Manufacturers frequently have a proprietary process for which they need custom machinery or custom process equipment. Typically, the manufacturer’s core expertise is the design, development, manufacture, and marketing of their product, not in the actual build of their production equipment. In many cases, the design & engineering of manufacturing equipment requires intimate knowledge of internal proprietary processes. Because the equipment, process, and intellectual property (IP) involved are so closely linked, many manufacturers choose to design their own machinery.
To focus limited resources on core competencies, most large manufacturers engage with custom machinery builders to manufacture their proprietary equipment on a “build-to-print” basis. In addition to custom machinery manufacturing, a company whose product is a piece of capital equipment may elect to outsource some or all their product on a contract basis.
Machine Builder Essentials
Working with a custom machinery builder is an efficient way to manufacture proprietary equipment designs. A machine builder has the experience, resources, and is focused on the essential elements required to build-to-print their customer’s proprietary equipment. These include:
Machine builders will have established business systems specifically geared toward the planning, scheduling, resource management and budgeting of machinery build projects. Whereas the end user may have to shoehorn machine building operations into systems and organizational structure not geared towards equipment manufacturing.
• Supply chain management – including sourcing, procurement, and supplier surveillance
Machine builders have worked diligently to build relationships and approve suppliers to build a stable to support machinery builds. These companies bring a fully developed supply chain to the table as well as the internal framework to manage those suppliers.
In many cases, machine builders can often obtain OEM pricing that is more advantageous on commercial off the shelf items than large multinational manufacturers. Depending on the style of equipment and quantities required, a machine builder may utilize a network of suppliers in low-cost countries to optimize overall cost to their customers.
• Manufacturing – including machining, welding, polishing and surface finishes
Depending on the technical requirements of the custom machinery, it may be necessary for a supplier to have internal manufacturing resources. For example, large format machining, manual and robotic welding capabilities, and surface finishing. These types of equipment can be expensive, space intensive, and require specialized personnel to operate.
Most end users of custom machinery, operating at a global scale, prefer to dedicate floorspace and resources to manufacturing their product not factory equipment for internal use.
• Assembly, integration, and test
A custom machine builder will be equipped with bridge cranes, high bays, clean rooms and other equipment and facilities, as needed, to efficiently assemble, integrate and test customer equipment prior to shipment.
The equipment’s end user would typically have to build facilities and dedicate personnel for equipment manufacturing which share in the overhead burden of the overall corporate structure.
• Project management
Machine builders have project managers dedicated to the realization of equipment build projects – they are specifically experienced in system integration and equipment manufacturing. Equipment builds can involve thousands of parts, hundreds of suppliers, and aggressive schedules to manage. The specialization of a custom machinery builder enables the end user to leverage those core competencies without investing in internal resources.
• Engineering support
A machine builder will typically have a comprehensive engineering staff with capabilities in mechanical, electrical and software engineering. Even in the case of “build-to-print” work- where the customer has designed and provided the CAD drawings or blueprints – there is usually a need for engineering support.
The drawing package may have errors that need correcting, and redline changes need to be captured. It is also common for the machine builder to take on the programing, debug, and FAT/SAT of the equipment, requiring software engineers. Machine builders will have PLC, robotics, machine vision and HMI expertise internally. Updating the bill of materials for obsolete parts and incorporating any desired design improvements is also facilitated with engineering support.
Build-To-Print Manufacturing Services
Build-to-print manufacturing services is a specialty of Keller Technology Corporation (KTC). We have four areas of focus in which we provide this type of service including: contract manufacturing, custom machinery, precision fabrication and medical capital equipment.
• Contract Manufacturing
Contract manufacturing is when a customer outsources the build of equipment, machinery, or major assembly, to KTC. We provide contract manufacturing services for a variety of capital equipment industries such as semiconductor fab tools, medical capital equipment, industrial machinery, and diagnostic instruments. These programs tend to require higher unit volume manufacturing than a custom machinery project.
We have a world class machine shop featuring production style large format five axis machining as well as robotic welding to fully leverage economies of scale for large fabricated and machined components such as vacuum chambers and precision frames. This capability complements a deep supply chain with suppliers from all over North America as well as Asia, allowing us to make sourcing decisions based on overall best value.
• Custom Machinery
As discussed above, KTC also provides build-to-print services for custom machinery designed by end users to make their products. This type of machinery might consist of web handling, forming, or converting as well as flexible automation. Our expertise in robotics integration, as well as high speed web-based equipment, makes us a reliable partner for these types of build-to-print projects.
Our supply chain and internal operations, which have been optimized for multiple unit builds, make us an excellent fit for customers requiring a build campaign of multiple units. In many cases, KTC is the manufacturer of choice for some of the world’s largest manufacturing companies for supplying their global machinery platforms. We have expertise in building machines that go to plants around the world, where each country or region has distinct power, regulatory and safety requirements.
• Precision Fabrication
We have invested heavily in facilities, personnel, and equipment, which differentiates us from other equipment builders. Equipment requiring sophisticated and precise machining and fabrication is a core competency. We take on various precision fabrication projects, such as vacuum chambers, ASME code pressure vessels and precision process equipment.
We can work with steel, stainless steel, aluminum as well as exotics and superalloys. Precision fabrication applications include hardware for the US DOE’s National Labs, especially particle accelerator applications, chemicals, engineered materials, accelerator and cyclotron based medical equipment and the semiconductor equipment industry.
• cGMP Medical/ Healthcare Capital Equipment
Applications in healthcare and life sciences require a robust QMS system, as well as equipment validation and other industry specific expertise. KTC has decades of experience working in the regulated cGMP environment. We provide build-to-print factory automation for customers who manufacture class I, II and III medical devices.
We also provide contract manufacturing services to customers with products in the medical equipment space including radio oncology, imaging, clinical diagnostics and surgical suite support equipment. We bring our precision fabrication expertise to bear to build cyclotron, linac and gantry manufacturing. And our assembly integration and test capabilities allow us to handle applications involving fluidics, robotics, aseptic environments, custom coating applications for customers in a regulated life sciences environment.
End users of proprietary equipment, seeking to have their designs built externally, should seek out a quality machine builder who has a long and proven track record and has the size and scale to accommodate their project. Keller Technology Corporation is the partner you need for build-to-print machinery production. Contact us today to start discussing your project or program.