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Winter’s Coming! Protect Your Inventory

When winter comes around, you take steps to protect your home and your belongings from the cold, right? You make sure door and window seals keep the cold air out, replace the furnace filter and block any other air leaks to ensure your home is comfortable and efficient. Well, you need to do the same thing for your inventory.  (more…)

The Subtle Art of Machining

A stack of steel bar stock rests on a rack in the shop. The plans for the part have been drawn up. The contract signed. The order made. Now it’s up to the shop to transform that raw material into the intricate components the customer expects with tolerances down to +/-.0001”. Let the subtle art of machining begin.  (more…)

6 Indicators You Need to Change Suppliers

When I was growing up, I thought my mother made the best spaghetti sauce in the world. I didn’t know how she made it; I never really paid attention at that young age.  When I moved away from home and married into a family that had an obsession with Italian food, I learned that the sauce I had experienced in childhood – and thought was awesome – was just “ok” (and actually just came from a jar). The sauce that my mother-in-law made was made from scratch and truly amazing!  My wife has since carried that to the next level and it is even better, now!  (more…)

The Traits to Look for in a Full-Service Metal Components Provider

There are a lot of metal fabrication shops and machining companies out there. Many shops specialize in one area. While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, it’s limiting for their clients and partners.  (more…)

3 Most Common CNC Machining Problems

Picture this, you’re day is moving along nicely, when all of the sudden the CNC machines in your shop start to produce components that don’t meet the necessary specifications. What’s wrong?  (more…)

CNC Machining: Advantages and Disadvantages

Half a century ago, machinists were always responsible for crafting every single piece to perfection. These skills are still needed, but when it comes producing the same piece at high volume and high precision, computerized machines are vastly superior. That’s where Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining comes in.  (more…)

The Challenges of Laser Cutting Aluminum and Other Reflective Metals

CO2 laser technology—the most common laser technology—operates using gas, mirrors and delicate lenses. Because of this, cutting aluminum can be extremely challenging.  (more…)

Fiber Optic vs. CO2 Laser Cutters: Which is Best for Your Business?

While CO2 laser cutting has been around for several decades, the more recent innovation of using fiber optics in laser cutters is providing new options for metal fabricators.   (more…)

Manufacturing Careers: Closing the Skills Gap in Indiana

As we touched on in two previous blog posts, the future of the manufacturing industry looks promising, both nationally and locally. This growth is, in many ways, a result of talent-driven innovation. However, the industry faces an impending setback: the shortage of that skilled talent; manufacturers are having trouble filling jobs. (more…)

Automation and the Future of Manufacturing

Technology is advancing at a remarkable rate across all industries. This advancement brings with it some anxieties but also some excitement. In the manufacturing field in particular, new technologies are ever-improving in terms of capability, flexibility and availability—bringing us ever-closer to fully-automated production facilities. (more…)

Robotic Welding: When Does It Make Sense?

Robotic welding is now one of the most common applications of automation technology in manufacturing and fabrication operations. Manual welding is a labor-intensive, highly-skilled and potentially dangerous trade. Escalating labor costs, trained operator shortages and increased competition have spurred advances in robotic welding technology. For organizations faced with these challenges, welding automation presents a real cost-saving solution. (more…)

How Laser Technology Rendered the Plasma Cutter Obsolete

Until recent years, laser cutters and plasma cutters have been considered comparable technologies with different uses, advantages and disadvantages. Thanks to recent advancements in laser cutting technology, however, that assessment has changed. (more…)

Troubleshooting Tips for Plasma Cutters

Many mechanical and electrical variables influence the cut quality of the plasma cutting process. This being the case, it can be difficult for an operator to troubleshoot cut quality and dimensional problems when they arise. In this blog post we discuss common sources of plasma cutter problems and offer diagnoses for different excessive bevel angles. (more…)

What is Incremental Sheet Forming?

