Manufacturing drives the world around us. Many of the highest tech industries can legitimately say that they are moving at the speed of manufacturing. Each day in a modern manufacturing plant is supersonic, complex, and innovative. At the center of all this productive energy is the manufacturing engineer.
On any given day, manufacturing engineers are expected to provide expertise in the entire production process from first quote to finished piece. In short, it’s a challenge from beginning to end — and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Meet Peter Raucci, Manufacturing Engineer at Swiss Precision Machining. We recently spent some time talking with Peter about his day-to-day at SPM.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role and responsibilities at SPM?
My responsibilities encompass the entire production chain for parts that are manufactured at SPM. I’m involved in preparing quotes, planning methodologies, choosing the machines and materials, designing and making fixtures, programming, and manufacturing the part from set-up to final inspection.
We work with every single department. At SPM, the engineering department is solidly involved on the machine floor. Engineers and operators will run the parts alongside each other.
Engineering oversees the development of new parts because it involves a lot of different departments and a lot of communication with and between departments. At the end of the development process, we have a good, solid discussion with all team members so that we can identify improvements in manufacturability.
When the customer comes with a prototype idea, we handle it the same way we do with new parts, especially designing the process to make the part. Throughout the process, we work with the customer on design modifications if necessary. Once the part is shipped, we’re always available in a support capacity to do continuous improvement in order to take care of issues we couldn’t foresee.
What is your role in innovation and continuous improvement?
The company itself is very focused on staying current and staying up on technology. We are not afraid to purchase new equipment or new styles of equipment to do what we need to do. If we have a requirement that a current method can’t meet we figure out how to make it work within the company. We are about every part we make and we do everything we can to produce the best quality parts possible.
Sometimes bringing outside services in-house allows us to control the process and achieve a better outcome. For example, we brought in passivation. This gives us a time and quality advantage because we can control that process. Because the part is perfect before it leaves the shop, it reduces loss in shipment. Our quality department is fully engaged in passivation and we know the process is being executed correctly.
In another instance, a part we manufacture was running on at least five Swiss style lathes to meet production quantity. We purchased a very sophisticated machine that could handle all five spindle processes. Instead of running each process sequentially, all processes are completed in one run, drastically reducing production time from 40 seconds to 5 or 6 seconds.
How do you help ensure that SPM is on the cutting edge of quality?
Quality is a very personal thing for me and I take it very seriously. We never want a bad part to leave the building.
We have a separate in-house quality department. They manage end-quality control and in-process control. I work in partnership with them. I want them to be my final check. I do everything in my power to ensure that everything is correct before they see it. We work hard to maintain top quality before it gets to them so that we don’t waste time and material.
How did you get started on your professional pathway?
I got into this field directly through a friend. My original career path was that of a Master Auto & Truck Technician for a number of years. I learned how to diagnose and solve problems. I developed many of my own tools and would machine them until they were exactly right.
My first engineering job was with a friend in the machining business. He needed someone to come in and take on the whole engineering role, everything from maintaining the machines to quality control. He mentored me in all aspects of manufacturing engineering.
After I had been in that job for a number of years, another friend of mine came to work at SPM. He spoke very highly of the company, especially that it’s a family run company where they treat their people well. It’s always been important for me to work for people I respect. We are a middle sized manufacturer but they still treat us all as if we were family.
What do you think the future of precision manufacturing looks like?
I think technology is going to take a bigger role, especially on the machine platform level with more innovation to give us more capability in a smaller package. There is a good chance that additive manufacturing will become more prevalent because some things can’t be made any other way.
I expect tolerances to get tighter and complexity to increase. There will be new materials with properties that we haven’t seen before. I’m sure we will see more investment in pure technology such as quality control with vision systems and semi-automatic inspections which will give operators an opportunity to maintain their focus on quality.
I think robots definitely have a place. They can take away the repetitive tasks and tasks that would be difficult or unpleasant for someone to do. We’ll have to see how technology moves forward. Right now it seems like the investment is practical in high volume production; however, if it gets to the point where robots can quickly change over from one part to another, it will have a place.
Manufacturing engineers require a wide range of skills to be effective in their role. They must be both analytical and people-focused, good communicators as well as technical gurus, and above all, masters of creative problem solving. When we say that our people are our most valuable asset and the reason for our success, we mean it. For more than 40 years, they have helped make SPM a trusted supplier of the highest quality precision parts in the industry.