Keeping Up with Technology: How Keats Manufacturing Co. Stays Ahead (Part 2)

Keats Manufacturing Company has been in business for over 50 years. During that time, we have developed an outstanding reputation for providing excellent customer service and industry-leading product quality.

Our responsive, highly knowledgeable customer service team is responsible for part of our reputation; and the rest is our exemplary part quality. We work hard at Keats Manufacturing to ensure that our products are always of the best quality available, and we maintain our high-quality by evolving our processes as technologies become more advanced. Our facilities — Wheeling, IL and Keats Southwest in El Paso, TX — each employ the most advanced technology available to ensure that each of your orders are of unsurpassed quality.

CNC Machining Equipment

cncIn computer numerical control (CNC) machining, machine tools are controlled by highly specialized computer programs. A detailed CAD drawing is created for a part, which is uploaded to the CNC machine’s computer. The software determines the ideal machine process, programs it, and controls the machine during production.

CNC machining is more precise, more repeatable, and faster than manual machining, and can produce shapes that are drastically more complex, including 3D shapes, manual machining cannot produce. At Keats Manufacturing, we use CNC machining for quick, precise tooling development and for repetitive, high volume jobs that require exceptional precision.  This equipment allows us to adapt quickly to changes and develop new manufacturing processes to better serve our customers.  The addition of our newest CNC machine from Milltronics USA allows us the capability to build replacement production machine parts such as cams, slides, blocks & die components extremely efficiently and quickly.

MRP System

jobbossOne key to a smooth production process is an effective material requirements planning (MRP) system.

MRP systems — which are used to plan and schedule production, and control inventory of both raw materials and completed parts — ensure required raw materials are available when needed, and required completed parts are available when deliveries are due. A good MRP system will keep material and product levels at roughly the minimum required levels to help control production costs like storage.

Keats Manufacturing uses an automated, fully-integrated software-based MRP system called JobBoss to plan manufacturing processes, purchasing, and delivery schedules, control inventory, and manage bills of materials.

We also integrate our MRP system to work with our customer portals and unique proprietary MRP systems such as Ariba, Covisint, Plex, and SAP.  Our team of 10 dedicated sales and customer service professionals are highly trained on unique customer portal integration and customer specific software requirements. Our MRP system professionals can work with your JIT “Just in Time” delivery / Kan-Ban system to custom print shipping labels as well as update stock levels digitally.

Keyence Digital Visual Inspection Equipment

Because part inspection is every bit as important as quality manufacturing in ensuring only perfect products leave our facilities, we are constantly upgrading our visual inspection equipment.keyence

We employ a range of digital visual inspection equipment from KEYENCE, a globally leading sensing technology manufacturer, at every step of the manufacturing process. Dimensions and tolerances are pre-loaded onto our server — the visual inspection equipment, including high speed machine vision systems, pull a part’s specifications and measure all of them virtually instantaneously on as many as 99 parts at once.

The data measured by the machine is then stored digitally on our server which allows us to implement statistical process control or SPC into our manufacturing process seamlessly.  This technology also takes the guesswork of the inspection process since the parts are checked the same way each time.

In-Die Camera and Laser Inspection

Another facet of our in-process inspection process is our in-die camera and laser inspection equipment.indie

This technology yields a number of important benefits. Most notably, it allows us to pinpoint errors before they become problematic, allowing us to reduce scrap, and minimize or eliminate rework time and cost. It is also helpful in eliminating quality control bottlenecks — production no longer needs to be stopped to find and diagnose a problem.

In-Die Sensing Technology

There is no time in your supply chain for unplanned downtime in the manufacturing processes of your parts and components. At Keats Manufacturing, we understand that.

laserWe use in-die sensing technology to achieve precise tool positioning, continuous alignment checks, and emergency press stopping. By using in-die sensing technology, we can drastically reduce damage and unplanned wear to your tools and dies. This allows us to increase not only production, but part quality as well.

Work with Keats

keats_supplychainThese technologies are only a handful of the tools Keats Manufacturing Co. uses to ensure the highest quality parts and assemblies for our customers.

To learn more about Keats and why we should be part of your supply chain, download our eBook, How to Add Keats to Your Supply Chain, for free today.

Keeping Up with Technology: How Keats Manufacturing Co. Stays Ahead (Part 1)

This is a two-part blog series. Check back in two weeks to read more about the technology Keats incorporates into their manufacturing processes.

Over more than 50 years in business, Keats Manufacturing Company has built a strong reputation of unsurpassed product quality and excellent customer service. This reputation is one that spans industries, sectors, and customers.