Incremental Sheet Forming (ISF) is an umbrella term for a few variations of a sheet metal forming technique. Through ISF, a sheet is formed into the final workpiece through a progression of small, incremental and localized deformations. The sheet is generally formed by a spherically-ended indenter, which can be attached to a CNC machine and moved over a custom-designed, numerically-controlled tool path.  Flat-bottomed and parabolic indenter profiles can also be used to achieve different surface finishes and forming limits. (more…)

Indiana: National Champion of Steel Production

There are countless reasons to be Hoosier Proud. We’re home to the Indy 500, the historic St. Elmo Steak House, the Pacers and the Colts, mild Midwest manners and incredible state and county fairs. No matter what Kentucky and Illinois try to claim, Abraham Lincoln was raised in our great state. Those who “fly over” this country are missing out on some beautiful natural gems. Add this to the list: Indiana continues to lead the nation in steel production. (more…)

Metal Fabrication Trends in 2018

2018 is well underway, and, as we move forward, we must anticipate what the year may hold. Metal fabrication trends are constantly evolving as the technology and the market change and shift. In order to remain informed and proactive, the following are metal fabrication projections and trends to stay abreast of in 2018. (more…)

Align Your Vendor Relationships: It’s Good for Business

Generally speaking, there is a simple principle for pursuing growth as a business owner: align your resources with your business strategy. Of course, when put into practice, this principle becomes increasingly complex; there are countless opportunities for strategic alignment. Essentially, you must review every aspect of your internal organizational structure and align every facet to a broader goal or budget line objective. However, it’s important to not just think internally but externally as well. In the manufacturing industry, the vendor relationship is a valuable, but often-overlooked, resource. Improving and aligning your vendor relationships will enormously contribute toward strategic growth. To that end, you need to ensure that your vendors are working with you, not against you. (more…)

Mainstay Invests in New Trumpf Fiber Laser Cutting Machine

Mainstay has invested in a new Trumpf Fiber Laser Cutting Machine. The machine’s BrightLine Fiber function guarantees high edge quality with a broad range of materials (including thick mild steel), facilitates easy part removal and produces very small holes which could previously only be drilled. This impressive machine offers increased flexibility and cost-effectiveness, cutting all sheet thickness efficiently. (more…)

Rethink Risks: How to Seek Out New Opportunities and Pursue Growth

It is impossible to be both risk averse and aggressive about growth. The two business philosophies simply cannot be reconciled. Business owners shy away from taking risks because they think about those risks as gambles endangering their bottom line: “How much capital could I lose?” However, when owners avoid these risks completely, their business stagnates and plateaus — they lose all upward momentum. If you’re a business owner truly committed to aggressively pursuing growth, you need to rethink risks. Don’t look at business risks as rolling the dice for profit and loss. Instead, reframe your mindset and look at risks as opportunities for growth. Make calculated but bold decisions in pursuit of that growth. Ask yourself: “If you’re not willing to take risks, if you’re not willing to adapt and grow, then what are you doing this for?” This blog post is intended to help you rethink risks and fearlessly pursue growth in your future business endeavors. (more…)

Managing Inventory: Invest in Your Growth

How much excess inventory currently clutters your valuable floor space? Many organizations pad their supply with extra inventory to absorb the long lead times or missed delivery dates of unreliable vendors. These organizations are attempting to overcome the inefficiencies of their vendors. However, those inefficiencies do not simply disappear: excess inventory creates an inefficiency of space and a restriction of cash flow — both essential resources. Do not allow your vendors’ inefficiencies to become your own. Invest in growth, not in precaution. (more…)

Reduce Your Vendors, Reduce Your Headaches

Many organizations utilize multiple vendors to supply their metal components. In our experience, most organizations partner with around 3 to 5 vendors. This is understandable: if a single vendor is not meeting your needs, employing multiple vendors seems to be the answer. However, multiple vendors bring multiple headaches. Partnering with someone you can trust to meet your needs and grow with you eliminates those headaches and inefficiencies.  (more…)

Strategic Solutions in Action: Relationship Case Studies

Mainstay partners with a variety of companies in a variety of industries to find specific solutions to alleviate problems and maximize efficiency and growth. We have identified six partner solutions that resonate with companies we serve.  Usually, one or two of these six stand out to be valuable solutions we focus and apply quickly.  Below, you can read specific examples we have pulled together from different relationship case studies to give you some perspective and insight.  We believe some of the experiences we share here could relate to challenges that exist in other organizations and represent opportunities afforded by our commitment to strategic solutions.

