Partners in Performance
Mindy Mikami 05.31.2017
If you stayed up through the rain delay this past Sunday to watch the final checkered flag in “the greatest day in racing”, you probably didn’t get to bed until after 12:30 a.m. That’s when Austin Dillon brought his No. 3 Dow Salutes Veterans Chevrolet SS car across the finish line at the Coca Cola 600 for his first win in the Monster Energy Cup Series. The win marks Richard Childress Racing’s second Cup Series victory in 2017 - Ryan Newman won earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway in the No. 31 Grainger Chevrolet SS. Both Newman and Dillon are all but locked into the NASCAR playoffs, so it’s shaping up to be another big year at Richard Childress Racing (RCR), and Okuma is proud to be their official machine tool supplier.
When Fractions of a Second Count
As a part of the Okuma marketing team, I have the great pleasure to work as a liaison to RCR and to host our distributors and customers when they attend a race as our VIP guests. This gives me a unique view of the world of motorsports and the relationships we develop as team sponsors. In the case of RCR (and also Chip Ganassi Racing), they have chosen to use Okuma machine tools. This means they trust us to help them get to Victory Lane in a game where there are often just fractions of a second between first and second place.
Done in Time for Race Day
As a part of our sponsorship agreement the folks at RCR have direct access to us. Their production manager has several of our cell phone numbers in his address book that he can use in urgent situations. There was a time when, as they were preparing for a race, they decided to make a particular part in a different way. But they hit a wall when they realized they didn’t have enough machines to get all the parts done in time. So they gave us a call and actually came to our facility at Partners in THINC where we had the machine they needed on our showroom floor. They got all the parts done in time for race day.
Hectic Week Leads to a Win
This kind of “emergency” can happen fairly often in a high stakes game like NASCAR racing. Recently we received a message from one of RCR’s shop workers recalling a hectic week. “We worked all night Thursday night and all day Friday to fly parts to the track Saturday morning. Thank you Okuma! Couldn’t have gotten the parts to victory lane without your machines.” This occurred the week before Ryan Newman’s win at Phoenix.
Change is the Only Constant
The Okuma Technology Center (OTC) at RCR is quite a showcase. They have 18 Okuma machine tools on the floor which they use to produce 180,000 parts per year with cycle times ranging from 2 minutes to 40 hours per part. RCR operates in a sport where change is the only constant. Their teams of engineers are continuously refining and redesigning car and engine components in a quest to find an incremental competitive edge, even from one event weekend to the next. Therefore, turnaround time is critical in meeting the demand of their constantly evolving cars. That’s where the OTC provides a distinct advantage: the ability to take a newly-designed component from idea to reality in a week, a day or even a few hours.
One of the folks at RCR told us, “This business is the epitome of continuous improvement. If you don’t improve you go backwards on Sunday. Literally. That’s a testament to what the engineers do. We’re always working to find the small thing that makes it better.” Here at Okuma, we have the same kind of commitment to performance, and we work hard to help them achieve that competitive edge.
Mindy Mikami is Web Manager, Okuma America Corporation.
This blog is Part 1 in a series exploring Okuma’s relationship with motorsports. In Part 2 we’ll take a look at the customer experience at the track and how this is the ultimate machine tool “demo.”
Other blog posts by Mindy: