Award-winning Mate Precision Tooling has recently embarked on an expansion and development plan designed to keep pace with the rapidly growing global demand for its precision CNC punch-press tooling systems. Janis Hubschman delivers the story.
Nils Sundquist started Mate Precision Tooling in 1962 in Minneapolis, with only a handful of employees, to supply the fledgling computer-numerical-control (CNC) punching market. After successfully serving local customers for the first few years, the company seized an opportunity to expand into the national arena in 1967. Armed with a catalogue of punch-press tooling systems designed for the fabrication of sheet-metal products — plus some innovative (for that time) marketing techniques, which included guaranteed delivery dates, a printed price list and a toll-free telephone number — Mate launched its prosperous national campaign.
Over the years, Mate’s continued success in the United States, and in its rapidly growing overseas markets, allowed the company to expand its manufacturing quarters six times. Last year, the company moved to a new 300,000 square-foot facility that is among the largest owned by any tooling manufacturer in the world.
Mate remains a family-owned business with the founder’s son, Dean Sundquist, serving as chief executive officer. Discussing the company’s present and future expansion, Sundquist says, “The number of products Mate now manufactures has increased 3,000 percent in the last five years. That, and the fact that Mate now markets these tooling product lines in over 60 different countries, necessitated the tripling of our manufacturing facility. The new operations also provide a building designed on 40 acres of land capable of expansion to over 900,000 square feet at some time in the future.”
“Fast Track” to Success
The new Anoka, Minn., facility is loaded with the most modern tool-making technology available, including: 350 of the latest model turning and machining centers; wire and sinker electrical-discharge-machining systems; and high-precision surface grinders. The facility employs more than 500 people and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Mate’s “Fast Track” process for producing precision CNC punch-press tooling in standard and custom configurations ensures same-day or next day shipping on most orders. To enable such speedy delivery, with the broad product offering for virtually all turret-punching machines, Mate has designed the most advanced manufacturing processes in the world for making turret punch-press tooling. Advanced machinery like the new Yasda liquid-cooled machining centers — which cost more than $500,000 each — are employed as part of the “Fast Track” process for machining ball-end louvers and radius-end louvers out of such hardened high-speed steel materials as M2 HSS at 61 Rockwell C.
“On-time delivery is critical to our customers,” says company President Jack Schneider. “The area in which we’ve developed the most in the last two years is the speeding up of internal systems.” Adding to Mate’s speed and efficiency is its broadband fiber-optic Ethernet, which connects all company functions — from product design and order entry to manufacturing and next-day “Fast Track” shipping. More than 12 miles of fiber-optic cabling form the high-speed data transfer backbone for connecting plan/design/build functions into a cohesive, high-efficiency operation.
Mate is the leading manufacturer of original and replacement tooling for Amada, Euromac, Finn-Power, LVD, Murata Wiedemann, Salvagnini, Strippit, Nisshinbo, Trumpf and other punch-press machines. The company’s worldwide market share is now approaching 25 percent.
Mate serves a variety of industries including furniture, home appliances, telecommunications, computer cabinets, lighting, farm equipment, aerospace, electronic enclosures, vending and food equipment. Mate’s impressive client list includes such industry giants as General Electric, Whirlpool, Steel Case, Hewlett-Packard, Lithonia, John Deere, General Dynamics and Boeing.
In addition to original and replacement tooling, Mate’s wide range of products includes: punch holders, die holders, cartridges, multitools, tooling for rotating stations, tooling for special shapes, knockouts, louvers, clusters and countersinks.
Tooling for Innovation
On the leading edge of tooling design, Mate holds dozens of patents. Demonstrating its commitment to innovation, Mate recently opened a Technology Center located in a new 40,000 square-foot facility for the development and testing of new tooling concepts and designs. Sundquist says the new Technology Center is dedicated to developing unique punch-press tooling, using new materials and applications with a focus on proving the viability of value-added products, while reducing the time needed to bring these products to market.
Some innovative Mate products include Ultra®, a precision tooling system for thick-turret punch presses. It is the only universally interchangeable, “open architecture” tooling system in the world. “This has been a real big hit for us. It’s fueled much of our growth and development,” says Schneider. “Ultra® is a system with high utility and maintainability. It’s extremely easy to set up and tear down for tool changeovers at the machine. The number of work cycles these tools can make before needing maintenance is about a 500 percent improvement over traditional tools. We’ve made additional refinements to this tool, utilizing six patents.”
Another premier product, the Marathon® system for the Murata Wiedemann press, features a fully guided design, using high-speed steel punches and spring-loaded steel strippers for extended operation and precision high-speed punching. “This premium tool is a refinement of the standard system used in the industry,” says Schneider.
Mate’s Nova® is the only tooling system in the world designed exclusively for Finn-Power punch presses. And, now Finn-Power punch-press users can expand the number of tools in their machine’s turret, and greatly extend its punching range, using Mate’s new MT6AU Multi-Tool. It holds six tools, maximizing turret capacity and versatility. “We’re like the multitool capital of the world here,” says Schneider. “It’s another niche Mate has successfully filled.”
Other new products manufactured by Mate include: Ultra Tec®, designed for punching holes; Sheet Marker®, for permanently identifying sheet-metal parts with brand names, logos and serial numbers; and Rollerball® for forming ribs, flanges and raised areas across the entire work surface of light-gauge sheet metal.
Mate’s perishable laser products, another brand new product line, is scheduled to emerge from the Technology Center in June. According to Schneider, when lasers are used to cut sheet metal, certain parts, such as lenses and laser nozzles, become damaged and need to be replaced. Mate will have a full line of support for these perishable items.
Mate has become a major global tooling supplier just 12 years after first penetrating the world market. With rapidly growing overseas manufacturing, warehousing and customer-support operations, Mate now picks up more than one-third of its sales outside the United States and Canada.
Mate began its foray into the overseas markets by developing strong relationships with original-equipment punch press manufacturers, providing tooling abroad wherever new machines were sold. Once key entry points were established in these markets, Mate aggressively expanded and broadened its entry base. The company now markets its tooling products in 60 countries, with subsidiaries in Rugby, United Kingdom, and Oberursel, Germany, in addition to operations in Sweden, Argentina and Malaysia. In recognition of the company’s excellence in exporting, Mate was honored with the prestigious President’s “E” Award in 1996 from the United States Department of Commerce.