Metal fabricator upgrades operation for OEMs


An up-close look at a four-plate CNC roller machine that can form sheet metal and steel plates. Courtesy DeWys Manufacturing

A metal fabricator has invested in new production equipment to meet the requirements of manufacturing clients “pushing” to receive better parts with shorter turnaround times.

DeWys Manufacturing in Marne, just northwest of Grand Rapids, makes and assembles precision metal parts for manufacturers in various industries such as office furniture and health care.

The company is always looking to invest in technology to stay ahead of customer requirements.

Increasing productivity

The company said last week that it has added an automatic scissor-style band saw and four-plate CNC roller machine to its 90,000-square-foot plant.

The band saw has miter-cutting capabilities for heavy-duty applications. The saw can increase cutting efficiency by 50 percent due to its bundle cutting capabilities.

“It’s about 400-percent faster than the saw we have now,” said Jon DeWys, president, DeWys Manufacturing. “That is because when you cut metal, it can cut multiple pieces at once. It can cut four pieces at a time and then index the material forward. It’s more accurate too.”

The four-plate CNC roller machine can form sheet metal and steel plates and create a variety of shapes based on customer requirements. The company said the machine can decrease the run time for each part by 50 percent.

“The roller is pretty much an upgrade,” DeWys said. “It gives us the ability to take a flat piece of steel and roll it into a large circle, which is used in a lot of medical applications.”

DeWys said the company is also investing in a new powder-coating line, which he expects to be up and running during the first quarter of 2015.

The powder-coating line will be modern and “brand new, integrating a lot of different technologies from all over the world here.”

Spending money to make money

DeWys said the company’s investments in technology are driven by both customer demand and anticipating the future needs of customers.

“We make metal components for a lot of larger OEM customers — the medical field, office furniture, store-fixture field,” DeWys said. “A lot of these customers are really pushing their suppliers to constantly get better at what we do: faster, cheaper, better quality, especially as the lifecycles of more and more products are shorter and shorter. Many times, the faster you can get the product out to the market, you are going to be the winner.”

He added that the company is investing in the powder-coating line “because that’s what our customers are asking for” and “because we have to think ahead and anticipate that they are going to want a better product.”

DeWys said the company invests about 10 percent of its revenues back into the business to continue to meet customer demands.

“We’ve always had this belief where you need to spend money on technology and people in order to make money, and you have to make money to stay in business,” DeWys said. “We’ve been able to grow, because we have these capabilities that others don’t. There are still a lot of companies in the dark ages out there.”

“Next-generation workforce”

DeWys said his company is also committed to investing in its workers, especially as the manufacturing industry struggles to find people to replace an aging workforce.

Three years ago, it launched DeWys University, which is a training program for high school students and recent graduates who are interested in a career in manufacturing.

“We have structured curriculums,” DeWys said.

Students can learn skills in welding, machining, laser cutting and powder coating during a 12-week course, and they get paid while participating.

DeWys Manufacturing has partnered with Coopersville Public Schools, Kenowa Hills Public Schools and Allendale Public Schools.

“We say, ‘Tell us who is really good with their hands, has a good mechanical aptitude, is hard working, shows up to class, good behavior, and we will teach them a trade,’” DeWys said.

“We have one student now, he graduated from Coopersville High School last May, and he is just turning out awesome. It’s really exciting to see that next-generation workforce coming into the business.”

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