How big fabricators are getting bigger

May 6, 2014
By: Tim Heston

North Georgia fabricator Impulse Manufacturing just acquired two machining companies, effectively doubling its size and greatly expanding its manufacturing capabilities. The growth shows what continuous improvement makes possible.

The employees at Impulse Manufacturing live by this lean manufacturing adage: When you consider the overall manufacturing cycle, the time work-in-process spends between operations really counts. If a machine is down longer than it should be between setups, something’s awry.

Of course, you can’t improve something that you don’t measure, and in recent years the Dawsonville, Ga., fabricator has stepped up its measuring effort. In 2009, at the worst of the recession, the company installed arc-on-time devices by its welding cells. The data showed when a welder’s arc was on during a shift, when it wasn’t on, and for how long. If the system showed a welder had a prolonged amount of downtime between jobs, supervisors could ask questions and offer help. Was the tooling unavailable? Was the setup difficult, or the orientation challenging?

Karl Baysden, director of sales and marketing, added that getting employee buy-in wasn’t all that difficult. Managers didn’t approach it from a judgmental or accusatory standpoint. “It was about identifying areas of improvement and working as a team to get it down. Culturally, it wasn’t an issue for us. At first we were just collecting data. And then when we shared the data, it was more eye-opening. It opened a lot of discussion, and people embraced it.” The company has a place where employees can make suggestions for improvement, and the monitoring systems “really sparked a lot of communication.”

Over the past two years the company has expanded this downtime measurement to include most equipment on the floor. If a machine isn’t running after a certain time period, the machine won’t start unless the operator selects a reason for the downtime from the drop-down menu before starting the job. It may be because material is not available, a machine is unexpectedly down for maintenance, a schedule lapse, or any number of other reasons.

Considering such improvement initiatives, it’s no surprise that Impulse is expanding. Last week the company announced two major acquisitions: Bellwright Industries in Summerville, S.C., and Mid-State Machine in Mount Ulla, N.C. The two companies, which offer machining capabilities of barstock and castings, will increase Impulse’s total headcount to more than 400 employees.

According to a press release from Impulse, “The combined manufacturing capabilities of these three companies are unique to the industry and will make it possible for companies to consolidate their vendor base. All three companies are expecting significant growth over the next 12 to 24 months. Employment numbers are expected to increase by more than 150 within this time frame.”

In effect, Impulse seems to be positioning itself as a supplier that can meet a range of OEM demands, which have only grown in recent years as more manufacturing has been pushed down the supply chain. If a customer needs laser cutting of flat sheet or tube, bending, welding, powder coating, and now machining, the people at Impulse can meet the need.

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Tim Heston

Tim Heston

Senior Editor
FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-381-1314