Bill Seyferth

PRESIDENT — EAGLE CNC TECHNOLOGIES

“I have to keep coming back to IMTS. It's a big part of our business. Technology is changing fast, so I've got to come to IMTS to experience it. Seeing new technologies in action is cool to me.”

Bill Seyferth, president of Eagle CNC Technologies in Muskegon, Mich., knows that new technology and skilled workers make the difference between a business that thrives and one that shuts its doors. The company machines large, heavy cast parts such as suspension components and axle boxes for vehicles in construction, recreation, agriculture and railroad applications. They also machine a wide variety of materials from bar stock.

 

Bill Seyferth

Researching new equipment and growing valuable employees takes time and patience. For Seyferth, IMTS plays a crucial role in making all that happen. The show is where he researches and buys new equipment, and he brings along employees to learn and get inspired.

“We do great work with a good workforce, and we're always on the front edge of technology with our equipment,” Seyferth says. “We pride ourselves on that.”

Seyferth attended his first IMTS show in 1986 and has been to every show since then. Time has given him perspective to truly appreciate what IMTS has to offer his business.

“Attending IMTS is like getting a glimpse into the future,” Seyferth says. “Some of the technologies there are so new that you don't always realize the significance of what you're seeing at the time. There are revolutionary disruptive technologies out there that get introduced at every IMTS, and it blows me away every time.

Building the Dream

For Eagle, a real game changer was the purchase of the company's first twin spindle CNC machine in 1989. From his research at the show, he chose a twin spindle gantry loaded with power tools. Its impact on productivity was immediate.

“We were also able to turn the lights off and walk out on third shift,” Seyferth says. “We'd come in the morning and there were 500 pieces done on the table. Six months later, I bought a second machine, a Mazak Multiplex 6200Y.

Today, Eagle has built an army of machining equipment, transforming into a company with 56 employees and 62,000 square feet of space. The shop has 14 horizontal machining centers with attached pallet pools that move 80 pallets, fed by four automated guided vehicles supplied by Mori (now DMG Mori), Mazak and Toyoda.

“I have to keep coming back to IMTS. It's a big part of our business,” Seyferth says. “Technology is changing fast, so I've got to come to IMTS to experience it. Seeing new technologies in action is cool to me.”

Seyferth first saw the pallet system at IMTS, researching at several booths. After visiting a job site in Rockford, Ill., to see the system in action, Eagle CNC bought two DMG Mori 500mm machines with 18 pallets. The new system changed the way the company did business.

“Each machine had 120 tools in it, so if a customer needed parts, we would help them out of a jam and run those parts right away,” Seyferth says. “We never lost a beat with the other jobs we were already running. It allowed us to respond so much faster to our customer's needs.”

In 2004, Seyferth went to IMTS looking for a lathe that had really beefy milling capabilities. After researching machines at the show, he bought a Mazak Integrex E-800V 5-axis mill right off the show floor.

“I didn't expect to come back with a 5-axis mill, but once I saw my options, the Mazak unit stood out,” Seyferth says. “It gives me big lathe capacity and its spindle has a 26-inch chuck and runs up to 1,000 RPM. If I hadn't gone to IMTS, I never would have been exposed to such a variety of equipment options.”

Investing in People

Seyferth brings a team to the show, including the plant manager, tool manager, engineers and a sales manager. Everyone is tasked to come back from IMTS with a solution to a problem. Getting the team out of the shop is about more than just education.

“They get excited and care more about what they're doing. They get more involved in their jobs,” Seyferth says. “Our tool manager comes to the show and geeks out on the tools he sees. They come back excited. The best part of my job has been seeing people enjoying what they're doing and taking pride in their work.”

Automation for Progress

At IMTS 2018, Seyferth will have his eyes set on finding new advances in robotic automation. With 80 pallets attached to several horizontal machine centers, there are a variety of parts running at any given time. Moving from one product to the next can be a challenge.

“If I can add some automation, the system will be more flexible. We hope to have the ability to change out between jobs more efficiently,” Seyferth says. “So far, I haven't found end-of-arm tooling that will grip and move the unusually shaped parts we do, but maybe this year I'll find something that works for us.”

Automation does more than fill jobs due to labor shortages for Eagle CNC. Seyferth wants to add more robots to increase volume and eliminate the more repetitive and mundane manual jobs that people don't want to do.

“It's better use of a person's skills to focus on more fulfilling work like inspection and maintenance instead of keeping up with loading and unloading machines,” Seyferth says.” The more I can engage people to use their intellect along with their muscles, the more satisfied they will be. The first person I hired 34 years ago is still working here, which shows how we care about employee satisfaction.”

Making a plan

Seyferth used to spend only one day at IMTS, but that has extended to three days because there's so much to see. Planning is the key to being prepared for the show.

“I've gotten more organized, using the MyShow Planner and the IMTS App to map out the route for our team so we're not roaming aimlessly,” Seyferth says. “On the first two days, we look at specific booths we know we want to see, but we save the third day to walk around and see what else is new. There have been a lot of serendipitous moments when I have come upon something totally new.”

Beyond 2018

Eagle CNC is not using 3D printing right now, but Seyferth is keeping his eye on the technology.

“I went to the Additive Manufacturing Conference at IMTS 2016 and saw a fascinating video demonstration of a system depositing metal and machining it almost simultaneously,” Seyferth says. “In the future, we may have short runs without tooling or a job with expensive tooling, so additive manufacturing certainly is an option. IMTS is like looking into a crystal ball.”

Seyferth plans to retire this year. With a deep, genuine love of manufacturing, Seyferth is a perfect example of the idea that ‘you can take the man out of manufacturing, but you can't take manufacturing out of the man.'

“I'm happy with stepping aside and letting the young generation take the company from here,” Seyferth says. “But even after retirement, I'll still come to IMTS to see what's new. I just love seeing how things are made.”

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