KME CNC solved an internal problem with innovative equipment that have now made it a bigger success.
By Chris Petersen
Many of the biggest success stories in manufacturing come about because someone found a creative way to solve a particular problem about found that the solution could be applied elsewhere. That has certainly been the case for Irvine, Calif.-based KME CNC, which found a creative solution to an internal problem and has turned that into a highly successful business solving the same problem for its manufacturing customers across the country.
As Director of Sales Robert Reynolds explains, the company’s path to success arose unexpectedly. KME CNC’s original focus was on contract manufacturing for equipment used in a variety of applications. The company wasn’t satisfied with the accuracy it was seeing from its existing equipment, so it explored the possibility of investing in five-axis systems. However, Reynolds says, the five-axis machine tools on the market at the time were prohibitively expensive. The solution, he adds, was for the company to create its own.
In time, KME CNC designed a five-axis system that could be built directly into an existing tombstone, making the existing system capable of machining five faces of a part in a single cycle and creating greater productivity and accuracy. A local distributor stopped by the company’s facility and saw its five-axis equipment, and Reynolds says the distributor offered to buy the company’s tombstones on the spot. Ever since, KME CNC has specialized in offering manufacturers five-axis systems built right into the tombstone. Reynolds says the company’s customer range from small mom-and-pop manufacturers to some of the world’s biggest operations. “Because of our particular product line, our customer base is pretty broad,” he says, adding that the company’s five-axis systems can be found in the automotive, aerospace and medical manufacturing sectors, among others.
The diverse nature of KME CNC’s customer base is testament to the versatility and utility of its systems. The company’s equipment can convert three-axis vertical machining centers or four-axis horizontal machining systems into five-axis production machines. According to the company, its standard five-axis tombstone comes standard with four platters, but can be customized to include more platters based on the customer’s needs. This allows customers to machine multiple five-axis projects in a single setup, with the option to drive each platter independently or all at once. The end result, the company says, is reduced setup time, less waste, greater accuracy and more productivity overall.
One of the most important elements of the company’s five-axis systems is that all of them utilize transponders to communicate with the tombstone wirelessly. Reynolds says the across-the-board wireless capability is one of the strongest advantages KME CNC’s equipment has because of the added flexibility it gives customers. “All of our devices have brains in them,” he says.
Another significant advantage KME CNC has working in its favor is that it is an American-based manufacturer, and all of its equipment is made in the United States. That means the company not only has a better grasp of what its customers require than an overseas manufacturer would, but Reynolds says the proximity to its customers also gives KME CNC greater flexibility to fulfill custom requests. Reynolds says the company is able to build systems to suit each customer’s specific requirements. “I don’t know that a lot of other tool builder do that,” he says.
With the innovative solutions it provides, Reynolds says KME CNC’s biggest challenge is making sure it stays at the forefront of the industry and keeping potential customers aware of the many advantages its systems provide. “Our real competition is evolution,” Reynolds says. “For us, the biggest challenge is just getting the word out, more than anything.”
Fortunately, the manufacturing sector is changing in such a way that KME CNC’s five-axis systems could be the solutions needed for a growing segment of the industry. As more manufacturers institute lights-out CNC machining and pallet-pool machining into their operations, the need for flexibility and quick-change setups becomes more prevalent. Reynolds says this is where KME CNC can bring a lot of value to such operations, and the company is hard at work keeping its name and its products out in front of those potential customers.
Additionally, KME CNC is always looking for new ways to improve upon its forward-thinking equipment. Reynolds says the company’s goal is to push wireless technology forward in the marketplace to anticipate customers’ needs before they even know what those needs are themselves. “We’re always looking for what the next need is in our environment,” he says.