From machine shop to tooling manufacturer.
Started in 1989 with three people, OTM employs 25 workers covering two shifts in a 12,000 sq ft facility. The company has always done some contract machining, but its true growth and success have come directly from its ability to produce special tooling including combination tools, indexable drills, and milling cutters.
Some of its first steps as a new business included repairing indexable tooling and crudely building special-indexable tooling on older manual machines. When computer aided design (CAD) was added, OTM began to shop around for CNC machining centers and CNC milling machines. Fast, dependable machines that were versatile and adaptable to routine and unique projects were regarded as a must.
"Early on, we searched for a really good CNC machine base to begin with, and we chose the Clausing/Kondia FV1-CNC vertical milling machine," says John Desenberg, OTM marketing director.
"When OTM first came to us they were a new company, didn't have a lot of money, so they were looking for a machine that was low in price and would give them increased production," adds Bernie Ibbs, Clausing CNC technical engineering manager.
That machine choice increased production, but Mark Meyer, OTM chairman and chief designer, decided the cutters it came equipped with weren't performing to his expectations. So Mr Meyer sat down and designed his own cutters. Later he was using the cutters in-house to produce more and more tooling. Subsequently he bought more of the same machines eventually totaling five FV-1 three-axis CNC milling machines. Mr Ibbs concludes, "He bought the FV-1s because he knew them and they had given him good reliability and performance." This helped OTM build its reputation for special tooling.
Primary tooling lines manufactured by OTM as specials include: indexable combination tools, custom tool design and build, indexable drills, indexable core drills and trepan tools, and quick-change chuck jaw systems.
Experiments were conducted on an OTM 3" dia face mill by Mr Ibbs at Clausing. He explains, "Using the same material, I compared OTM and their competitors' cutters on the B-500 CNC vertical machining center, a 7 1/2 hp machine. The best I could do with their competitors was 0.0140" depth of cut, at 10" per minute feedrate, at about 1500 rpm. With the OTM cutter, I could go 0.4" depth of cut. I could increase the rpm to 1800 and increase surface speed to 12" a minute. The machine didn't run out of power and the cutter did not burn up. I didn't have to use coolant because all the heat goes away in the chip."
In time OTM had made inroads with its special tooling at major manufacturers such as Browning Manufacturing, Maysville, KY, and automakers like Honda, GM, and Ford. Due to extensive leadtime and the manhours required to engineer and manufacture special tooling, the company has shifted its strategy to producing standard tooling.
"It became apparent that the positive tool geometry utilized in our special tooling could probably be evolved into an industry standard," says Mr Desenberg. "In the latter part of 1993 and early 1994, a family of indexable end mills and face mills was introduced to a regional marketplace that may have caught the competition napping," reckons Rich Lehwald, OTM manager of special tools. That tooling has been expanded this year to introduce long-edge mills and larger diameter face mills. Added value for OTM's special tooling customers has not been overlooked when crafting standard tooling. Mr Lehwald insists, "We built our tooling reputation by giving end-users drastically reduced setup times. Some of the things we've done with reducing setup times are phenomenal."
To support these moves in the marketplace, in 1993 OTM replaced other equipment with two new Clausing/Kondia B-500 CNC vertical machining centers; a third identical machining center was added this year.
"Clausing offers a good, solid, all-around workhorse-type of machining center and milling machine," says Mr Desenberg. "Their machines enhance our manufacturing with reliability day-in and day-out. They follow-up with effective service to keep us up and running because things do happen, even with preventative maintenance. We've been able to move ahead as a business because of that reliability."
A final footnote in this story has OTM selling tooling starter kits to Clausing to accompany its machine sales. When Mr Meyer first saw the B-500 during an open house demonstration, he liked what he saw and bought one. He discarded the tooling that came with the machining center and designed his own. Mr Ibbs recalls, "When I first became aware of what he was actually doing I went into his shop and saw him machining parts and he just blew my mind. I told him I wanted some of his cutters to demonstrate on our machines."
Mr Meyers designed a starter kit for Clausing that's available in three sizes. Entering this tricky world of advising machine customers on what tooling to purchase did not come easily to a cautious Mr Ibbs. "I've always said to these people, 'I want to stay out of this.' Because if I sell you a tooling package, and you get it home and you can't get inserts locally, or you can't get this or that, you're not going to forget it."
Mr Ibbs concludes, "That was my advice until OTM came along, and quite frankly, their tooling just outperforms everybody else's."
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|Publication:||Tooling & Production|
|Date:||Sep 1, 1994|
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