Dale Carruthers is the CEO at Coronado Manufacturing, LLC. and has been there for a little over two years. He’s spent his career in various industries in a variety of positions, but to simplify things, he is a problem solver. You can tell right away he likes helping people solve their problems. “My position as CEO at Coronado is a humbling experience,” explains Dale. “It isn’t about me; it is about the people I’m around. It’s about finding solutions, jelling as a team, and building relationships. For 61 years we’ve manufactured standard sized, tight tolerance, medium to high complexity parts. We primarily serve the aerospace, medical and telecom industries, but honestly our core competency is in servicing the customer.”
Coronado Manufacturing is owned by the Bay Area investment firm VOPNE Capital. VOPNE in Icelandic is a noun meaning “a weapon used to gain advantage in a contest or battle.” Dale started here on day one with VOPNE and the influx of capital has been a great advantage for this So-Cal based company. You don’t make it 60 plus years in business without doing things right, but sometimes you need more to grow more. “VOPNE is about investing in the right technology to make businesses create value and do things better,” explains Dale. “VOPNE identifies companies with potential and helps them grow. I had a snapshot of operations in my first 3 months here, but here at Coronado we never look back, we always move forward. From day one, reinventing the company in the eyes of the customer has been my top priority.”
Coronado is on the rise because they are flexible enough to help customers when they really need it. As a company of modest size with 15,000sq.ft., 42 employees, and 30+ CNC machining centers, Coronado are not burdened down by bureaucracy. Many times, a solution is just a phone call away. “Flexibility means different things to different companies,” tells Dale. “For us it means being able to respond quickly to our customer’s needs. My phone rings and I will do everything I can to assist and make your problem go away, or at the very least be less of a problem. We are fortunate enough to be able to come through for customers when their own manufacturing centers are overflowing, or when other vendors are leaving them in a bad place. Flexibility means I get the call, I meet with the team, we decide on a course of action, and put than plan into effect. We’ve been able to act fast to get parts done when others haven’t. Our customers love that, and we’ve earned new business because of it.”
With a shop full of mills, lathes and grind centers, Coronado’s “showstopper” is their recently attained Studer S33 cylindrical grinding machine. “I went to see one of our larger aerospace customers and he said that we should check out Studer grinders, and I listened” tells Dale. “Funny thing is we were also looking at a couple Doosan turning options and the President for Advanced Technologies at Ellison Technologies was good enough to connect us with the right people at DMARK Corporation.” DMARK is the Southern California rep for United Grinding which includes the Studer line of CNC grinders. Robert Serrano, VP of Sales & General Manager at DMARK Corporation came in to work with Coronado on installation, startup and training. “DMARK wanted to insure everything went flawlessly on this install,” describes Robert. “Building relationships with new customers is always a top priority, and it was important that DMARK performed at our best.” “We’ve gotten a lot of support from DMARK throughout the entire process,” adds Dale. “Robert coming to this interview shows how much they value our partnership. The S33 is an expensive machine, but we still find it to be a value. There is something amazing about opening a door, loading a part, and knowing it is right every time we press go.”
Along with milling and turning Coronado has a full grinding department. They are no strangers to the grinding process. They grind parts all day, every day, but the Studer is a different beast all together. “We got the Studer S33 a little over a year ago,” continues Dale. “It was a big step up for us in performance and features. We have manual machines, semi-automatic grinding, and now an industry leading precision CNC Studer grinder. It was like we were driving a Chevrolet and now we are racing a Lamborghini. Nothing wrong with the Chevy, very reliable, gets you where you need to go, but it isn’t a Lambo. The Studer is a Lambo. People know you are serious about grinding when they hear Studer. The name alone adds credibility, and we are very credible. Customers right away were impressed when we told them about our new S33. It is performing so well for us that we are in conversations to get more.”
The Studer S33 is designed to reduce setup and resetting costs on single-part or small-batch production runs. The turret wheel head has several grinding wheel configurations and Quick-Set for rapid set-up. The S33 has C axis capabilities when equipped, as well as a thermostable Granitan®S103 mineral-casting machine base. Each S33 comes equipped with touch screen controls and the latest software technology from Studer, StuderWIN.
The S33 is super versatile, but Coronado purchased it for a single part. They went from seven grinding set-ups down to only one, and reduced run time by more than 50%. The part they are making is both an OEM and aftermarket aerospace item that needs to be replaced after a certain level of usage. With no one really flying the last year they did put a different part on the S33 for a little while, but as the manufacturers ramp back up production, all the machine’s time is back spent on this single part again. “We get a slug and remove a lot of metal on it before it even goes to the Studer,” explains Dale. “The S33 then adds grooves and grinds the OD in a few places. All in a single setup. Tolerances on the part are tight, within tenths. A lot of what we do is tight, way tight. Long parts with grooves and high surface finishes. To the untrained eye the parts don’t always look impressive, but we have craftsman who make it look easy.” Coronado’s operators have gone through instructional training, and process training, to make it a repeatable process no matter which employee is running the machine. “Running the Studer isn’t as simple as anyone can do it, but we are making it so once you are trained the processes are repeatable,” clarifies Dale. “This week we have second shift people getting trained to run the Studer while they are also running the lathes.”
Coronado runs thousands of this part a year, and like everyone else, chase improvements measured in seconds. The production gains running the S33 have been huge. Dale quantifies the gains two ways, time and accuracy. “We are making better parts faster,” explains Dale. “It comes down to time and accuracy. Time X3 and accuracy X2. We’ve reduced a seven-setup job down to a single setup saving time. It also reduces the probability of human error, thus also increasing accuracy. The S33 is dramatically faster and can hold tighter tolerances compared to the machines it was running on before. Our grinding time dropped by over 50%, and we are producing a better part at those speeds. Time again comes from our operator now being able to load the part and then work on something else for the 15-minute cycle time. We work in cells typically and the grinding department is no different. We are getting much better production from our operators being able to multitask, reallocate their time, and ultimately have better throughput and productivity at the end of the day. We verify all this with our shop wide Factory Wiz and Pro Shop software.
Dale has a philosophy; working with the customer doesn’t have to be hard. Good parts, on time, at a reasonable price. If you aren’t working on one of those things, then what are you doing? He also has what can only be described as a reverence. When someone needs help, help them. “When the customer needs help, listen to them, help them,” concludes Dale. “Look back on the day and challenge yourself and make it a better place. There is a lot that goes into that. It is Sue in purchasing who stayed late to finish a project, it’s Gary out in the shop that is having a bad day, it’s a customer needing a part tomorrow. It’s how can we help make this a better place every day.” From the top down, Coronado Manufacturing, making this a better place every day.