhole

June 15, 2016 | By Tim Heston

IMS Engineered Products’ revenue has increased by 45 percent during the past five years. How? The fabricator is part of a larger organization, IMS Companies, with diverse revenue streams coming from gear manufacturing, stamping, electrical harness assembly, and more. But IMS’s story of growth really boils down to a straightforward strategy: quick response.

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Shop Management | Articles

Lean, large, and keeping pace

June 15, 2016 | By Tim Heston

Ironform Corp. formed in 2013 after Wynnchurch Capital purchased two large metal fabricators. But Ironform’s story is more about scaling up metal fabrication through acquisition. It’s about adapting the principles of lean manufacturing to custom metal fabrication—on a large scale.

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Shop Management | Articles

Scaling up metal fabrication: In support of the front line

June 15, 2016 | By Tim Heston

General Sheet Metal Works has experienced double-digit growth in recent years. For a $70 million operation, that’s saying something. And yet, the company has few growing pains to speak of—thanks to a new business structure that has made scaling up much easier.

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Shop Management | Articles

One metal manufacturer, one name, many services

June 3, 2016 | By Tim Heston

Merrill Technologies Group, Saginaw, Mich., has implemented a strategy that managers hope will double the size of the company over the next five years.

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