J&D Tube Benders, a 3rd generation family run manufacturing shop in Schofield, Wisconsin, being a tight knit community focused business is its greatest strength.
The First Start-Up
It wasn’t intended to be anything more than a part time job, or so they though. The co-workers were moonlighting in the after-hours of their regular shift at Drott Manufacturing. They were turning out part after part in a small makeshift shop. It was 1968 and they had cobbled together the necessary equipment. A bender and a saw, to produce port tubes for hydraulic cyclinders.
They had even contracted a customer, their very own employer in fact, Drott Manufacturing, who had recently eliminated a work cell in its facility making port tubes. So Jack Gauger Jr. and Dane Felch seized the opportunity, not knowing exactly what would come of their newfound start-up, J&D Tube Benders.
Word quickly spread, and by 1981 the company had grown to over 7,000 square feet of factory space located in Schofield’s Industrial Park. Business was booming and additional employees were hired to handle the seemingly compounding workloads.
The company proficiently manufactures hydraulic tube lines and their capabilities include tube bending, welding, brazing, end forming, cutting, machining, laser cutting, and more. They supply companies across the nation with tubes and tube assemblies including Gradall Excavators, Warner & Swasey, John Deere, Caterpillar, and the U.S. Armed Forces.
A Competitive Edge
J&D Tube Benders has come a long way in its almost 50 years of operation. In 2007 the company was honored and listed as one of “America’s fastest growing private companies” by INC 5000. Their staggering growth from 2004-2007 was a mere 140%.
In 2011, J&D Tube Benders won the nationally recognized Tube and Pipe Business of the year award. The company has also been featured on Fabricator’s Fab 40 and took home Small Business of the Year Award from the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce.
Jon Felch, explains how the company remains successful by keeping as many processes in-house as possible. Jon explains how a focus on optimizing its cold saw cut off stations has impacted the company’s productivity, and ultimately, its profitability.
“We purchased our first TigerStop automated positioner maybe 10-12 years ago, we put one on a cold saws to streamline it as much as possible. At the time we very interested in the waste reduction capabilities. We put the TigerStop on one of our most expensive product line cells. The saw wasn’t high volume in comparison to other cells in our shop, but it was cutting a lot of expensive random length pieces. The cut list could vary from 10″, to 12″, to 11.5″, you name it,” explains Jon.
“What the Operations team saw immediately was that the TigerStop took all of the thinking away from the operator,” explains Jon.
Using a TigerStop automated positioner meant that operators no longer had to spend time measuring and marking material as accurately as possible, spend time calculating which parts to cut first from a job list, and risk miscutting expensive material.
Tubing materials include carbon, copper, aluminum, and stainless steel are by no means inexpensive. “Stainless steel can be $6-$8 per foot,” says Jon. Any number of mistakes and inaccuracies can be costly, especially when multiplied over two shifts per day.
“After utilizing TigerStop’s Dynamic Optimization software we fell in love with them! The optimizer helped with waste reduction. Its ability to quickly think and optimize material was a time saver, so we put our second TigerStop in a year later. After using TigerStops we noted that our drop racks were so much smaller. We were getting so much better usage from our stock. By 3-5 months after we installed the TigerStops they were basically paying for themselves through the time savings and material savings,” says explains Jon.
“We have TigerStops on all of our cold saws right now. That’s how valuable they are. We have 4 full TigerStops and 3 SawGears.”
J&D Tube Benders also takes advantage of TigerStop’s Advanced Interconnect Kitsor AIKs. The patented AIKs allow for a fully automatic cold saw operation. It consist of a safety relay box, I/O panel, safety line, mounting plate, foot switch, and a safety cable chain.
“The saw that we run our high production product on has a TigerStop with an Advanced Interconnect Kit. We calculated that using the same operator and making the same high volume product, the saw’s productivity was increased by some 40%! That’s why we have TigerStop’s on every single one of our cold saws.”
Looks can be deceiving, explains Jon. “When you look at TigerStops, well, they don’t look like much. But once you get them going it’s incredible to see. We are going to cut 100,000 tube assemblies this month alone, and TigerStops make that possible.”
Using a Tigerstop is simple
Not only are TigerStops beneficial for productivity gains and significant reduction in drops. Also they are particularly helpful combating the skilled labor shortage so prevalent in manufacturing.
“Using a TigerStop is simple. You type in a length and the machine does the work for you. It helps with new hires as well. Within a couple of hours a brand new operator is able to run our TigerStops.”
Investing in quality equipment makes it possible for all 130+ employees to produce quality products in J&D Tube and Benders’ 124,000 square foot facility, day in and day out.
Strength in Family
Today the company is nearing 3rd generation ownership. And as Jon explains it, “there’s nothing more rewarding that working with your family. Not only do I work with my family, my co-workers and employees are like family.”