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this diversification is what gives us a more balanced work load.” All the same, prototyping is

Craft Pattern’s current focus, and Cremers is driven to bring pro- cesses in-house in order to keep his lead times down. “We do as much as we can

under one roof,” said project manager Steve Shade. “If there is a bottleneck, we look at bringing it in-house. For instance, we do heat treating, shot blasting and broaching at our facility. In the past, these were subcontracted services.” In-house casting is a large part of

Craft Pattern’s emphasis on cut- ting lead times, and the capability

“We do as much as we can under one roof. If there is a bottleneck, we look at

bringing it in-house.” —Steve Shade, project manager

provides business flexibility. “We can make a pattern tool,

produce sand molds, pour them and adjust the pattern tooling if needed, all in the same day,” Cremers said. Craft Pattern pours the alu-

minum castings at its facility in Maple Plain. And while all molds

are made in-house, they partner with several local production casting facilities to pour ferrous prototype parts. Many times, Craft Pattern will also perform secondary machining operations in order to supply a finished cast component to its customers.

Cross-Trainers In Craft Pattern’s 24-employee

shop, workers are cross-trained across several skill sets and experts at multi- tasking. Cremers himself, who started at the company as a pattern maker, will step in at times to run a machine, per- form maintenance or make sales calls. Te business’ eight CAD engineers are the same employees producing the tooling and machining the parts. Te overlapping skills lend Craft Pattern flexibility that Shade said is an advan- tage in a business where customers may change models, prints and project requirements on a daily basis. “It can be a high-energy level

experience building prototype parts, but it is also rewarding when the job is complete,” Shade said. “Our require- ments change so fast from the front office to the shop floor and it can be a high pressure environment to com- plete jobs on time. We try to keep a relaxed atmosphere to keep mistakes to a minimum. I want guys on the molding line to be confident in their abilities and alert the staff of poten- tial issues early in the process so that problems can be corrected immedi- ately and effectively.”

Going Up In order for Craft Pattern to

survive in 2008, it needed to find new customers. Cremers understood that would require converting the primar- ily three-axis machining capabilities to four-axis and adding horizontal machining centers. “I had to invest some money to

Nobake molds await pouring (top). The furnace is located in its own room behind the blue door, keeping the rest of the facility cool. This summer, Craft Pattern plans to move into a new location with more space for its casting and nobake molding operations (bottom).

34 | MODERN CASTING May 2011

get us to the level of competency needed for some of the new work we were quoting and working on,” he said. In recent years, Craft Pat- tern has added a vertical machin- ing center with five-axis capability and a 4-axis horizontal machine for tighter tolerances. “We have

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