Using Manufacturing Technology to Drive Efficiency
As a second-generation shop owner, I have many ambitious goals for our company, Ricaurte Precision. I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunity to build a world-class precision machine shop with our dedicated team.
In addition to driving revenue and profit, we want to ensure that Ricaurte Precision is a leader in the industry, considered the gold standard by our customers, and revered as an excellent place to work by our employees.
Accomplishing these goals requires a disciplined focus on driving efficiency. We operate out of California, where compensation is high, land is expensive, and OSHA requirements are plentiful. The only way we can be cost-competitive enough to win jobs is by being extremely efficient.
How Technology Helps Increase Efficiency
How do we increase efficiency? We challenge our team to embrace continuous improvement and identify opportunities to leverage new technologies across the business.
New technologies—whether it’s machine shop estimating software, machinery, an ERP, or otherwise—should not be introduced as plug and play solutions, but as key components of your disciplined processes. New technologies require big investments of time and energy, and a poorly managed tech implementation can hinder efficiency.
Experience has sharpened our ability to assess which technologies suit us best. Today, we are methodical, discerning, and disciplined in evaluating and implementing new technology. Implementing new technologies requires significant capital and planning, so we try to exhaust all alternative solutions before making an investment. Once we’re ready to invest, a dedicated team manages the planning, reviewing, and implementation.
To ensure success, we:
- Clearly define our goals and ensure key team members are aligned
- Engage disciplined team members responsible for planning, implementation, assessment, and success
- Prioritize investments based on urgent needs and the highest potential return on investment (ROI)
- Consider all technology options and visit existing users when possible
- Build a buffer for unforeseen costs and delays in implementation
- Track our progress and document the rollout for future initiatives
No shop owner wants to buy a new machine or system only to realize the tech isn’t a fit for the business. Our process helps us ensure that our investments are sound and sustainable.
Where Technology Drives Efficiency at Our Precision Machine Shop
New technologies are helping to drive efficiency and success in four key areas of our business:
1. The shop floor
We’ve made massive technological improvements on our shop floor that empower our team to work more efficiently.
For starters, everyone has access to the critical information they need to do their job. We upgraded every workstation to have at least two monitors to process and access information. This update makes our manufacturing quoting platform and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software easily accessible from every point in the shop.
We’ve also invested in high-tech machines to optimize our throughput. In early 2020, we brought in a Matsuura 5-axis pallet system. The machine has 320 tool locations and 32 pallets, allowing us to use different stations to run multiple jobs simultaneously.
Our efficiency has dramatically increased with our new Matsuura. We created a robust plan to bring the machine into the shop, did an ROI analysis, and held quarterly reviews to ensure it met our goals. This new technology has pushed our team to think about approaching and planning jobs in different and better ways.
We’ve also since purchased Miyano machines with automated bar feeders that enable additional lights out machining to improve throughput.
2. Enterprise resource planning
We learned about ProShop a few years ago, and my only regret is not implementing it sooner. It’s a fantastic, fully digital ERP system.
ProShop is exceptionally intuitive and robust. It has challenged our team to reassess our processes and operations. Like all technologies, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
With ProShop, our machinists have a reliable self-assessment tool, and leadership has better visibility, helping us measure the success of our teams more accurately. It’s been instrumental for job costing and team member accountability.
3. Machine shop estimating software & customer service
Implementing Paperless Parts for faster, smarter quoting and an improved customer experience has been a terrific decision — we love it. Paperless Parts’ machine shop estimating software is fully digital and keeps our data secure. The last thing we want are papers flying around a disorganized office, especially as an ITAR-registered and AS9100-certified shop.
Paperless Parts centralizes the information we need to provide accurate quotes quickly and easily. We can communicate with our customers more efficiently and seamlessly share information across our entire shop floor.
4. Hiring and retaining employees
Adopting technology to drive efficiencies in our business has also helped us attract talent looking for compelling, challenging, creative work.
The next generation of manufacturers has grown up in a digital age—they expect everything to be online and easily accessible. Shops that go digital meet the baseline expectation of work environments for the up-and-coming generation of employees.
Automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics can also attract talent interested in working with high-tech machines. People who never considered a career in manufacturing before will be more likely to work in shops that provide opportunities to operate cutting-edge technology.
Additionally, demonstrating how new technologies improve employees’ productivity—without rendering their jobs obsolete—aids team retention. Many employees feel more fulfilled in their work when they can leverage tech to increase their efficiency, as it gives them time to perform more complex and interesting tasks.
Advice for Handling Employee Resistance
While learning new technologies is objectively good for business growth and individual self-improvement, some teammates might have difficulty embracing new tools and systems.
Here’s my advice to other shop owners: We must be prepared to speak with our team members and have frank discussions about their career goals and the evolution of our businesses. Are these conversations easy? No. But they are essential to running a competitive business—if your company is tech-forward, your people should be too.
We are living and working in a time when technology is becoming table stakes for successful manufacturing businesses. To be competitive, we need people who embrace technology and are willing to learn new machines, systems, and software.
We shouldn’t fear new technologies. Instead, we should recognize their potential to exponentially increase our efficiency, productivity, and visibility. So choose your next investment wisely, and leverage tech to build your business and secure your legacy.
See how Paperless Parts can help you streamline your quoting process for machining jobs today.
Hernan Ricaurte joined Ricaurte Precision Inc. (RPI) in early 2016 with the objective of further strengthening the quality and scope of services at RPI. Prior to joining the family business, Hernan spent over 20 years in the medical device and healthcare industry, serving in senior management positions in the US and Japan. In addition to working closely with customers to ensure quality and timely delivery of parts and services, Hernan is also responsible for various growth initiatives while ensuring Ricaurte Precision remains on the cutting edge of new technology implementation.