3d printerOur world class customer service team is responsible, in part, for our exemplary reputation — they are highly knowledgeable, responsive to our customers’ needs, mind all of the details, and focus on long-term relationships as opposed to sales figures.

Equally important is part quality. Even the best customer service can only do so much in the face of substandard quality. To maintain the high level product quality that drives our reputation, Keats works hard to stay informed of the constantly evolving technological landscape.

At both our main facility in Wheeling, IL, and our Keats Southwest facility in El Paso, TX, we employ a range of state of the art technology to ensure that we manufacture and deliver only the highest quality products possible.

3D Printers

Keats Manufacturing Company’s dedication to quality starts at the design and prototyping stage. We are equipped with cutting edge 3D printers — these tools are used not for production, but for prototyping.

The ability to produce full size part models quickly and inexpensively is invaluable. These prototypes allow us and our customers to inspect parts before beginning full-scale production, allowing us to correct errors and make improvements when it is easy and least expensive to do so. Through the use of this technology, not only will your product be of a higher quality, it will get to the market faster.

AutoCAD and 3D Visualization

autocadWhen your prototype is approved, we use the most modern AutoCAD software to finalize its design and 3D die visualization software to design the tooling components your part will require.

These two pieces of software help us plan the production run of your part, minimizing waste and raw material requirements, and develop tooling that balances performance with cost considerations.

Process Automation

autocad2Wherever possible, Keats integrates automation into our manufacturing and assembly processes. In both of our facilities, screw insertion and contact insertion have been automated, as has staking. Staking is a type of contact insertion wherein a emboss on one piece is inserted into a hole in another — the emboss is axially compressed, forming a permanent interference fit  Joint.

Keats also automates screw insertion and hole threading/tapping.  This process is fully automated through advanced production equipment that threads/taps holes in stamped parts as well as inserts a screw into the threaded hole.  The screw is torque checked in-line and a digital readout is displayed before the finished part is ejected from the machine.

Process automation increases our production capabilities, allowing us to accommodate larger production runs with ease, while keeping your costs reasonable.

Rotowire Chamfering

Common in mechanical and manufacturing engineering, a chamfer is a transitional edge between two faces of an object sometimes known as a bevel.

A value added automated process, we have seamlessly integrated rotowire chamfering into our manufacturing process — it allows for one-piece flow manufacturing in place of the multiple steps that would have been required in the past.

Wire EDM

wireWire electrical discharge machining (EDM) is an extremely versatile manufacturing process. Using an electrical current running through a hair-thin wire, electrical discharges remove material from a workpiece on a micron level.

Wire EDM allows us to manufacture highly complex shapes with unique geometries and maintain extremely precise tolerances. It works with materials of all types and is automated and fully CNC controlled. At Keats, we primarily use our wire EDM capabilities for the quick and precise manufacture and maintenance of tools and dies.

At Keats Our 2 state of the art wire edm machines allow us to respond extremely fast to any tooling malfunction issues.  In the event of a tool component failure, a replacement component can be replicated in-house within a matter of hours.  All of our tools are built with insert-able cutting and forming stations allowing us ease of maintenance and quick adaptability to customer driven part changes.

Work with Keats

keats_supplychainThese technologies are only a handful of the tools Keats Manufacturing Company uses to ensure the highest quality parts and assemblies for our customers. Check back in two weeks to learn about the other tools and technology Keats incorporates into their manufacturing processes.

To learn more about Keats and why we should be part of your supply chain, download How to Add Keats to Your Supply Chain for free today.

Product Highlight: Reel to Reel Terminals and Contacts

At Keats Manufacturing Company, we specialize in building high-precision terminals and contacts for electrical transmission. Essential for the automotive industry and a wealth of other applications, reel to reel custom parts maximize convenience and cost effectiveness.

Reel to reel terminals are valuable for high volume orders of precision parts and are often used in customers’ automated assembly systems. Keats Manufacturing fulfills our customers’ most complex reel to reel requirements with technologically advanced equipment, providing contacts and terminals on lead frames, tape and reels, custom reel to reel terminals, and returnable/disposable reels.

How We Do It

Reel to Reel TerminalsCreating reels of close tolerance terminals and contacts requires advanced stamping techniques. We employ progressive die and four-slide/multi-slide stamping to manufacture enormous volumes of high-precision components (sometimes 20 million or more parts) with the industry’s closest tolerances, including down to ± .001”.

This process starts with the latest AutoCAD software to design custom tooling and ends with complete manufacturing, inspection, and delivery to the customer. With the use of quality materials such as copper, brass, phosphor bronze, various silver oxides, and grades of steel, our stamping processes fulfill virtually any requirement for volume and accuracy.

