In 2020, treatments and machining service provider Nu-Pro enjoyed an increase in customer demand, but inspection inefficiencies led to bottlenecks. The team at Nu-Pro turned to Hexagon and Status Metrology Solutions to help revitalise their coordinate measuring machines (CMM). The results: eliminated bottlenecks, 20% reduction in labour costs, and a more profitable machine shop.
Founded in 1990, Nu-Pro has established itself over the decades as a highly-respected machining and treatments provider. With a significant number of industry-related approvals, the company is primarily known for delivering coatings and testing processes in the aerospace and defence space, but Nu-Pro has also made a name for itself in the medical, automotive, and oil and gas industries.
In 2019, the company scored a contract with a major automotive customer. Nu-Pro’s machining capabilities were more than ready to meet this increased demand. However, every part needed to be inspected both pre and post treatment and coating, and the pressure on production could be traced to quality.
Peter Williment, Financial Director at Nu-Pro, says “at one stage nearly half of our milling machines were on hold because there was such a bottleneck in inspection. The downtime was incredible.”
To determine the best approach for revitalising its quality operations, the Nu-Pro team contacted Status Metrology Solutions, one of Hexagon’s official supply partners since 1999. They decided the solution was to introduce another CMM to the inspection line-up and retrofit existing machines.
In January 2020, Nu-Pro acquired a Hexagon PIONEER, a light-weight bridge-type CMM offering an excellent price-to-performance ratio. The two machines to be retrofitted were the existing DEA Mistral and a Mitutoyo BHN CMM.
Richard Newhouse, Sales and Marketing Director at Status Metrology, says “The team had a whole back catalogue of programs they didn’t want to lose access too. The backwards compatibility of the machine to run existing software on a new interface in their native language was key.” Furthermore, as Peter notes, “we had a lot of products going out the door, so we couldn’t lose any functionality during implementation. Over the two week installation period, we were able to keep working the whole time, which was a massive win for us.”
Transforming inspection productivity:
After evaluating the machines, the Status Metrology team recommended a comprehensive retrofit. “We completely stripped down the machines to bare metal,” says Richard. “We tested the air bearing, the motors, scales and encoders to ensure the machines were in good shape. The Mitutoyo BHN was suffering reliability issues because the controller was defunct, so we replaced that with Hexagon’s RC1 controller, which instantly increased reliability.” The DEA Mistral was fitted with an RC241 controller to bring the machine back up to spec performance and drive productivity.
The DEA Mistral was equipped with Hexagon’s PC-DMIS metrology software. When the Status Metrology team demonstrated key functionalities of the software such as Selection from Capture and Optimizer, it was clear PC-DMIS would help drive Nu-Pro’s inspection objectives. As Richard notes, “Nu-Pro was at a crossroads as a business. What they wanted was the best tools to do what they needed to do. PC-DMIS has evolved year-on-year; there’s load of new throughput features that if you’re serious about inspection you can really tap into. When we put those on the table and compared them to the competition, it was no contest – that was fundamentally the driving factor behind Nu-Pro investing in Hexagon.”
In addition, the team wanted targeted and non-disruptive training on the revitalised machines. “Any training needed to be on-the-job,” says Peter. “At the time we were short on parts going out the door, so we couldn’t afford to send teams off-site for days at a time.” Richard adds that the training was completed on-site, “very much built around their parts and programmes and application requirements.” While the training was highly beneficial, one of the major benefits according to Nu-Pro is that software is very easy-to-use, even for operators with relatively little inspection experience.
The results for Nu-Pro have been truly transformative. “When we ran our internal capital expenditure justification reports we found that the return was off the charts,” says Peter. “This investment paid for itself well within 60 days. Our labour rate has reduced from around 43% to 23% and the gross margin in the machining shop has increased over 20%. It’s very rare that we get to a board meeting and agree that a project is a no-brainer, but the numbers have proved us right that this project really was a must for us.”
A forward-facing partnership