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MindShare: Buchanan Sales Begins With the End in Mind!

By Elry Cramer, Buchanan Sales

In a recent meeting with Betsy Rusnic and Marie Pelloni of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, we reviewed who Buchanan Sales is, and what we bring to our customers.  

In addition to discussing the basics, we are a manufacturers’ representative firm that has been in business since 1957 specializing in custom engineered mechanical, electro-mechanical, and electronic parts and projects up to and including turnkey production.  We discussed several projects where BSC has provided upfront DFM (Design for Manufacturing) support and/or downstream value engineering support.  

Harmony Castings’ engineering group and Buchanan Sales evaluate the mold flow analysis of a part that is being considered to be converted to a V-Cast part to lower cost.Based upon my 45 years of experience in this field, early involvement in a project provides the opportunity to look at the entirety of the project from prototyping to full production.  It is at this stage of development that manufacturing processes and the relevant DFM considerations for the final production manufacturing processes need to be evaluated.  Our breadth of experience and knowledge of a wide variety of processes can be of assistance in the decision making process.  In many cases we have been able to offer the best process about which our customer was not aware.  

Just recently we were able to recommend photo-etching for a project that was designed for laser cutting but could not be laser cut because of heat build up in confined areas of the part.  We often find that short run stampings and/or castings are viable at lower capital costs than our customers anticipated.  We recently had a casting project for a machined part that was 90% chips and 10% part when the machining was complete.  Volumes were low, but higher than the 4 parts for which the price per part cost savings covered the upfront capital expenditures.  We normally look for a one-year payback of upfront NRE to justify going to a more efficient process.  

In another instance, Tech Council President Audrey Russo was kind enough to recommend us to a fellow Tech Council member.  As soon as we began our meeting it was obvious that the best process for their needs was blow molding.  I informed them of this and told them that it is a process that we do not represent but recommended they contact a good blow molder.  We at Buchanan feel that a project should not be pursued unless there is a win for both the customer and the manufacturer.  In this case we did not offer that win for the customer, but we were able to make a recommendation for them to get the win.  

It is also important to look at DFM based upon the long-term objectives of the anticipated length of the project.  This begins at the prototype stage.  While it is possible to make almost anything using additive processes it is important to proceed with the end in mind.  We represent Tronix3D, an excellent additive house, and they are a great asset to both us and our customers.  If the project is of the right volume or if the design of the part is fluid or the final design of the production parts can only be produced using additive manufacturing, DFM should be for the additive process.  However, if the project is anticipated to reach a volume where injection molded parts will be the most cost effect way of making the parts, the DFM of the parts needs to be for the injection molding processand the printed parts should be readily to injection molding.  We were recently asked to evaluate injection molding parts that are for a project that is in low volume production using 3D printed parts for their plastic housings.  The parts could not be injection molded due to several undercuts and a lack of any draft angle.   The entire product required a redesign to realize the cost savings offered by injection molding.  With the proper upfront DFM for injection molding, their printed parts could have been printed to a design that could be injection molded.  

Mike Vindler of Tronix3D and Elry Cramer of Buchanan Sales evaluate printing parts that are designed to convert to injection molding when volume warrants it.The V-Process casting process that Harmony Castings, one of our local manufacturers, uses can be cast with no draft.  Because of this and other unique capabilities of the process, we do a lot of work in the robotics and medical markets.  During the DFM process we discuss the long-term expectations of the project.  If we find that the hope for the project is for higher volume down-stream where permanent mold or die casting will be more cost effective, we recommend building draft into the part so that it is viable for these processes without a redesign.  

Most of the value engineering work we do is based upon finding a better suited manufacturing process for current parts or assembles.  We frequently find that high-tech companies are growing so quickly that they are focused almost exclusively on new product development and fail to review their legacy products.  They are unaware that their volumes have outstripped the manufacturing processes being used to make the parts.   

The majority of our manufactures are domestic, including several local companies, Harmony Castings, Jatco Machine Tool Company and Tronix3D.  

We also have a partner company in Taiwan that we have represented since 2003.  EMS works with us in a variety of areas including custom mechanical parts, cables and wire harnesses, PCBAs, and mechanical and electro-mechanical assemblies up to and including turnkey products.  EMS has over 20 mechanical and electric engineers on staff and assigns an experienced product manager to be the primary point of contact for a customer and they manage all of their projects.  

Representing EMS provides Buchanan with a variety of DFM and value engineering opportunities for our customers.   Our engineering group makes DFM recommendations such as potential molding problems and offers alternative design solutions.  Our electric engineering and global purchasing groups allow EMS to suggest equivalent components based upon lower cost or potential EOL problems.

One area where we have offered value engineering solutions through the years is in the area of injection molding and injection molding tooling.  In the 20 years that we have represented EMS, they have consistently produced Class A injection molding tooling at 35% - 50% of the cost of domestic tooling.  We build and run tools in Taiwan and also build tooling for domestic injection molding.  Either way, our lower tool costs decreases the payback time on upfront NRE making it possible to convert to more cost effective injection molding at quantities lower than our customers anticipated.  

We provide tooling to several injection molders and companies that do their injection molding in-house.  We have provided tooling to Parker Plastics in Bethel Park since 2017 without a single issue.  

I recently took part in a meeting with the management of an injection molding house that had recently done a thorough financial analysis of their business.  They discovered that they were at best breaking even and more likely losing money on the tool making side of their business while the injection molding side of the business was very profitable.  They found that not only did moving their tool making to an offshore company allow them to close the unprofitable side of their business, but it also made additional floor space available for the profitable portion of their business.  A further benefit is that their quote hit ratio went up due to the lower tooling cost they can quote to their customers.  

A large part of our business is and always will be quoting the right process for RFQs sent to us by our customers.  The fun part of the business and the part where we can offer the most value to our customers is getting involved early on a project for DFM purposes or getting involved downstream on a value engineering basis to reduce cost and/or make the product better.