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Just-In-Time Manufacturing: Eliminate Waste, Improve Productivity

What is Just-In-Time Manufacturing?

The British Motor Corporation plant in Australia originally developed the just-in-time production system in the 1950s, but it was largely adopted by Japan in the 1960s and 1970s. Post-World War II, Japan was seeking to rebuild industry but was short on cash and space. Rather than financing the big-batch, large inventory production methods used elsewhere, they built smaller factories that only housed the necessary materials to fill existing orders. This dramatically reduced inventory and investment costs. Toyota played a key role in developing just-in-time manufacturing in Japan and introducing the method to the United States; for this reason, it is often referred to as the Toyota Production System (TPS).

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How to Increase Cash Flow

Investing in inventory directly affects profitability and cash flow for a business. Knowing how much to buy and when is a critical game with big gains and losses. Leaders in business must be discerning in their investments; they must make strategic decisions to limit risk and increase cash flow.

Unreliable partnerships can cause strains and restrict cash flow. Manufacturers partnering with inconsistent vendors often find themselves absorbing the costs of those vendors’ shortcomings. For example, when a vendor’s lead times are uncertain and delivery dates are missed, the manufacturer may purchase and store extra inventory to create a buffer against these issues. This extra inventory depletes the manufacturer’s cash flow and takes up valuable floor space. (more…)

How to Scale your Business for Future Growth

A business’ scalability is crucial to its success. Leaders in business ensure their business models offer the potential for economic growth and that the internal systems of their companies can adapt to meet future increases. However, it is equally important to plan for growth in a business’ outside relationships. Growth must be supported externally as well as internally.

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CNC Tools of the Trade

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) references tools being controlled via computer. In the 1960s, the invention of CNC machines revolutionized the metal fabrication industry by increasing productivity and eliminating the need for constant supervision

CNC is the dominant method of machining materials today and comes in a variety of sizes for fabricating products. Below are a just a few of Mainstay’s CNC tools of the trade and their capabilities.

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Laser Cutting vs Plasma Cutting

Here at Mainstay, we offer both laser cutting and plasma cutting. Thus, we often hear the question, “Which type of cutting should I use to produce my components—laser or plasma?” But the answer isn’t cut and dry. Before we delve into which method might be best for a project, let’s first take a step back and look at how each of these techniques work. (more…)

Why You Should Care About ISO 9001

As a business owner, strategic planner, or purchasing agent, part of your role is managing your vendors. While researching suppliers, perhaps you have noticed products or services referred to as ISO 9001. What does this designation mean—and why should you care about it?  

What does ISO 9001 mean?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) gives requirements for a company’s quality management system (QMS). Although ISO is the organization that came up with these standards, it’s important to note that they do not certify companies. ISO 9001 establishes requirements that—if executed well—empower suppliers to offer products and services that meet expectations and comply with applicable regulations.

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Lessons in Leadership

Over my last 16+ with Mainstay, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about what to do—and not to do—that have greatly impacted how I run my business and how I approach the people I work with.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t have this all figured out. There are many areas that I still need to continue to grow. But here are some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my years of being an entrepreneur, business owner and strategic leader.

PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH

The right people
The people you surround yourself with—from vendors to customers to employees to investors—must align with your purpose and have the same character you’re enlisting. Obviously, you need people with skills, but ethics far outweigh experience. If the people you work with don’t align with your character, you must be fair to your ultimate goal and replace them.

