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Neely Precision Uses Pallet Changer to Stay Competitive

Dwayne Neely, Owner, Neely Precision, shown with the Haas VF5XT 50 taper vertical machining center and the MIDACO A-5025SD pallet changer.

Finished parts for the transportation industry.

The fixture clamps the part to the pallet for loading and unloading in the machine.

MICADO S-50SD Pallet Changer.

Neely Precision, owned by Dewayne Neely, is a supplier of precision machined components and equipment for the transportation, restaurant and other industries.

Located about 20 miles northeast of Nashville and incorporated in 2001, Neely Precision's business philosophy is simple: Supply customers with the greatest product possible, at a good price and with on-time deliveries.

"Over the years, our company has not only stayed in the race, but we have grown and proudly keep the term 'Made in America' strong," said Dwayne Neely.

Dewayne said, "After high school I started working in the machine shop at a local company. I really loved it; I knew one day I would have my own business. CNCs weren't around yet, and machines weren't like they are today. I could see the direction technology was going; I was driven to learn as much possible. I realized that to succeed I always had to be on the cutting edge."

Working for a leading tool company setting up screw machines, Dewayne gained expertise with specialized cutting tools. All the while, he was focused on having his own business.

"I had the plan," Dewayne said, "that every time the owner of the company I worked at bought new equipment, I would buy the old equipment on time payments and install it in my garage. I would then go and get orders from new customers for me to work on nights and weekends, all the while working for him during the day.

"Once I had the equipment paid off, I was ready. In 2001 Neely Precision incorporated, opened its doors and we haven't looked back since.

"Using conventional machines at first, after six months of opening, I realized that the only way I was going to grow the business was to buy CNC machines or quit. Soon I purchased two CNC machines and now I own eight."

As its reputation and customers grew, Neely Precision outgrew the garage and soon relocated to its current facility in Goodlettsville, TN, starting with 3,000 sq. ft. and later expanding to 10,000 sq. ft.

Recently, Neely Precision had a problem. The company needed more output from the machining department and was introduced to a company called MIDACO Corporation located in Elk Grove Village, IL, near Chicago.

"One interesting thing about MIDACO is that even though they have been around since 1969, we only found out about them recently from Dan Halleman, the Haas Factory Outlet sales representative from Jeffery's Manufacturing Solutions in Franklin, TN," said Dewayne.

On one visit Dan asked, "Dewayne, since you have limited floor space like most shops, have you ever thought about putting a pallet changer on one of your existing vertical machining centers or on a new machine? Then, instead of running two or three machines to do this part or that new job, you could just run it on one machine with a MIDACO pallet changer, in a lot less time. MIDACO is a USA company that makes a full line of pallet systems that really work. They have a model for each Haas machine. Haas makes a pallet changer for its 40 taper machines, but that model isn't really large enough for the Haas 50 taper machines that I recommend for your parts."

"When I took a look at the numbers, it all made sense," said Dewayne.

"Instead of buying another machining center alone or adding a pallet changer to one of our existing machines, I decided to purchase a new Haas VF5 50 taper vertical machine center (VMC) with a new MIDACO A5025SD 50 x 25 inch auto pallet changer (APC).

"It's unbelievable what a difference it has made. From the time we start in the morning to the time we leave, the machine and pallet changer never stop. It allows us to use only one machine with a MIDACO pallet changer, with one employee to get this job done, whereas it took two machines and two operators before.

"The pallet system was about a $50,000 investment, a whole lot less money than having to buy another machine for about $150,000 and then adding the salary and benefits of an employee at $40,000 to $50,000 annually. The MIDACO pallet changer investment was about 75% less and it took care of backlog and gave us extra capacity to go after more orders.

"From the time we ordered it and since it has been installed, it has been easy and worth every penny. We added the output of two machines and two operators, with just one machine, one operator and a MIDACO.

"When compared to the old way we were running these parts, we figured we would produce about five parts in the same amount of time we previously did about three-and-a-half to four parts, or about 33% more output. It doesn't sound like a lot, but this 33% increase was our initial goal. Adding the pallet system was a good way to get more output without buying another machine.

"After we installed it, and after tweaking the tooling and the pallet changer fixtures, our output shot up from three-and-a-half to four parts the old way, to nearly six parts the new way. So instead, the MIDACO pallet system increased our productivity almost 50% more than before.

"It may not sound like a lot, but this package made a big difference in this job and how we quote price and delivery on new orders.

"What shocked me in a good way was how rigid the MIDACO system is. When I first thought about adding a pallet changer, I was concerned about quality. I thought, here we are shooting (loading) a pallet in and out of a shuttle in seconds and then it is located on the machine table all with +/- .0001 inch repeatability.

"I admit, I was worried the rigidity wasn't going to be there. Especially with the heavy machining we do. I wondered, 'Will it give me the tolerances and the finish that I need?' My worries quickly went away after I saw it. Since adding the machine and pallet changer and comparing to how we made the part before, I am a definitely a believer.

