Minus Forty, a manufacturer of low temperature refrigeration systems primarily for the frozen food industry, has been tackling successfully for 26 years. Three years ago the company chose a Salvagnini P4Xe.2516 Panel Bender because they felt it would be the best fit for their needs.
When you’re building merchandizing refrigeration systems, aesthetics and mechanical performance play an equal role. Your retail customers want to showcase their wares with appealing displays that keep foods and beverages at the right temperatures.
“We’re adding typically two to three models for the low temp refrigeration market; that’s primarily for frozen foods,” says Julian Attree, CEO. “It’s a niche market and we feel there are market opportunities. We find holes in the market and create solutions that bring added value to our customers.”
Based in Georgetown, ON, Minus Forty operates out of a 6,968 sq m (75,000 sq ft) facility. The company houses a metal fabrication operation in which pre-painted cold rolled steel sheets are punched, formed and fully assembled in-house, ready for customer delivery. “The bulk of the metal we use is pre-painted and we’re building complete refrigeration systems. We do everything in-house. We source some components, such as electrical items, but we’re vertically integrated to a level that makes sense. We have a full team of engineers that design products and create drawings for the parts we make,” explains Attree.
Three years ago, Attree and his team evaluated the metal fabrication operation based on the types of product the company was making and decided a panel bender would be a good addition to their punching machines and press brakes. “We evaluated the options for panel benders and looked at everyone who produced panel benders at that time. Salvagnini, in our view, made the most sense.” The company’s criteria were simple: a CNC machine capable of performing complex bends on large parts, with an option to automate. “We were looking for something that would give us additional capabilities to incorporate more complex types of bends, but we also wanted equipment that would give us the most reliability possible and a company that would provide support for troubleshooting. Looking at these requirements, we came up with Salvagnini because we felt the panel bender the company offered would be the best fit for our needs.”
Reaping the benefits
The Salvagnini P4Xe.2516 panel bender was installed primarily to handle large parts because that’s how the company could get “the best bang for its buck” says Attree, but price was not a deciding factor. In fact, when Minus Forty purchased the machine, Attree knew it would be in operation less than one shift a day, but what drove the company to purchase it was the need to remain competitive.
“Price was the last part of our criteria. The number one reason that drove us to purchase the Salvagnini panel bender was that it gave us the capability to grow, and we are growing aggressively. We now have the ability to do more complex bends, we have better quality control, better repeatability and less handling.” In fact, the panel bender is now in use for about 66 per cent of the available time, estimates Attree.
“We’ll be looking at adding another bender at some point in the not-toodistant future. We’re happy with the P4Xe and as anybody would do, we’ll go out in the market to re-evaluate what’s out there, but as of today I haven’t seen anything that would cause us to purchase from another source; the Salvagnini panel bender still appears to be a good solution for us.” The machine was purchased with automatic loading. “We’re continuously working on automation, but it has to make sense. For us, we produce our products in batches, so components for a specific product are formed on the panel bender and then placed on a rack. When all the parts for that product are on the rack, it’s then taken to assembly. We may have up to a dozen parts for one product so it’s an efficient way to make our products. We also don’t do large batches, we’re a small batch production operation.” One feature Attree liked was the panel bender’s universal bending tool and automatic blankloader, which improves productivity for small batch production.
Planning for the future
While Minus Forty’s panel bender is only partially automated, Attree says his company has incorporated automation in different parts of the operation where it makes sense and continues to evaluate automation as a means to remain competitive against offshore companies. “Our labour content in our product is about 10 per cent or less than the cost of our product so obviously automation is a key factor in helping us lower our manufacturing costs. We also have the home field advantage of being able to be in front of our customers and being able to deliver high quality products more efficiently than an offshore competitor.”
And by partially automating small batch production, Minus Forty has increased throughput, reduced work in progress, and shortened the time to market for new and existing products, he adds. Attree is optimistic about future growth because of his company’s ability to find gaps in the market and fill customer needs. “We continually find new opportunities because we’re adding new products that meet the needs of our current customer base and attract new customers too. We expect to maintain a good level of growth. We’re primarily focused on North America but we’re talking with international opportunities as well.”