Changing ways and expanding horizons
To be more efficient and deliver a good product –this goal drove JE Monahan to take a close look at laser cutting.
Sometimes a dire situation can lead to a great opportunity – just ask Jeff Cartier, estimating and design manager at JE Monahan Fabrication LLC in Queensbury, NY. This custom job shop owes its success to the misfortune of another. “The previous fabricating shop closed due to mismanagement and we were suddenly without a job,” Cartier explains. The swift closure also left a handful of outstanding orders in its wake, including a customer in need of a stainless steel airtight enclosure. Cartier took it upon himself to finish the work as promised.
A family friend who had previously left the now-defunct company to start his own small HVAC shop welcomed Cartier to use his tools. As it was, this friend also had a few close acquaintances looking for opportunities to invest. Before long, JE Monahan had become its own entity in a small segment of a rented warehouse. As it generated bigger profits, the three owners continued to reinvest. JE Monahan eventually purchased the building, upgraded the electrical system and added airlines for compressors. With the space converted, the company recently decided it was time to improve its capabilities as a custom fabricator.
From plasma to lasers
JE Monahan had a small plasma cutting table and a high-definition plasma cutting machine that was state-of-the-art when they bought it a decade ago. “Our customers range from the medical field to the entertainment industry,” Cartier explains. The dross or slag left by a plasma machine is often problematic and forced JE Monahan to outsource work. When a concentric hole was needed, a mechanical punch or drill was the best solution and parts with tight tolerances were especially labor intensive. Cartier knew things needed to change. In 2014, he began researching his options. He was hopeful that the latest advancements in plasma technology would provide better cut quality – but that was not the case. “We visited another manufacturer of CNC high-definition plasma cutting tables. After the plant tour, we proceeded to their demo room where they cut samples for us. The cut quality and concentricity of the holes where actually worse than what was achievable with our table, which was ten years old. It simply wasn’t worth the money.” explains Cartier.
Cartier then considered laser technology. He was inspired by a nearby business that had recently invested in a waterjet system. It now stays always busy with subcontracted jobs – including some work from JE Monahan. “I knew a laser would increase cut quality, but after considering our limitations and the lack of laser cutting machines in our area, I also recognized the new opportunities it could afford,” Cartier explains. He planned a visit to TRUMPF and says, “That trip secured our decision to invest in a laser and in TRUMPF. To be honest, I didn’t look at any other options.”
The TruLaser 2030 fiber is very user friendly, changes the nozzles and does everything for you.
As a job shop, JE Monahan’s workload varies. “It is feast or famine,” explains Cartier. “We’re all treated like family and it is tough to find skilled labor these days – so my goal was to find a way to keep a smaller crew busy all year, producing a quality product with greater efficiency.” And the TruLaser 2030 fiber was the answer. “As leading innovators in technology, TRUMPF constantly invests to improve –that’s pretty obvious,” Cartier reveals. “We also appreciate TRUMPF as an all-inclusive source who doesn’t just assemble the parts. When there is an issue, TRUMPF solves it while the others will redirect us to separate manufacturers.”
Navigating the learning curve
Learning a new technology was not daunting for Cartier, who attended training at TRUMPF with two other colleagues. “There’s always a learning curve with new technology. The software has extensive capabilities which we are still learning, but the machine is very user friendly, changes the nozzles and does everything for you.” In addition, he credits TRUMPF application engineers for helping to fine-tune the process. “So far we are very pleased,” he asserts. “The new technology has also significantly increased our productivity and efficiency.”
JE Monahan supplies custom fabrication and sheet metal work for theme parks, new casinos, and grocery stores. It makes stainless steel handrails, custom catwalks, custom enclosures, and guarding. There is also plenty of repeat manufacturing, including large electrical enclosures, industrial ovens and curing chambers.
The goal now is to become even more efficient with the crew we have.
Rather than subcontracting portions of a project, JE Monahan now easily completes all aspects in-house. “For one product line we used to hand drill or subcontract out waterjet cutting of 3/8” thick plates with a total of (1200) .201” diameter holes that needed to be tapped ¼”-20. Now we cut these plates and the holes with the laser.” He continues, “Thinner gauge blanks are done in a tenth of the time and at a substantially higher quality. The process is considerably faster and more efficient. The dross and slag is virtually eliminated, drastically reducing the manpower needed for cleanup.”
Fabricating its future
In addition to producing better work, the TruLaser 2030 fiber has also given JE Monahan the flexibility to take in subcontracted work. Although JE Monahan hasn’t pushed for this business per say the company has local customers who know about its laser cutting system and have already approached it for custom laser work. “Work has been good over the past few years,” Cartier explains, “but if it does slow down, we are happy to know we have the possibility to offer custom laser cutting with the TruLaser 2030 fiber.”
With patience, and an understanding of the limits imposed by the size of their current facility, Cartier thinks about the next step: “The goal now is to become even more efficient with the crew we have. That plan has served us well in recent years and enabled us to buy the new laser without financing. We will continue down this path.” Life is good at JE Monahan and Cartier plans to keep it that way.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in autum 2015.