Daniel Musil joined with an accountant named Brian Watters in 1979 and M&W Manufacturing was incorporated. Using Daniel’s prior engineering experience in heavy hydrostatic drives used in chain trenchers, M&W’s first project was the development of a new prototype Cedarapids BSF-330 hydrostatic asphalt paver using Sundstrand hydrostatic drives. M&W designed its first custom hydraulic manifold for this paver using a new hydraulic technology called cartridge valves.
Business grew as M&W began to design and supply custom manifolds for others. Of particular significance was the successful development of a super quiet, self-contained electric/hydraulic power unit used in hydraulic chiropractic tables. Initial orders were machined by other vendors to M&W’s designs, but increases in sales brought the need for faster production. This led directly to the purchase of M&W’s first semi-automated machining center in the early 80s. The Moog Hydra-Point was a “Bridgeport” type turret mill with a tool carousel and changer. This mill was used to machine several manifolds along with the table power unit, and it helped make our customer one of the largest producers of hydraulic chiropractic tables in the world. More orders created the need for more manufacturing space. It was a big investment, but the purchase of this building in September 1982 set up M&W for future success. At this time, the company consisted of the two founders and several employees but soon quickly grew. Additional adjacent properties and buildings were acquired, and the facility was expanded with nine major additions through 2018 – expanding manufacturing floor space more than ten times the original 1983 building capacity. Today M&W operates 24 hours a day, five days a week using 25 major high-speed CNC horizontal machining centers along with numerous other vertical machining centers and highly automated 7-axis Mill-Turn lathes with bar feeders and parts unloaders.
To meet increasing demand, M&W bought the first of many Okuma-Howa CNC vertical machining centers. These machines featured 30-tool magazines and the revolutionary FANUC 6MB CNC control with full operator display.
1985 brought M&W’s first trip to Japan in search of new machining technology. It was also the beginning of a long relationship with FANUC CNC controls and world-class Japanese MTBs. M&W also acquired its first CNC turning center to make hydraulic components.
M&W next used their experience in tractors and hydraulics to design and build a hydrostatic high clearance seed corn detasseling tractor. They manufactured 68 of those machines over the next decade, many of which still operate in the U.S., Argentina, Brazil and Hawaii. Integral to the design were a number of M&W’s custom hydraulic manifolds.
M&W started expanding to other regions and markets by working through distributors. M&W began providing custom manifolds for larger hydraulic power units, nuclear actuators, mining, OEM industrial, agriculture, off-road and machine tool markets as cartridge valve technology and custom manifolds became more accepted. M&W also designed and manufactured many large “special” custom power units for industrial customers. M&W’s experience in hydraulics brought many new opportunities for expansion with qualified distributors.
As manifold designs grew larger, the use of vertical machining reached its limit. M&W added new 50 taper, 4-axis horizontal machining capabilities in 1992. The machine included new Renishaw MP4 Broken Tool Detection, auto tool length measurement and a built-in 2-APC 630 mm pallet changer. This system increased manufacturing productivity by 30% and made the jump to 24X5 operations feasible. 1993 also brought M&W into high-speed machining of aluminum manifolds with the acquisition of a 400 mm pallet, 40 taper Makino A55 Plus – arguably the fastest, most advanced smaller horizontal machining center of its type at that time.
Daniel Musil went to IMTS at McCormick Place in Chicago in 1994 looking to expand high-speed machining to larger ductile manifolds using bigger pallets and heavier 50 taper spindles. As he was walking out the door, he went by a booth that said, “World’s Fastest Machining Center.” On further analysis, he found this new machine’s design was extremely fast and capable. M&W became the second user of Niigata SPN-50 500 mm pallet 50 taper “Box-In-Box” horizontal machining centers in the U.S., missing first by only 24 hours.
M&W built even deeper “direct” engineering relationships with machine tool builders through 14 trips to Japan in the 1980's to acquire world-class machining centers. Always searching for even faster methods of machining, M&W was connected with Greg Antoun, the founder of ChipBlaster, who personally came to M&W and taught them how to use his 1,000 psi ChipBlaster High-Pressure Thru Spindle Coolant systems to increase the efficiency of manifold deep hole drilling and machining by over 30%. 1994 also brought the first trip to investigate highly automated FMS technology on Niigata’s SPN horizontal machines.
By this time, M&W engineering was active in developing special manifold CAD software capabilities. CAD greatly reduced engineering turnaround time on prototype manifold designs, particularly in accommodating revisions and complex schematics. The ability to send an approval drawing as an electronic file that a customer could readily open and see with an inexpensive CAD viewer greatly facilitated distributor sales efforts. The ability to transfer electronic drawing files also enabled the adoption of CAM technology to more rapidly create highly accurate CNC code for the shop floor.
