PRESIDENT — BANISTER TOOL, INCORPORATED
“I look forward to seeing people I know at IMTS and making new connections with other business owners. I get to learn what has been successful for them and what equipment they buy. I've been coming to IMTS since the early '90s, and I'm always planning the next one as soon as I leave.”
Roger Pyle and his team at Banister Tool, Inc. in Pflugerville, Texas, have the satisfaction of knowing that the medical devices and apparatus they make every day are directly improving people’s lives. Manufacturing these critical parts requires a balance between complex, high-quality production and low production costs to be competitive. State-of-the-art technology and skilled workers are the pillars to Banister’s success.
Large machine investments can’t be taken lightly, so Pyle has been using face-to-face interactions at IMTS to make those important choices since the 1990s.
“We always come to IMTS before we make an equipment purchase,” Pyle said. “Any sales person can bring a brochure into your shop and show you a machine. But at IMTS I get a visual, hands-on experience. There’s nothing like seeing many kinds of equipment operating and talking with experts in person.”
In a 24,000-sq.-ft. building with 37 employees, Banister Tool has earned a reputation that drives the largest medical device companies, like Zimmer Biomet and Integra LifeSciences, to keep coming back. Banister Tool manufactures implant parts and components for surgical devices, such as titanium bone screws, PEEK (polyether ether ketone) spinal replacement disks, carbon finger joints and parts for single-use orthoscopic surgical tools.
Developing a Medical Niche
One of the company’s first medical orders was for complicated bone screws with two different threads, so the company purchased a new DMG Gildemeister 16 Swiss type screw machine and, two years later, a DMG Sprint 22 Swiss machine to keep up with growing demand. Pyle relied on Ellison Technologies, a local machine tool company, to help get their Swiss CNC operations going.
“We didn't have a lot of CNC experience, so we were looking for someone to come in and help set up this equipment for us,” Pyle said. “We met Ellison at IMTS 2004 to see the DMG equipment and tooling in action. That partnership was a big help in getting us started.”
Pyle also meets with machine tool company PD Browne South at IMTS to get knowledge about the latest tooling technologies out there. After IMTS 2014 and 2016, Banister bought a Tongtai five-axis mill, four-axis mill and lathe from PD Browne South. This long-standing relationship is just one of many that Pyle has grown over the years.
“I look forward to seeing people I know at IMTS and making new connections with other business owners,” Pyle said. “I get to learn what has been successful for them and what equipment they buy. I've been coming to IMTS since the early 90's, and I'm always planning the next one as soon as I leave.”
Discounts on the show floor have motivated Pyle to make smart purchase decisions and get equipment at reduced prices.
“A lot of the machine tool companies run discounts for IMTS,” Pyle said. “I’ve purchased demo units off the show floor because I could see it running and knew it would do the job for us. I just told them, ‘As soon as you get it disconnected, get it to our shop.’"
Keeping Great Employees
Like the rest of the industry, finding more skilled laborers has been a huge challenge for Pyle and had an impact on company growth.
“The biggest thing that's held our company back is having qualified employees to do the type of quality work that we do,” Pyle said. “We hold one of the highest standards of quality in our shop, and every employee needs to think in that same manner.”
IMTS provides an opportunity to educate employees and keep them engaged in their work. Pyle brings a few employees to each IMTS.
“It gives them a chance to have input into the company, and it's a morale builder,” Pyle said. “A lot of times workers are in their own bubbles and only know the machines they use. When they can go to Chicago and see a huge variety of machines at the show, it opens their eyes to all the new technologies out there.”
Average tenure at Banister is more than 10 years, so it’s been important to find and keep the right employees. That’s why Banister has been moving toward more automation, which not only improves profitability but becomes a more interesting job for employees to want to stick around.
“Although we’ve become more automated, we still need employees. It's not like everything can run itself without an operator,” Pyle said. “So we move people into higher paying jobs because they are adding more value. A person can operate three automated machines instead of just running one manual line.”
Plus, the importance of Banister’s medical devices gives employees a real sense of purpose and pride.
“Everyone at the shop realizes we're making medical devices that are going to change someone’s life,” Pyle said. “Our customers give us videos and brochures that show how these instruments are used, so employees understand the parts they make are saving lives.”
Only time will tell what new medical innovations Banister will be making in the years to come, but Pyle knows that the things he learns today will be a part of his decisions in the future.
“I can look around at equipment that doesn’t fit our shop now but it will in the future,” Pyle said. “I’m always dreaming about the next big purchase that gives us the ability to do things we couldn’t do before, and hopefully that happens in time for us to check it out at the next IMTS.”Read More Stories