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Medical Device Shop Thrives with Multitasking


Constant innovation is the life force behind business success at Conmed Orthopedics in Largo, FL. The company specializes in medical devices for orthopedic, arthroscopic, and laparoscopic surgery. Conmed Largo currently manufactures about 4300 different part catalog numbers and introduces many innovative new products each and every year. Competition is tough, and Conmed must continuously boost efficiency and shorten product development lead times to get its innovations to market as quickly as possible.

Conmed produces both disposable and reusable surgical instruments. Many are medical hand tools, but the company also produces pneumatic and battery-operated power hand tools, as well as the implants that are put into the body using those hand tools and other instruments. The company develops products for many areas of minimally invasive surgery from gynecology and general surgery to products for shoulder, knee, and hip.
Conmed produces medical devices for many areas of minimally invasive surgery from gynecology and general surgery to products for shoulder, knee, and hip.
Aluminum makes up about 40% of the parts the shop machines, stainless steel another 40% and brass and titanium the remaining parts. Conmed makes implantable anchors from materials that include a poly lactate acid material the body absorbs after a certain amount of time, PEEK plastic, and special grades of titanium. All products are manufactured utilizing LeanSigma methodologies, and Conmed precision machining typically holds machined part tolerances of ±0.0005" (0.013 mm).

In the past, the company organized its shop floor into dedicated production departments based on single machining operations, e.g. milling, turning, grinding etc. But such part processing was slow in terms of response time and involved a lot of WIP, as well as significant amounts of required inventory. So to improve operational efficiencies and boost production responsiveness, Conmed—as part of its lean manufacturing initiative—added new advanced machine tool technology and transitioned to extremely flexible precision machining flow cells.

Conmed precision machining has 30 flow cells, each of which it describes as a one-person autonomous machine shop. Components enter the cells as raw material and exit as completely finished parts ready for their particular surgical device assembly. Not only do the cells perform all machining operations, but also secondary processes such as deburring, cleaning, and honing and any others that are required are performed.

Many of Conmed’s precision machining flow cells hinge on multitasking machines from Mazak Corp. (Florence, KY), including the shop’s two newest cells. One of which has been designated as a “developmental machining cell.” At the heart of Conmed’s developmental cell, or rather its one-machine prototyping cell is a Mazak Integrex i-100S multitasking machine. It features twin turning spindles and a 12,000-rpm milling spindle with B-axis capability, in addition to a 72-position tool magazine.

The second cell incorporates two Mazak machines—an Integrex 200SY multitasking machine with twin spindles and B axis and a Vertical Center Nexus (VCN) 410A vertical machining center that provides Conmed fast, efficient setups and ample worktable space for various part fixturing, including rotary indexing units.

William Mazurek, Conmed director of continuous improvement, said “leveraging the precision machining flow cell methodology together with our rapid developmental cell we continue to maximize our customer as well as our business responsiveness. The precision machining factory operates three shifts, five days a week, so most of its cells—the Mazaks—basically run 24/7.”

“Our goal is to achieve the highest levels of equipment utilization we can. We focus on waste elimination, faster setups/changeovers and less operator intervention. And multitasking capability gained from our Mazaks helps us accomplish all these objectives. Plus, the machines are extremely accurate, provide more part processing flexibility, and fit well with our production flow cell concept,” Mazurek said.
Conmed’s disposable and reusable surgical instruments as well as implants are precision machined on Mazak multitasking production flow cells which the company regards as “one-person autonomous machine shops.”
Once Conmed models a new product in CAD and proves out feasibility, that product segues to the design phase and into a developmental cell. These cells determine manufacturability and ensure a smooth transition of a new product and its components into full production. Conmed runs parts in developmental cells until the product matures, after which the product’s components will move to production flow cells to step up throughput and meet the growing market demand.

“Developmental machining cells get us to market with new products as quickly as possible, while flow cells provide speed and efficiency once those products are in full production,” said Rob Kalo, factory manager and chief engineer. “During product development, we generate a lot of iterations to achieve optimum designs, and using our dedicated development cell we provide flexibility and speed. Speed is critical, and the Mazak Integrex i-100S developmental cell provides that by allowing us to process very complex components on one machine and in single setups.”

“Our goal is to keep job changeovers in our cells to a minimum,” said Kalo. “Non-cut times are just as, if not more, critical to us than part machining times. We constantly evaluate exactly how long machines sit idle because the longer they do the more our efficiency suffers.”

Conmed runs its most recent Mazak production flow cell in two-shift operations. Parts enter the cell as raw material, go from the Mazak Integrex 200SY multitasking machine to the three-axis VCN 410A, then to EDM and honing machines, if needed, and finally to secondary operations such as tumbling surface finishing, washing, and anodizing. All gaging, measuring, and inspection are also done within the cell.

The cell processes a variety of parts, all of which are aluminum. On average, about nine different jobs run through the cell, and job changeovers typically can occur multiple times within the same day to every three or four days depending on business needs.

According to Mike McCool, senior manufacturing engineer, production flow cells let them divide part processing among multiple machines that perform the various required machining operations simultaneously. This, he said, makes for faster throughput, and multitasking machines contribute further to that output by providing shorter overall part-machining cycle times.

Companywide, Conmed employs a total of 3600 people, and 1100 of those work at the Largo, FL, facility. In the past, the company had one factory and one plant manager but now has nine of what it calls focused factories at the Largo location. Largo precision machining has 18 Mazaks currently being utilized in its cellular manufacturing arrangement.

“We really benefit from the Mazak controls,” said Kalo. “With both new and many vintages of Mazaks in our facility, the common control platform is such that our machinists can move from one machine to the next and seamlessly run each of them. Our operators are not dedicated to one piece of equipment, so the control commonality helps us very much in cross training our people.”


For more information from Mazak Corp., go to, or phone 859-342-1700.


This article was first published in the March 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read "Medical Device Shop Thrives with Multitasking" as a PDF.

Published Date : 3/1/2016

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