"Before, I was bolting the fixture straight to the T-slot table of the machine, with a lot of idle spindle time. Now with the MIDACO, the part is fixtured to the pallet, and the pallet goes in and out in seconds. But with the way the MIDACO clamps the pallet down to the receiver on the machine table, I have the same rigidity I had before due to the clamping force of the MIDACO being over three tons. I'm actually getting better finishes running on the MIDACO pallet changer than I was when I was putting the part directly on the machine table.

"What I learned is that I did not sacrifice rigidity with the MIDACO pallet system design. It has made me a firm believer that this is a very rigid and solid unit.

"Recently, Neely Precision adopted ISO9001-2008. Since its implementation, the results have been great. Sure, it took some work, but with the state-of-the-art equipment, and the procedures we have adopted, we got through it very nicely. It has since brought many new opportunities and customers.

"Like the economy, everything has completely changed from what it was a short time ago. It's new market. Being in business is like a race to be the fastest, a race to be the best. From getting the order, to making the part at a profit, to deliver the part on time, that's the race we are in everyday. To stay in the race, Neely Precision has added high quality machines, good workers and GIBBScam software."

"Over the years we saw what was happening," said Dewayne. "Yes, our business and the economy is more active lately, but it's still down. Work is out there, but it's very competitive. Some of the competition is your neighbor down the street and some are overseas. Either way, we have used technology to stay ahead. Competition is all around. If you don't have the best equipment and process, you are not going to get the order.

"No matter how much experience you have, if you don't have equipment, the correct tooling and CAM software, you're not going to have a competitive edge.

"It's all about time. The faster you can get a part done, with the best quality, is what everybody is looking for. You cannot do it profitably with yesterdays' old equipment.

"A lot of people looked at me and said 'You are a small business, how in the world can you afford to buy all this new equipment and stay in business?' Well... even though I am small, I choose to buy the new equipment, the new stuff that you don't have to have worked on to keep running.

"Most of Neely Precision's equipment is recent, and all have a vigorous preventive maintenance schedule. We rarely have down time. If I do have an issue, the technicians address it, usually over the phone or they are here that day or the next. That's what we do to win the race. We don't tolerate an unnecessary downtime.

"With the MIDACO, we tooled up the two pallets to be identical. This is like having two machine tables: one in the machine and one out. Both pallets are a mirror image of each other. While the one pallet is inside the machine, the operator walks over, takes the machined parts off the pallet that just came out and he reloads the fixture and secures the part, pushes the 'pallet ready' button and he's ready to go. And with the identical fixtures we have them each set up to do three different operations. So as that third operation is complete, it's actually a finished product.

"Between cycles, the operator has about five minutes before the machine finishes the other pallet. Using M code, the pallet system door automatically opens, the pallet comes out and the new one goes in, all in seconds and with +/-.0001 inch accuracy.

"Basically, the machine never stops, and the operator has a good five minute break in between, so he is able to address other items too. It has been working flawlessly for us.

"Now we have gained enough capacity on that machine that we are adding another job coming up that is very similar. All we are going to do is build and add the new fixture plate. Then we will simply lift one fixture plate off, put the new one on, since we already know where zero is. Then when we push the green button on the new program, we are up and running in just minutes. We have almost no set-up time and will be quoting this new job low, passing the savings on to the customer."

Running its machines long shifts, every day but Sunday, Neely Precision requires performance and support from its suppliers. Neely Precision's team uses five VMCs, two CNC turning centers and wire EDM. Unlike job shops that might have closed their doors, Neely has decided to invest in equipment that is not only affordable, but reliable.

"Yes, there are machines out there that may cost a little less or are designed for heavier work, but for the variety of job shop work we do, this equipment has worked well," said Dewayne.

Along with making parts for transportation and restaurant industries, Neely Precision builds specialty machines, stamping dies and mold details. "We gladly tackle larger work that others can't and our 50 taper machines never let us down," said Dewayne. "Whether it's high volume production work, short run or prototypes, in this economy, we have learned that we have to do it all. You never know what is going to come in the door when that phone rings. My Haas machining centers and MIDACO help meet those demands.

"Beginning in my garage over a decade ago Neely Precision chose to invest in cutting-edge technology to succeed. This approach of running the business with common sense and passion has allowed us to not only stay in business, but to grow. It is what has kept us in the race, in business and competitive," said Dewayne Neely.

For more information contact:

Dewayne Neely

Neely Precision, Inc.

1150 Gregory Dr.

Gallatin, TN 37066


MIDACO Corporation

2000 E. Touhy Ave.

Elk Grove Village, IL 60007


Haas Automation, Inc.

2800 Sturgis Road

Oxnard, CA 93030


Southeast only

Michael Garner

HFO-Tennessee A Div. of

Jeffrey's Mfg. Solutions

1897 General George Patton Dr.

Franklin, TN 37068


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