A commitment to continually improving customer service and upgrading and expanding manufacturing capabilities sets Futuramic ahead of the rest as a tooling supplier to the automotive and aerospace industries, says David Gill.
The word “refine” was coined to describe Futuramic Tool & Engineering Company of Warren, Mich. This word has a quality evoking craftsmanship, precision and the most modern equipment in the tooling industry. It is the word the company uses to describe how it keeps its engineering and manufacturing facilities up to date: “Our engineering and build processes are constantly being refined and improved to capture new technology,” Futuramic says in its sales brochure.
The refinements include, but are not limited to, capital equipment such as computers, CNC multi-axis machining centers, precision laser systems and CMM inspection systems. This equipment is coupled with investments in Futuramic’s associates, affording them the latest technological education available in the industry. These continual improvements, as the company points out, “have enabled Futuramic to become a global leader in the design and build of high-quality tooling.”
A History Set for the Future
Underscoring this 45-year-old custom manufacturer’s commitment to now is the leadership of its president, Bob Stephanoff. “This is a highly competitive industry,” Stephanoff stresses. “The key to our success has been to listen to our customers, embracing and supplying their needs. Being a full-service supplier, keeping up with the latest technology is critical to what we do.” This commitment goes beyond simply purchasing the latest in equipment.
“Being proactive to the tomorrow as well as the today is essential. We attend user-group meetings and industry seminars both internally and outside, to ensure our training and planning are at the forefront of the tooling community,” says Stephanoff. In-house training is set up to keep Futuramic’s associates aware of, and current with, the most recent developments and processes within the engineering and manufacturing industry. These courses also create a work environment that encourages continuous improvement, high employee retention and increased productivity. A specific feature of this policy is Futuramic’s association with Macomb Community College, with which it has partnered on an apprenticeship program since 1971. This program opens access to the latest technologies for Futuramic associates from the academic community, and is regularly reviewed to ensure that all the most recent data is available for their use.
The commitment to continual education, Stephanoff admits, is sometimes hard to maintain. “What makes it difficult for us is the numerous areas of highly technical training we must support, especially in the computer arena,” he says. “Each customer has a different software and, in some cases, multiple versions of that software that we must be compatible with in their support, which can become very expensive. Let’s face it, each year computer hardware manufacturers come out with faster, more efficient pieces of equipment that outdate what you have on the floor. Another expense.”
But judging from Futuramic’s steadily growing business, the commitment, effort and investment are all well worth it. “The auto and aircraft manufacturers are leaning more and more to the full-service supplier, having realized what they gain from one-stop shopping control, and that’s us. We’re the true full-service supplier, and that sets us apart from other tooling shops,” says Stephanoff. “Engineering, design, manufacturing, parts and subassembly – that’s full service, and that’s Futuramic.”
As a point of reference, DaimlerChrysler provides a high-profile example of what Futuramic can do and has done for its customers. As Stephanoff explains, “The PT Cruiser from DaimlerChrysler, originally manufactured in Mexico, is slated to launch on the European market. The company wanted to reduce its fixturing program from six months to five, and we accomplished that for them. Taking a proactive approach to the challenge, we were able to design the fixtures in such a fashion that a great number of the details that were similar could be built together, reducing the manufacturing flow time. This left only finite differences to contend with. The Daimler-Chrysler people were very pleased.”
As new and critical as the European PT Cruiser program is, Futuramic took a proactive approach to the demands Daimler-Chrysler placed on the project, and established a plan acceptable to the auto giant. “We do work for most major automotive and aircraft manufacturers, all of whom have changes in style and other crunch programs. That’s what drives our work. We’re a service,” says Stephanoff. “They (the customers) continuously change body styles and make different interior and exterior trim appointments. That’s what creates their sales and ours. Our life’s work at Futuramic has been to orient our services to meet those customer changes with our full-service commitment.”
Part of that orientation is the resources Futuramic has committed to its design and manufacturing facilities. Design and engineering are done on PC- and Unix-based CAD systems, which have a variety of two- and three-dimensional design capabilities. The software is maintained at the most current versions. This provides an extremely flexible environment for the services the company provides as well; Futuramic uses its three-D CAD designs to generate cutter-path data for all of its NC machines, in conjunction with CMM programs for the inspection equipment. Additionally, Futuramic can support NC machines outside its internal group as a programming supplier.
The tooling that is manufactured from this design function includes small door-handle inspection fixtures and full environmental body fixtures for the automotive group, and ground-service equipment and major fuselage assembly tooling for the aircraft industry.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered
Clearly, the quality of this work has become a certainty Futuramic’s customers can rely and depend on. “Futuramic is ISO 9000-registered and has quality operating systems in place, which are in accordance with that certification. Plus, we’re constantly monitoring and improving processes,” Stephanoff says.
Further guaranteeing this high level of quality is Futuramic’s inspection and certification process. This is all accomplished “on-line,” and involves high-tech laser systems and DCC coordinate measuring machines.
“Customer enthusiasm is the prime building block for Futuramic’s continued success. Giving something back to the industry and establishing new benchmarks are driving forces for Futuramic’s management. Futuramic has postured itself for the next decade by identifying automated machining, part manufacturing and subassembly components as added services,” says Stephanoff.
And judging from the pattern and past performance Futuramic has exhibited, this forecast will be easily reached through the diligence, commitment, dedication and pure hard work of the more than 170 associates working in Futuramic’s more than 200,000 square feet of facilities. More information on Futuramic is available at www.futuramic.com, describing this totally comprehensive, responsive, full-service company.