Central Tube & Bar was established as a distributor of metal tubes and bars. They opened the job shop in a small garage in 1996 with a band saw and only one customer, Navistar, that made school buses. Today they have a factory in Conway, Arkansas, one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and are about to open a third one in Texas.
Having to compete with larger competitors with much larger tube inventories convinced Dustin Ward, owner of Central Tube & Bar, that just selling the material was not enough. They needed to add value to products in order to increase the profit margin. So in 2006 they invested in an LT722D system instead of buying a sawing machine.
Technology and automation were the tools chosen by Central Tube & Bar to tackle the global market guaranteeing quicker lead times and very little waste (approximately 1%).
The first machine purchased was a LT722D: with its cutting speed this system slashed processing time and costs by 60-70%. With the LT722D, the bundle loader could be filled with unprocessed metal bars; finished parts would exit the machine without requiring any further processing or tooling. A part that used to take 45 minutes on several machines is now finished by the LT722D in just four minutes.
After the LT722, they bought a very flexible E-TURN40 tube bending system: it was used in Tulsa to make school bus seats and was then taken to Conway to make school furniture, beds and other products. The E-TURN has two strengths: its all-electric operation, including loading, and superior repeatability. The use of a traditional hydraulic bender would not be possible given the extremely tight tolerances of GD&T (Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing) system used by the automotive industry.
Finally, the LT8.10 3D laser cutting system was added to cut larger diameter tubes. In this way the company has managed to differentiate the machines according to the markets, identifying the right part for each one.
All these changes in production required training operators on how to use of these new tools. BLM GROUP’s dedicated training courses held at BLM USA in Wixom MI provided the needed knowledge.
The initial investment was quickly paid back by the production speed, reliability, repeatability and ease of use. This guaranteed quick delivery timelines, less waste and lower part costs. Savings were derived from several factors: increased speed, accuracy that reduced the scrap rate and lower cost of labor. The high quality of BLM’s sales effort and after-sales service completed the offering.
The all-electric technology of E-TURN guarantees high tolerance, accuracy and quick and easy production changeover. Laser versatility and flexibility can be exploited to process even the most complex parts efficiently for clean, high-quality results.