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INDEX: Helping People Make Better Parts Faster

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Looking for new technology and productivity gains? Visit the South Hall at IMTS 2018 where you’ll find high-volume, high-accuracy turning machines from manufacturers such as INDEX Corporation

“The biggest challenge we face is getting customers who haven’t considered our type of solution to look at it more seriously, and that’s really what we do at IMTS,” says INDEX President and CEO Tom Clark. “Our goal is to enable customers to make their parts at the lowest price with the highest accuracy. Many times, the most expensive machine can make the lowest cost parts. We use IMTS to get that message across.”

INDEX has its North American headquarters in Noblesville, Indiana (just northeast of Indianapolis), in a purpose-built, 65,000-sq.-ft. facility. INDEX employs approximately 60 people of which one-third of them are in Applications Engineering and another third are in service, focusing on turnkey production and other customer support functions. The parent company INDEX Group is located near Stuttgart, Germany.

“INDEX has been helping people make better parts faster for 104 years,” says Gary Jones, Marketing Manager, INDEX. “What sets us apart is our People and our Products and this is what we call our P Squared philosophy. It emphasizes our people working with customers to help them use our products to make better parts faster.”

In 1997, INDEX acquired TRAUB, a company predominantly making Swiss-style turning machines. Because TRAUB also had a well-established reputation, the company has maintained a two-brand philosophy.

“What is fascinating about the merge of INDEX and TRAUB is that we can look at a customer’s part and production requirements and apply it to a family of turning machines, whether it’s a small Swiss sliding headstock machine, a turn-mill center, a single spindle or a multi-spindle machine,” says Clark.

In short, if a company makes 10,000 parts a year, it needs one solution. If the company makes a million parts a year, it needs a different solution – and INDEX and TRAUB have them covered with a breadth of machines and strong application teams.

“What we have found is that so many parts today are processed on Swiss-style machines that really don’t need to be on a Swiss-style machine. Our multi-spindle solutions can make those parts four to six times faster,” says Clark. “So, if you think of coming to IMTS looking for new technology and productivity gains, wouldn’t a machine that can make your parts four to six times faster be attractive?”

Understanding Multi-Spindle

One of the most common questions visitors pose at IMTS is, “Should I invest in a turning machine or should I invest in a milling machine?”

Looking into an INDEX MS 22-8, it’s easy to see how its multi-spindle, multi-tool configuration can lower parts cost and produce more parts per hour.

“Our philosophy is why not invest in one of our machines, because we can do both – INDEX and TRAUB machines lend themselves to turned parts with milled features,” says Tyler Economan, Applications Engineering Manager for INDEX Corporation. “Multi-spindle tooling machines can use driven tooling in any position, have powerful enough motors to perform the milling operations, and of course we can turn as well.”

With INDEX and TRAUB, turning, drilling, milling, grinding and many types of machining can be integrated into a single machine, including gun drilling, gear hobbing, thread whirling and other functions users might not think of.

As an example, Economan cites an INDEX MS 22-8 currently being prepared for a customer on the shop floor. This machine features eight spindles, up to two swiveling synchronous spindles for back working and up to 16 CNC tool carriers. Options include eight-spindle machining with simultaneous rear end machining, as well as creating a double four-spindle machine (view video to learn more about multi-spindle benefits).

While the “product” might seem to be the star of the show, Economan is quick to point out INDEX’s P Squared philosophy.

“People bring us problems or challenges, and it’s our job to help them come up with creative ways to solve these problems,” he says. “It’s not just the CNC machine or the tooling used, but how we apply those things to come up with the best, most productive solution to help lower cost, increase output, decrease changeover – all of these factor into supporting the business case the customer builds before making an investment.”

Teamwork plays an essential role at INDEX, with multiple technicians working together to set up machine tools and solve customer problems.

As an example, Economan notes that improving changeover efficiency depends heavily on the planning that goes into setting up a particular job or a job for a family of parts.

“We at INDEX have the engineering and applications staff to help customers set up the most flexible solutions by reducing changeover, such as through using common tooling and common bar stock,” he says. Economan notes that it is important to use equipment that holds repeatable tolerances to minimize the amount of time it takes to get from the last good part to the next good part.