M&W was fortunate to have been founded at just the “right time” when so many computer technologies were advancing quickly. It allowed tremendous increases in efficiencies of almost all the processes involved in manifold production – from quoting to shipping and from shop floor data collection to ERP software and back-office functions.
With the increase in engineering design and manufacturing process capabilities came an increased ability to serve distributors at a higher level and sales efforts expanded to fill that capacity. Cartridge valve technology was also advancing at a high rate and the design of custom manifolds to make use of these new valves brought new distributors with more challenging applications.
Highly specialized software became available that greatly enhanced the capabilities of manifold CAD. It further reduced turnaround time and facilitated documentation for downstream processes such as first piece and production quality control inspections using our new CMM with Renishaw trigger probe.
M&W continued its quest for increased speed and efficiency with the acquisition of a new Makino A55E, which brought increases in acc/dec, and maximum travel/run speeds, 0.9 sec tool changes and faster B-axis rotational speeds. In its day the Makino A55E was the fastest 400 mm pallet 40 taper machining center in the world. M&W had one of the first machines available anywhere.
M&W was one of the first manifold manufacturers to embrace and acquire its own multi-chamber, high production TEM deburring machine to improve quality and efficiency of both aluminum and ferrous metal manifolds. M&W also acquired a special high-production, automated, ultrasonic wash line designed to run downstream of the new TEM machine. This amazing technology greatly reduced delivery times on manifolds and provided a very consistent quality deburring process compared to manual hand deburring.
Following the 2009 recession, M&W made a major push to reduce engineering and manufacturing turnaround times by implementing a Quick Delivery (QD) system. Central to this goal was the development of faster methods of fixturing and machining manifolds. Special QD cells were set up to facilitate aluminum or ferrous metal manifolds. For aluminum manifolds, new CNCs were acquired with large capacity tool magazines to carry standardized tooling loads. Renishaw laser ATLM/BTS systems and M&W software within the machine allowed qualification of tools before tools ran to ensure “1st part off correct – 1st time and every time with minimal setup.” This advance greatly increased shop floor efficiency and improved delivery times.
It is said that any process that can be monitored can be improved. This motivated M&W to develop software that would offline monitor and record CNC tool and run data for each CNC machine in real time using FANUC FOCAS networking capabilities. M&W wanted to be able to real-time offline monitor OEE for each machine as well as each individual tool run time and program cycle time in an effort to facilitate easier isolation of root cause of runtime inefficiencies. This software advance greatly increased shop floor efficiency again and its capabilities have been further developed significantly.
The M&W Quick Delivery system required major changes in almost every phase of our processes, but particularly on everything involved with programming large complex manifolds. A major project was undertaken to develop CAM software to automate programming functions using CAD output which resulted in substantial reductions in time required to create accurate CNC programs without errors to reduce setup times. Every tool and holder had to be documented accurately to facilitate high-speed CAM programming.
Another facet of M&W’s “1st part off correct – 1st time and every time with minimal setup” goal is the requirement to have tools qualified as correct BEFORE they run. The laser ATLM on newer machines provided that capacity, but older CNCs with touch probes did not have this capability. M&W developed engineering set up standards for tool dimensional tolerances and acquired an advanced CNC automated presetter using light technology to allow automatic qualification of tools.
Just as on an aircraft, the shape of the wing must be designed to allow passage of boundary layer air at high velocity to pass over the wing to create lift with minimal drag loss, at M&W the design of the cutting edge of drills is critical particularly with ChipBlaster high-pressure TSC drilling at very high speed and feed rates. The material being cut must flow correctly across the cutting edge of the drill or it will not run straight or cut efficiently. After another international search trip, M&W acquired an advanced drill sharpener that would allow us to create our own highly specialized custom drill points. These drills can be resharpened to new specifications internally at M&W in just a few minutes. This eliminated the time and expense of stocking large number of drills and continually shipping drills back to manufacturers for sharpening.
Once M&W mastered rapidly creating CNC code, they sought to verify the code and check for errors using simulations BEFORE it was sent to the shop floor. By creating electronic models of machines, fixtures and parts using software, M&W could run the CNC code offline electronically to check it at a super high rate instead of “single blocking” code out on machines during initial setup. This advance greatly increased shop floor efficiency.
