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IMM's Plant Tour: Soup to nuts manufacturing

February 1, 2003

6 Min Read
IMM's Plant Tour: Soup to nuts manufacturing

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planttour_2 (4K)This AirScooter radio-controlled helicopter was tooled in China, but failure to get good components led the customer to bring the project to Garner. The toy’s components (right) include 30 aluminum and stainless steel machined, 35 molded, and 400 vendor-sourced parts.

On the surface, Garner Industries looks like a typical custom molding and moldmaking facility. The new 78,000-sq-ft plant resting on a 30-acre site in Lincoln, NE houses 14 Niigata injection molding presses from 35 to 275 tons, including a vertical press for insert molding and several new all-electric machines. The moldmaking department is equipped with state-of-the-art machine tools, including three five-axis wire EDMs and five CNC EDMs, which sit alongside four high-speed machining centers.

However, Garner’s unassuming exterior houses a business expertise that goes beyond that of a typical custom molder. The company began life 50 years ago as a precision tooling manufacturer. Today that business has expanded into precision machining of tight-toleranced metal components, many of which are used in the company’s BinMaster product line—devices for metering the level of granular, powder, and liquid materials in bins and silos, and devices for the aerospace industry.

The company also recently purchased B&L Industries (Lincoln, NE), a long-time customer of Garner. With the acquisition came a line of proprietary products, which include a large, easy-to-read rain gauge and other outdoor garden and lawn products. “Proprietary products make the valleys [of custom molding] less deep,” explains Garner’s president, Scott McLain.

Drawing on its experience manufacturing and marketing BinMaster products, the company naturally transitioned into other types of proprietary goods, which provided a broad product offering. “When it comes to diversity, it’s not only what you do but also who you do it for,” explains McLain. “We like retail. We’re good marketers. We can compete on price and quality with products made in China, and we’re made in the USA.”

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A secondary ops worker applies a yellow stripe to a regulator component for the welding industry. Garner focuses on projects requiring a variety of components.

Versatility Gets the Job
An ace in the hole for Garner is its ability to provide full-service manufacturing, including assembly. One of its newest projects is the AirScooter radio-controlled helicopter program for a Nevada-based toy manufacturer. The AirScooter contains 30 aluminum and stainless steel machined components, 35 molded components, and 400 vendor-sourced components.

Purchasing and tracking these components and others requires a logical, efficient system. BinMaster products, for example, involve precision-machined parts, molded parts, technical assembly, and some 1500 part numbers for the various models. Handling that level of complexity laid the groundwork for Garner’s entry into contract manufacturing for many of its customers.

One customer, for instance, used seven vendors for production, but has since moved the molds to Garner, realizing cost savings of 15 to 20 percent through this consolidation. Another product, a height-control valve for air-ride suspension in trucks, was being molded and assembled in-house by the customer. The unit consisted of six molded components and four machined parts, but generated a 40 percent reject rate. Since moving the molding and assembly to Garner, only two parts have been returned, meaning that rejects have been virtually negligible.

Today, Garner focuses solely on projects that require a variety of components, both metal and plastic, and extensive assembly to maximize the resources the company has developed to handle volume contract manufacturing work. “The last four large projects we’ve brought in have assembly as an integral part of the work,” notes McLain. The company also works with local inventors, often taking on viable projects and paying the inventor a royalty. McLain says it’s always on the lookout for a new product to add to its line.

Garner Industries Inc., Lincoln, NE
Square footage: 78,000
Annual sales: $10 million to $15 million
Markets served: Electronics, wireless communications, writing instruments, automotive, gas metering, gauge and regulator, liquid valves
Materials processed: Mainly polycarbonate, polyurethane, PEI, nylon, PPS, and acetal
No. of employees: 124
Shifts worked: Three
Molding machines: 14, 35 to 275 tons, Niigata
Secondary operations: Machining, assembly, packaging, shipping
Internal moldmaking: Yes

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A worker assembles the EZ Read Rain Gauge. This product line was purchased from B&L Industries, one of Garner’s long-time customers.

A Niigata injection molding press with a Wittmann robot keeps automation at the forefront of Garner’s manufacturing operations.

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Molding and Beyond
For its products, Garner uses primarily four materials: PC, PU, acetal, and nylon. The company also molds a number of Ultem PEI parts, consuming about 40,000 lb annually of the engineering-grade resin. A lot traceability system tracks all materials used on jobs, but also goes one step further to track all regrind. “We sell our regrind to reclaimers at a premium because we can provide material certifications, and most materials have seen only one heat history,” explains John Kunkle, sales manager for Garner.

The company keeps its equipment up to date and recently installed a new Makino a51 horizontal machining center. Because the company molds a lot of PU, a new RAM optical noncontact measuring machine was added to the quality department. That’s in addition to two contact measuring machines and an optical comparator.

Four CNC lathes are used for complex production machining operations. Additionally, Garner offers titanium and aluminum welding, and performs heat treating in-house.

Vertical Integration
Garner’s business is split into thirds. One-third of its revenue comes from proprietary products, another third comes from molding, and the last third is in tooling and machined metal components. Sales for the company fall between $10 million and $15 million annually.

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A new Charmilles Roboform CNC wire EDM is part of Garner’s program to be a technology-based manufacturer.

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Garner’s inventory consists of approximately 1500 different components used in the manufacture of custom and proprietary products.

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Assembly is just one service the molder offers its customers. Here major electronic components for the BinMaster product line are being put together.

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Garner uses a Milacron horizontal machining center for precision machined components.

“The fact that we’re vertically integrated helps us to be very reactive to the products side of our business,” McLain says. “We couldn’t be reactive and take market share if we weren’t.” He also notes that Garner’s vertical integration means that its customers can focus more on what they do best, leaving Garner to do what it does best.

McLain adds that being competitive in today’s global economy depends on differentiating the company to make it stand out from the pack. “The reasons we’re successful,” says McLain, “is that we have the knowledge base on staff, electrical and mechanical engineers that we can tap for expertise when it’s needed on a custom job, and a sophisticated ERP system that integrates the customers’ part numbers into our system. We’re smaller and can react, while passing along a fair amount of cost savings to our customers.”

Contact information
Garner Industries Inc., Lincoln, NE
John Kunkle
(402) 434-9100
[email protected]

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