Of course, multi-spindle machines are just part of the portfolio. INDEX offerings include automatic turning machines, universal turning machines, turn-mill centers, turn-grind centers, bar loaders, software and controls and virtual part programming tools. The TRAUB machine tool portfolio includes universal turning machines, sliding headstock automatic lathes, turn-mill centers and software and controls.

Ready for Productivity

Good candidates for INDEX solutions include shops that already have an established business base and a fleet of machine tools. They have reached a point where they can’t become more productive or more profitable without adding additional floor space, machinery or employees.

Mike Huggett, INDEX’s National Sales Manager recalls one such customer in the aerospace business that made connectors and fittings for Boeing. An average commercial plane has 10 miles of cables with connections on both ends of the cable. A plane might have 10,000 connectors in it. To improve its supply chain, Boeing is consolidating its vendor base and challenging suppliers to reduce part cost – by 30 percent in the case of one connector supplier.

The W-groove tooling (middle shelf) provides fast, accurate and repeatable tool changes.

“How do you reduce costs by 30 percent? You can’t throw more machines at it. You can’t throw more people at it. The only solution is to make the parts faster,” says Huggett. “We were able to offer them a single spindle solution that could reduce their cycle time by almost 60 percent. We were also able to reduce changeover to less than 15 minutes when their previous method took them almost half a day. Further, they could implement our solution with fewer employees.”

Part of this particular solution involved INDEX’s patented W-serration for high changeover speeds and repeatable tool accuracy, but a bigger part was planning.

“About one-third of our staff here focuses on application support,” says Huggett. “We spend a lot of time teaching customers how to set up machines so that they only change critical components, not multiple tool positions. Programming plays a big role, too. Taking five seconds longer to machine a part is nothing compared to reducing changeover time from hours to minutes.” To determine the most efficient cycle, Index offers a “virtual machine” that simulates 100 percent of part production activities, but in an offline setting.

In another productivity example, Huggett cites a bone screw manufacturer. The screw and its matching nut are classic examples of parts that require traditional Swiss precision machining. By using a multi-spindle machine and INDEX’s proprietary thread whirling process, the customer reduced cycle time from 12 to 2 minutes.

“The funny thing,” according to Huggett, “was when the customer said, ‘Wow, that’s really impressive. But how am I going to check the quality? It takes us six minutes to measure each one of these parts, and now we’re producing one every two minutes.’ Fortunately, the exhibitors in the Quality Pavilion at IMTS have lots of inspection solutions for precision parts.”

Huggett knows IMTS well. He started working in a job shop when he was 16. He set up and operated production machinery, worked his way into applications and sales and has been the president of other machine tool companies before becoming INDEX’s sales director. His first IMTS was 1988, and he’s attended every show since, either as a visitor or an exhibitor.

“I love going to IMTS,” says Huggett. “Where else can I interact with so many people and help solve their problems?”

IMTS – A Place for Reinvention

“In North American manufacturing, we must reinvent ourselves,” says Clark. “You don’t go to IMTS to buy another one of your current machines. You go there to find new ideas and solutions for the next five years. Strategic leaders of an organization need to come to the show and look around the corner about what manufacturing can be. They need to ask, ‘Can I take this part from a Swiss machine and put it on a multi-spindle machine that is five times faster? Do I have the guts to invest and make a change in how we produce these parts?’ That’s what dreamers need to do and that’s why you need to come to IMTS.”

INDEX doesn’t just exhibit at IMTS. For it’s own quality efforts, it visits the Quality Assurance Pavilion to find metrology equipment just as this Leitz CMM.

To properly engage with exhibitors at IMTS, visitors cannot just walk the aisles, and everyone at INDEX emphasizes the importance of planning to make time at the show as productive as possible. To start, Economan advises visitors to be honest with themselves about where they need improvements and which directions they need to go – and that’s for both parts being produced now and part families that might be produced five years from now.

“Our industry is built upon relationships with customers,” adds Jones. “The best way to get that is to set an appointment and come to our booth. You can meet with our applications, service and sales people, our senior management and members from the INDEX world headquarters in Germany. We are all there to talk about your needs and the future direction you desire for your company.”

Jones points out the MyShow Planner is an application that lets visitors map out their show route and create a schedule (visit imts.com and click on the “Plan Your Visit” tab). His advice for first-time show visitors?

“For your first time at IMTS, wear comfortable shoes. Be prepared to walk a lot and open your mind to all the possibilities for your company, as the dreamers and the doers of manufacturing come together at IMTS 2018.”

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