Progressive Die Stamping

No matter how complex or precise the final product needs to be, progressive die stamping is an efficient and accurate solution. The process itself is fairly simple: materials are fed through a series of progressive stamping stations until the final part is complete.

Though the process is fairly simple, our equipment is impressive, offering quick die change and 5 to 150 tons of die pressure to achieve tight tolerances on parts with multiple critical dimensions. The process combines premium accuracy with high volume capabilities, easily producing orders up to 20 million parts or more.

Progressive stamping is accomplished using multiple forming and cutting stations, with quality assured by high-tech digital part inspections. Fully automated and hand packaging are both available, as well as careful tape and reel packing, which ensures that all of our customers’ parts are delivered in the best possible condition.

Four-Slide Stamping

Steel ShieldHighly efficient and cost effective, four-slide stamping employs die pressure ranging from 1 to 40 tons of raw materials in flat sheet metal form. These machines combine multiple processes into one piece of equipment, forming and shaping high volumes of parts with the utmost accuracy. Though this involves a more complex process, it is preferable for use in many types of projects.

There are numerous advantages to part production using a four slide machine. The first is lower costs: these units require less labor, less material handling, and less expensive equipment than progressive die stamping systems. Four-slide stamping machines also require no die set and are generally more productive.

Multiple Machines for Complex Requirements

Depending on the complexity and material requirements of our customers’ projects, multiple machining processes may be necessary. A full array of high-tech equipment is available in our facility in addition to our stamping machines — all of which are operated and overseen by the most experienced machinists and die-makers in the industry. These include multiple EDM, CNC machines, and more.

At Keats, our quality is unsurpassed. We ensure that every step of the design and manufacturing process is completed to meet the industry’s most stringent requirements, with final inspections performed before every delivery.

For us, efficiency is just as important as quality. We maintain fully up-to-date Kanban software to ensure our customers receive Just-In-Time (JIT) delivery whenever required — even for the highest volume orders. Whenever a question or issue arises, our highly responsive customer service team is there to help.

With our high volume capabilities and precision machinery, we are a perfect match for all customers who need reel to reel terminals and contacts.

For more information about these products and their industrial applications, check out our eBook, Design Considerations for Automotive Electrical Contacts & Terminals.

Contact us today to find out more about our precision metal stampings or to request a custom quote.

Download the eBook: Design Tips for Automotive Electrical Systems

Keats SW: How Our Second Facility Meets Customer Needs

Customer service has always been at the forefront of everything we do here at Keats.

Since our founding in 1958, maintaining unparalleled customer service has been the driving force for all of our business decisions; it also factored in to our decision to augment the manufacturing capabilities of our original Wheeling, IL facility with a second full service facility, located in El Paso, TX.

Keats Southwest

Keatssw Noticing a growth in manufacturing in Mexico and the American Southwest, particularly in northern New Mexico, we began to look into the possibility of opening a second facility location in the area. It had even been suggested by a few customers.

In order to test the feasibility of operating a second full-time facility, we assembled a team of our best qualified staff members in Illinois and tasked them with setting up a test facility only a few miles away from our primary facility in Wheeling. We wanted to ensure that a second facility could not only operate smoothly but truly thrive independently, establishing its own engineering and support networks.

The experiment proved to be a resounding success. The team shipped off to El Paso, Texas and, by the end of 1994, Keats Southwest (Keats SW) was up, running, and supplying 15 important customers.

Growth at Keats SW

IMG_4505In the past 22 years, Keats SW has grown tremendously. The Keats SW client base has grown from 15 companies in 1994 to hundreds of companies today, many of whom are globally recognized brands. A staff of 45 keeps the facility running 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Keats SW, which carries the same ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and TS 16949 certifications as our Illinois facility, is fully equipped with top of the line equipment from Niagara, Bliss, Baird, Stamtec, Nilson, and other renowned manufacturers. With more than 35 multi-slide and four-slide machines and 11 stamping presses, Keats SW can accommodate orders of any size — from prototypes to runs of up to 50,000,000 pieces.

The Value of Keats SW

Keats SW provides great value to our southwestern US and Mexico-based customers in a few different ways.

Primarily, it helps us save money for our customers while improving client relations. Centrally located, staff at Keats SW can more easily perform face-to-face product and manufacturing evaluations with local clients. We can also provide on-site engineering support, as we frequently do for a customer in Mexico, at a moment’s notice.