After you find those right people, your job is to train them, learn what motivates them, put them in positions that are best for them, point them in a direction with a clear objective and support them along the way with whatever they need: tools, equipment, training, etc. This will take them and your business far. (more…)

Getting a Welding Certificate: What You Need to Know

If you are applying to work at a welding shop, most likely you will be asked to test your skills. Larger shops will probably require you to show proof that your certifications are up to date.

Certifications are available for a variety of welding processes in order to test people’s ability to do sound welds. If you are applying for a job in MIG, TIG, or stick welding, you’ll have to reach a certain level of skill for the process before you receive your certification.

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A History Lesson on Laser Cutting in Manufacturing

Laser cutting is one of Mainstay’s many offerings. We use this precise technology to create intricate features in parts for a variety of industries—construction, medical, mining, packaging, and recreation to name a few.

Because of its tight tolerances, laser cutting is an ideal solution for machining geometrically-complex features. In fact, it is more stable and accurate than any other manufacturing tool.

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Mainstay Increases Capabilities with New SafanDarley Press Brake

Mainstay is thrilled to announce our recent purchase of a 13’ 200-ton SafanDarley electric press brake machine. This joins our Trumpf fleet of brake presses from 73-ton through 140-ton machines. The addition of our new machine adds flexibility and allows us to increase our capacity to better serve relationship demands.

The E-Brake technology distributes the bending force evenly eliminating the need for crowning. By removing the need for the crowning adjustment, we increase bend consistency along the length of the part. This translates to higher quality for your component needs. (more…)

An Open Letter From Clients to Supply Chain Vendors

The following satire represents common frustrations clients have with supply chain vendors. (Not us, of course. Our clients love working with us!) If you’re a purchasing agent, you can most likely relate.)

Dear Supply Chain Vendors,

It’s time we have a chat; we need to re-define our business relationship. We’ve been together for a while now, but that doesn’t mean our sales partnership is meant to last.

If you want to keep working with us, then we suggest that you step up your game. Why?

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How to Upgrade your Supply Chain and Client Relationships

If you are a purchasing agent, business owner, or strategic planner, part of your role includes managing your vendors. One of the healthiest things you can do as a business is take a step back and evaluate your company’s partnerships.

Some vendors you might have been partnering with from the beginning, while others you may be trying out for the first time. As time goes on, some of those alliances will thrive. Others, on the other hand, will become more burdensome due to quality issues, increased prices, or longer lead times. In the end, you can end up putting a lot of work into maintaining alliances that don’t have a good ROI. (more…)

5 Questions Vendors Need to Answer

The metal fabrication industry needs a booster shot. Sure, you may be getting the products you need from your vendors, but don’t be content with the relationship ending there. No one’s talking about company culture alignment in the vendor/customer relationship. Now’s the time to broach the subject.

Late last year we sent out an open call to purchasing agents, business owners, strategic planners and decision makers. The goal was to host a conversation around how to create a mutually beneficial relationship between manufacturer and vendor. A relationship that is built off transparency and trust. A partnership where both companies are investing in each other towards the common goal of growth. A partnership that doesn’t necessarily happen often.

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Why Your Current Fabrication Vendor is Holding You Down

Aligning with an outsourced metal fabrication vendor is a big decision, with a lot riding on it. With strict deadlines and high expectations for quality, making the right choice in a partner you can trust is paramount.

The metal fabrication industry is watered down with companies that have basic equipment, below average work ethic, and a lack of knowledge to complete the work you need to your exacting standards. These companies are out there, and they want your business, which means they’ll do whatever it takes to seal the deal.

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How To Reduce The Costs of Metal Fabrication

No matter how long you’ve been in business, no matter how successful you are, there’s always something that can be done better. I’ve seen that firsthand, as I’ve worked with companies that are 100 years old, those that are just starting out and others at every stage in between. What all these companies have in common is a need to improve the efficiency and value of their products, much of which can be accomplished by reducing the costs of metal fabrication.

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Top Thirteen Things to look for in a Metal Fabrication Partner

When choosing a metal fabrication partner, you’re not just buying components, you’re entering into a relationship that should be productive, supportive and communicative. A great metal fabrication partner does more than meet your production quotas. It should function as an extension of your organization that not only responds to your demands but also anticipates your needs.

