American Machinist

Keeping productivity on track: automated cells transport shop into 21st century machining.(Cellular Machining)

In three short years, Eagle Bridge Machine & Tool Inc. (EBM) has transitioned from a 60-man jobshop running three manned shifts to a 30-man jobshop running one manned shift and one completely unmanned. The company has also gone from 23 machine tools to 12. At the same time, it has increased capacity 40% and locked in a six-year contract to make train parts for its largest customer. According to Robert Farrara, EBM's president, moving from circa-1984 vertical and horizontal machining centers and lathes to fully automated cells has allowed the company to survive--and even thrive--in today's rough economic climate.

"We wouldn't be here today without these machines," he asserts. Farrara refers to the company's two automated CNC systems, manufactured by Toyoda Machinery USA, Arlington Heights, Ill. Each of these cells sports two horizontal machining centers (the original cell has two FA550s; the newest has two FA630s), a rail-guided-vehicle system, and the Mach III/System 2 cell controller. The company also has a standalone FA630, which was originally added for development work.

However, this machine is usually swamped with production jobs.

These machines have the flexibility to deal with EBM's main work--machining castings for mass transit and heavy machinery. Among the parts EBM makes are components for commuter railroad cars for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Long Island Railroad, and Metro North Railroad. It also machines parts for Amtrak's Acela high-speed rail cars.

The shop, which is located in Eagle Bridge, N.Y., has seen its customer base shift greatly over the years. Once a planned producer for the U.S. government, EBM also served the automotive sector, making aftermarket parts such as alternators and starters. But in recent years, this customer base has eroded as the work moved offshore to China. EBM, however, predicted these changes and positioned itself to tackle a huge contract with the mass-transit industry. "Trains are a niche business, and we have a reputation for tackling complicated castings," says Farrara.

EBM machines 23 castings for an order of 1,100 railroad cars over a six-year timeframe. …

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