Another benefit is that Keats SW can fulfill Just in Time (JIT) requirements for borderland-area clients. From El Paso, we can ship to our clients on a weekly, or even daily, schedule — this allows them to keep minimal inventory at their own plants, therefore reducing their overall costs. We can even work with clients to streamline their supply chains, or develop new ones, to maximize their efficiency and cost savings.

Work with Keats SW

Aside from providing top-quality metal stampings, wire, and assemblies, the focus at Keats Manufacturing Company has always been, and will always be, on excellence in customer service.

Keats SW has been integral to that goal. Our additional location has allowed us to enhance the level of customer service we provide for customers in the American Southwest and Mexico, including consultations, part and process evaluations, JIT delivery, and more.

keats_supplychainTo learn more about Keats SW and how to integrate us into your supply chain, download our free eBook, How to Add Keats to Your Supply Chain, or visit KeatsSW.com today.

Building a Community of Manufacturers: Keats and the Industrial Manufacturing Committee

Keats has been a part of the manufacturing community since 1958, and we’re expanding our commitment to new service areas. Our partners and neighbors can benefit from new initiatives like the Industrial Manufacturing Committee (IMC).

Matt Eggemeyer, Chief Operating Officer of Keats, currently serves as the Vice President of the Wheeling-Prospect Heights Chamber of Commerce and plays an integral role in the Chamber’s IMC.

We sat down with Matt to learn more about the IMC and how it can support you.

Wheeling Commerce

What Is the IMC?

The Industrial Manufacturing Committee is a subgroup of the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce that was created to provide a voice for local manufacturers in Illinois. We work to provide manufacturers with useful information and events. Our goal is to make it easier for local manufacturers to find resources that are specific to their industry.

How Does the IMC Help Manufacturers?

The IMC provides education about the services manufacturers can use. For example, we highlight grants and government assistance programs that are made available specifically for manufacturers in Illinois. The IMC also helps members fill out forms and get in touch with the right people.

We also have opportunities for manufacturers to meet their local representatives. In a recent event hosted by IMC, members were invited to join a breakfast with U.S. 10th District Congressman Bob Dold. Meetings and events help representatives learn what the manufacturing community needs with regards to education, workforce, and revitalization efforts.

What About Community Work?

Community is a big focus for Keats and the IMC. Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate an event hosted by the IMC, “Attracting Future Manufacturing Leaders.” The event highlighted the challenges faced by local manufacturers trying to recruit young people into the industry.

During the event, manufacturers discussed whether our education systems were doing enough to teach young people the skills they need to enter the manufacturing workforce.  But what I found really interesting was how our conversation evolved to what can we — as manufacturing facility owners and managers — do to help open our facility doors and highlight the opportunities available at our facilities.

As experienced manufacturers and engineers, it is our responsibility to help inspire the future leaders of manufacturing and publicize the opportunities available.

For those interested in joining the manufacturing workforce, advanced math, machinery, and computer skills are often highly sought after. As for Keats, a good candidate is someone with passion.

This is showcased in our staff at Keats — our team’s past experience is not the typical math and science background. Highly-valued members of our team at Keats had careers in the food and retail industries, others joined Keats straight out of high school. But what unites our team is a strong work ethic and the ability to adapt and learn the skills needed through a hands-on approach.

What Are the Benefits of Joining a Manufacturing Community?

Manufacturers can get a lot out of joining local groups like the IMC. By joining, we can have a bigger voice when asking local, state, and federal lawmakers to support the manufacturing industry within Illinois. The IMC also provides a central place for local manufacturers to learn about benefits made exclusively for increasing and improving production facilities.

We also get more interest from people interested in joining our facilities when we have more manufacturers at our events. These future leaders are looking for reassurance that their careers can be long, and it is also an easy way to get the workforce pipeline growing for any company.

High school students, college graduates, and people looking for a career change want to meet facility managers and employees, tour the facilities, and ask about jobs — and the IMC is a great platform to help facilitate this.

There is still a lot to be done by the manufacturing community to help publicize opportunities available to help keep the manufacturing industry growing with the next generation. We have a responsibility to continue to help the youth and those who have earned transferable skills in other industries and are now looking for a career change.

At Keats, inspiring people to explore the manufacturing industry is a priority. Sometimes people will ask me, “How do you find tool makers?” The truth is you don’t, you make them! We have set up an internal mentoring program we call “Keats U.” The program provides opportunities for those who are new to our team to learn from the experts.

At the moment, our top Set Up Technician, who was hired to set up machines in our facility, has been busy mentoring four people on our team. Keats U. is an investment of resources and team members, but we see value in it — we are educating and teaching the future leaders for our company through these mentoring programs.