Volume 8 | Issue 2 | Year 2005

About 30 miles north of Chicago is the town of Elgin, Ill., the home to AMTEC Precision Products. It was founded in 1954 by Ed Walters and worked primarily for the Department of Defense. A savvy businessman, Walters built up AMTEC substantially until 1987 when it was sold to an English defense company called ASTRA. In the early 90s defense work waned and the company went bankrupt. AMTEC’s current management purchased the company with an investment fund from the bankruptcy court in 1991, and due to the sagging defense market, started focusing its sights on the automotive industry. By 1992, 80 percent of AMTEC’s work was for the automotive industry. And by 1995, AMTEC built its second plant and transformed itself from doing high volume defense work to catering to tier one automotive manufacturers. Today it’s best known for its component transmissions and fuel systems, electric sensor technology, air compressors, diesel fuel injectors and assembly work.

AMTEC, which is ISO: 9002 & QS-9000 certified with Ford Q1 status, has an impressive client list. Navastar, International Truck and Engine, Siemen’s diesel division, Ford, General Motors, Hays Brake, Texas Instruments, Delphi, and Bosch are among the top companies AMTEC services. It has become known in recent years for its diesel fuel injector components, which make up about 24 percent of sales. “AMTEC has made a conscious decision to manufacture the most difficult to machine parts and geometries with very tight tolerances,” says Andy Hain, a consultant for the company. “The AMTEC engineering team is assigned on a ‘customer specific’ project basis and is always in contact with our customer engineering department regarding the status of the program. This set up is highly effective and we consider it to be our strategic edge over global competition.”

AMTEC operations run from two primary plants. The first is a 134,000-square-foot facility. Completely temperature controlled, its core capabilities include multi-spindle machines, Hydromat and other rotary machines, horizontal and vertical milling centers, CNC turning centers, honing, and grinding. AMTEC also offers a comprehensive range of finishing operations in house, including thermal, water jet and tumble deburr, and ultrasonic wash systems. This set up helps reduce the number of subcontracted operations needed for any one particular job. The plant is also equipped with state-of-the-art inspection systems including vision, Optical Comparators, Hardness Tester, CMM, Profile 80, Tallyround and several surface testing machines.

AMTEC’s Plant 2 is a generous 80,000 square feet and features dual spindle and twin spindle CNC lathes, centerless grinding, through feed grinding, honing, gundrilling, HMC, VMC, Swiss style, thermal deburr, agitator wash and robodrill machines. Plant 2 also has a fully equipped inspection lab equipped with laser measurement, CMM, optical comparators, bore scope, profilometer and hardness tester. “We’re devoted to using technology to reduce part handling, reduce operations required, reduce cycle times and costs and improving quality through the use of automation. We also try to keep as much in house as possible to control the process and keep it stable,” says Hain.

“AMTEC continues to optimize its proven technologies to best suit the customer requirements and has plenty to offer,” says Pete Galas, vice president of engineering. What has propelled the company forward over the years? “Equipment base, versatility with capability, a commitment to our customer and the ability to launch complex parts, add machinery when needed and find a way to get just about anything done,” says Galas.

AMTEC has positioned itself as a leader by offering top European technology and machinery. Since 1992 it has spent over $80 million on capital investments. “Our equipment is extremely versatile. We have a high percentage of Gildemeister and CNC machines – the best technology from Europe and Japan,” says Galas. “Ultimately, the kind of flexibility and versatility this machinery offers allows us to give our customers a less expensive way of creating the parts they need.”

The Competitive Edge
AMTEC boasted $78 million in sales for 2004. To maintain that level of success and stay on top in the competitive world of precision machine part manufacturing, it has been careful to analyze and respond to trends.

Its biggest commitment is to zero defect manufacturing or the “Poka-Yoke” principle. AMTEC’s zero defect requirement involves proofing a product’s design and its manufacturing process. “Mistake proofing is key to improving product quality and reliability. If a product is difficult to assemble, it’s more likely to be assembled incorrectly,” says Galas. Poka-Yoke, which is a Japanese concept, involves finding and correcting problems as close to the source as possible. “Often the benefits of mistake-proofing not only help with production of the product, but can also contribute to correct user operation and maintenance of the product, and servicing of the product,” says Hain.

AMTEC also has the APQP Process in place, a procedure followed on all projects. “When a job comes in it automatically enters into the APQP advanced planning quality process,” says Galas. “We sit down as a team and we try to build stop gaps in our process.” AMTEC is also responding to price reduction and improving quality with cellular manufacturing, lean manufacturing principles, Six Sigma and additional automation and global outsourcing. “We’re also increasingly involved in customer part development and prototype development. Thanks to a highly experienced group of engineers, we’re increasing and meeting the demands our customers have for sophisticated engineering.”

Another way AMTEC attacks global competition is by providing quality products on time and providing a response time to customer complaints measured in hours rather than days, subcontracting roughing and blank making operations abroad and focusing on finishing operations in-house.

“We are absolutely committed to serving the difficult-to manufacture parts niche and we will search the world for needed materials if necessary to stay competitive,” says Hain. Reveling in its diversified and hard won customer base, AMTEC is hopeful for the future. “We have the expertise and machinery to manufacture these parts,” says Hain. “Through aggressive sales, a concurrent engineering approach towards projects, and our dedication to zero defect, our goal is $90 to $94 million in sales by 2006.”

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