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Shop Solutions: Job Shop Builds Business with Waterjet

Starting a job shop—particularly with no experience—is no easy feat. But with a little help from the right partners, success was within reach for Carlos Fernandes when he found his success with an old friend and a new supplier.

His career in high-end remodeling took a twist in 2008 when a longtime friend returned from Eastec with an idea: to start a waterjet shop.

“At the show, he saw a Mitsubishi waterjet machine. He was in manufacturing and had used and looked at other waterjet machines, but he liked what he saw in Mitsubishi,” Fernandes said. “So we called Mitsubishi and went to Rochester, NY, to see the machine. And that’s where it all began.”

At the time, Fernandes knew nothing about waterjet machining, but he was impressed with MC Machinery as an organization. He and his friend returned home from their trip with the bill of sale for a new DX3000 waterjet.

ACP Waterjet (formally ACP Machine Shop) opened in January 2009, starting from scratch without a single customer. The partners hit the ground running—mailing and visiting potential customers and creating a website and running Google AdWords campaigns—all while continuing to work their full-time day jobs.

“When we started getting customers, we would go to the shop after work—working from 4 pm to whenever we were done, plus weekends,” Fernandes said. “It was rough. We had to crawl before we could walk with a few customers here and there.”

During these tough times, support was critical and Mitsubishi answered the call—literally.

Waterjet cutting at ACP Waterjet easily handles reflective metals like these 1/8” (3.1-mm) brass gear components and provides extremely tight corners and tolerances.

“We would call the private cell phones of our reps, who would answer on weekends. Because that was the main time we were working in the beginning. It was our only option,” said Fernandes. “And they would always answer and solve the problem over the weekend. They made the best efforts toward maximum uptime, and I don’t think I ever had to go more than a day to get parts to get the machine back on track.”

By 2010, business had doubled and moonlighting was no longer an option. Fernandes bought out his partner, quit his job, and began working full-time at ACP.

“I had to make it work,” said Fernandes, who had a newborn at the time. “There was no other option, no looking back.”

Fortunately, ACP was still growing at a steady clip by 2011—about 50–60% year over year.

“My goal became and still is to try to get the shortest lead times possible—one to three days depending on the job,” Fernandes said. “Quoting is something I am still really crazy about because I want to give customers a quote within a few hours and not a few days. That way, we can get the order processed as quickly as possible.”

Speed isn’t the only thing that Fernandes is passionate about.

“We want to be fast while maintaining a high standard of quality,” he said. “We have very, very, very few parts returned to us. And even when they are, these customers stay with us because we are able to provide them a solution to the issues.”

By 2012, business had grown to the point that Fernandes was working up to 14 hours a day nearly every day.

aterjet cutting at ACP Waterjet meets the tight tolerances that are required for small 1/8” (3.1-mm) aluminum components with 0.070” (1.7-mm) diameter holes.

“We decided we needed to hire another employee and get another machine,” said Fernandes. “We decided on the MWX4 at the end of 2012.”

If getting the new machine seemed easy that’s because it was—thanks to MAC Funding, the financing arm of MC Machinery.

“Without MAC funding there would be no ACP Waterjet, because no one would have financed us for a second machine,” Fernandes said. “We were doing very well, but we were still a startup. Without MC Machinery, we would still be on the first machine and working 18-hour days and still not getting all the work done.”

With support from MC Machinery, the company continues to grow with no signs of slowing down. This year, Fernandes replaced his DX with an MWX3 and the shop expanded from 2000 to 6000 ft2 (186–557 m2). Fernandes is seriously considering a press brake from MC Machinery, in addition to more waterjet machines as business continues to grow. For now, he’s “very happy” with the ones he has.

“The MWX4 is very nice, super accurate to within one one-thousandth of an inch, something the DX couldn’t do,” Fernandes said. “It’s easy to get a good part from the start and you can update your database for future repeat orders and it’s right there.” Fernandes also enjoys the speed, table control and drive system of the machine. The compact footprint doesn’t hurt, either.

And even though he’s only had it a short time, the MWX3 is quickly becoming a shop favorite. “The MWX3 is great so far. We are in love with it because it is such a simple and good machine. When you really need the accuracy for thicker materials, the MWX4 is unbeatable. But for less demanding jobs, the MWX3 is ideal,” said Fernandes.

“Other waterjet companies only offer waterjet. A big benefit with MC Machinery is that you call one place and get everything. It definitely helps having one partner to deal with if we choose to try other technology, because we know support is there. We’ve seen firsthand that there are a lot of people behind that one phone call for support. It really exists. ME

For more information from MC Machinery, go to www.mitsubishi-world.com, or phone 630-616-5920.

 

This article was first published in the May 2014 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Click here for PDF


Published Date : 5/1/2014

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