M&W used advances in network technology to increase operational efficiency. They rapidly implemented server software virtualization, storage area networks (SAN), enhanced desktop and server backup and replication systems, and high-availability redundancy of critical infrastructure to run their advanced IT system. Electronic data storage and retrieval reliability are also increasingly important in meeting manufacturing goals.
M&W always had turning centers from the earliest days, but most complex mill-turn work was supplied by outside vendors. The volume of these turned parts in our assemblies had steadily increased over the years and was becoming more significant to operations. In order to better control quality and delivery times, M&W acquired the first of eventually a number of CNC mill-turn centers with advanced automation such as bar feeder and parts unloading. These machines are arguably the most automated CNC's in our facility. M&W acquired significant new software to facilitate the design of turned parts, plus the generation and verification of the needed CNC code.
Protective coatings on ferrous metal parts are critical due to possibility of rust both in storage before use as well as later in work environments. In 2018, M&W completed fundamental research to improve the quality of the new zinc nickel zinc coatings that were coming into more common use. An R&D trip was made to Europe to study this area of technology in an effort to provide customers a more uniform, long-lived coating with improved salt-spray ratings.
Management of CNC machine coolant is a critical time-consuming job in CNC operations that directly affects quality. Following another international R&D trip in 2018, M&W became the first company in the U.S. to utilize a revolutionary new coolant management technology. This system allows M&W to monitor and automatically manage 7 key parameters in the CNC tanks. These parameters include tank level, PH, coolant concentration, water usage, coolant usage, contamination levels and more. Data from each machine can be monitored on an offline dashboard and warnings are transmitted from each machine using WiFi.
Public recognition of M&W’s advances came in early 2019 when the company was honored to host a visit by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. She was interested in examples of how automation was being used to create jobs for Iowans. The Cedar Rapids Gazette and KCRG TV both featured M&W’s operations highlighting a discussion of the need to adopt automation to compete viably in worldwide markets and to keep young, highly skilled Iowans from leaving the state.
Deburring, washing and coating in secondary operations was becoming a bigger part of meeting market demands for quality. M&W had already been using Thermal Energy Method (TEM) technology for 10 years on their 240 mm TEM since 2009. M&W became involved with the MTB in the development of a new higher tonnage, larger chamber TEM machine. After another international trip to Europe to investigate TEM and new manifold washing technology, M&W acquired the first 450-ton 400 mm large chamber machine of its type in the western hemisphere. This machine allowed M&W to TEM much larger manifolds and greatly improved efficiency in secondary operations.
M&W acquired an advanced automated CNC washing machine for use downstream of the TEM. Efficiency gains were so favorable in the first cell, that M&W made a huge investment in the future by acquiring a second large chamber TEM and second automated multi-tank computerized washing machine. The system featured ultrasonics and vacuum drying to handle both aluminum and ductile manifold deburring and washing. M&W has impressive “world-class” deburring and washing capabilities providing consistent quality control and performance over old manual processes.
With the increasing complexity of manifolds and with more quality control documentation being required, M&W initiated a major program to automate manifold inspection processes. Just as on a CNC machining center, the process is only as accurate as the code you run on it. It is not enough to simply automate the CMM measurement process. If you really want to go fast, you must also automate the process of creating the code that drives the CMM that does the inspection. You must then verify that it is accurate in much the same manner as done in CAM with electronic simulation. Again teaming with Renishaw, M&W acquired an advanced CMM with their revolutionary “REVO-2” 5-axis scanning capability. This game-changing technology greatly reduces feature inspection time over older touch trigger probe technology. More accurate and faster inspections ensure better manifold quality with improved inspection efficiency.
Large displays driven by workstation PCs at inspection and assembly stations reduce dependence on paper documentation. They facilitate “fly-through viewing” of internal design details and allow the correct revisions of each manifold drawings to be viewed and accessed quickly. Documentation was developed to provide clear work instructions for complex work in assembly areas. Additional work was done on upgrading M&W’s critical ERP software system including upgrading to more advanced Quality Modules.
With the increasing demand for manifolds, M&W has made a significant future-oriented investment in a multi-pallet FMS. For its entire >40 year history, M&W has always searched for ways to use their significant engineering and CNC manufacturing experience to harness new technology that improves quality and lead time.
M&W announces the change of their logo and business identity from M&W Manufacturing Co to M&W Hydraulics Co. The change from a more generic identity of manufacturing to hydraulics better represents our development into a highly specialized designer and manufacturer of custom hydraulic products.
Some things will never change. M&W will continue to rely on people, engineering and past experience to provide better outcomes. M&W will lead the way into the future in building advanced custom hydraulic manifolds.