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When to Outsource Metal Fabrication

Precision metal fabrication equipment has become very expensive to own. Product companies need to identify their value add and concentrate specifically on those strategies, and while certain equipment may be helpful in executing those strategies, it’s often not worth the cost of acquiring, operating and maintaining new equipment.

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Outsourcing Metal Fabrication for Safer Flights

Xwind LLC, a relatively small, Indiana-based design and development company, brings high-quality flight simulators to the people who need them most.

Designed to help pilots hone their skills safely and effectively, Xwind’s flight simulators are obviously no replacement for actual flight, but they are the next best thing to train pilots to handle dangerous crosswinds and gusts. Wind disruptions like gusts and crosswinds during flights are the leading cause of accidents every year.

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Single Head Punch vs. Turret Punch in Metal Fabrication

All metal fabrication projects have similar goals: Produce quality components while maximizing both time and cost efficiency. Single-head punching technology is one of the most effective ways to attain those goals.

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How Outsourcing Generated Higher Quality and Faster Turn Arounds

The Problem

GreensGroomer WorldWide, Inc started in 1996 selling one product using a fabrication company located 40 minutes from the GreensGroomer assembly shop. While the fabricator produced acceptable finished products (frame, wheel lift, drawbar, and other misc. parts), we needed better weldments and closer tolerances, plus the ability to make changes on short notice.

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The History of Metal Fabrication

Visit any natural history museum and you’ll see that metals have had an important role in human civilizations for thousands of years. Initially admired for its rarity and beauty, metal was used as decoration, a symbol of elite status in many ancient societies. As people learned more about them and discovered ways to mine and refine ores, metals became the foundation for the bustling, global economy we’re familiar with today. (more…)

Company Culture: Creating an Identity

Every company, no matter what industry or business type they participate in, has a culture that helps create and support their identity. This culture impacts everything that happens day-to-day. It is its own living, growing thing. Company culture will evolve as business grows and changes. It’s the responsibility of your company’s management team to establish and protect it, and test the alignment with organizational goals. The management team has to play offense and defense constantly to make sure company culture is protected and aligns with your core values. Taking an active role developing culture is a good way to create a company that not only produces top-quality products, but is also a good, quality place to work.

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The Benefits of Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is one of the most precise methods of cutting a design from a variety of different materials. The CNC machine, which does the cutting, is programmed to cut whatever design the client wants. From simple rectangles to precise, intricately designed pieces, laser cutting is your best option for most applications.

CO2 Laser Cutting

CO2 lasers are the highest-power continuous wave lasers that are available on the market. Because of their high power, they are ideal for cutting and boring. CO2 lasers are also excellent for engraving, which can be achieved by reducing the resonator output power. CO2 lasers are efficient when compared to other lasers, as well.

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Metal Fabrication With Stainless Steel Alloys

Steel, in general, is iron alloyed to carbon. Sometimes, other elements are added to create different kinds of steel, which do different things. Inox steel, more commonly known as stainless steel, is a steel alloy and is a common material used in manufacturing. It’s popular because it doesn’t easily stain, corrode, or rust. Stainless steel alloys can be found in a number of different varieties. Two very common types are 304 stainless steel alloy and 316 stainless steel alloy. These two different types of stainless steel can be used for a number of different applications and are what many metal manufacturers choose to use. While these two alloys have some similarities, they ultimately have different components and characteristics.

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Metal Fabrication With Aluminum Alloys

Aluminum alloys are extremely popular for manufacturing parts and components since they’re lightweight, resistant to corrosion, have a high electrical conductivity, and can be shaped into almost any form. Aluminum is widely used and readily available, but not all aluminums are the same. Different aluminums have different characteristics that will determine if it’s a suitable choice for a project. While there are several different kinds of aluminum out there, all with different characteristics, here at Mainstay we consistently use two different kinds.

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