Usinage Superieur Machine Shop: The Impact of Diversification

Location: Sainte Catherine, Quebec
Employees: 22 employees
Equipment: 11 Okuma machine tools

Usinage Superieur, a job shop tucked away in Sainte Catherine, Quebec, has been providing machining and welding services to their clients for over 34 years. They’re known as experts in machining components for heat exchangers, and many know them as the guys to go to if you need holes drilled - they’ve drilled millions and millions of them since their start as a small repair shop in 1985.

The company prides itself on pursuing continuous improvement, and shop owner Louis-Charles Rondeau and his management team are no strangers to evolving with the market’s needs. Operations manager Jean Francois Dextraze says their team is always looking ahead and are constantly learning, which has helped their business expand tremendously in recent years. With more diverse job requests than ever before, plus the recent availability of additional shop floor space, Usinage Superieur’s management team took significant steps towards diversifying the company and expanding their customer base by purchasing an Okuma MCR-A5CII high-speed double column machining center.

THE EFFECTS OF CHANGE

Usinage found themselves with significantly more requests for large parts which required multiple setups on their current machines. They also had numerous requests for parts that required technology and machinery they didn’t have on their shop floor. In addition, the team was tasked with a project that included a 13-foot-long setup, and to complete it, they had to move the raw material around and even switch machines to finish the very large piece. Rondeau, Dextraze and plant manager Pierre-André Bourcier knew it was time to move towards purchasing new equipment that could get everything done efficiently, accurately and in one operation. Fortunately, a major shift in their production process was about to give them the opportunity they needed.

A good portion of their daily work was moved to another facility. The move opened up a significant amount of physical space on Usinage’s shop floor. The company now had the opportunity and the space to diversify their equipment and invest in a new machine. This would enable the company to target new industries and markets.

With the desire to expand their customer base and become vertically integrated as to address their customer’s needs completely in-house, Rondeau and his team decided this was the time to invest in a machine that could open possibilities and move them towards their goals.

“We want to invest in the best so that we can do everything, from machining to welding to laser, etc. Everything is needed so quickly today,” Dextraze told Okuma. “We'd like to bring all of our operations under one roof. We’re not looking to put away the subcontractor because those relationships are important—as they grow, we grow—we’d just like to have more control of the operations.”

THE MCR-A5CII: BIG MACHINE, BIGGER IMPACT

Rondeau determined a double column machine would have the ability to take their operation to new heights, literally. As they researched double column machines, Dextraze says the Okuma's MCR-A5CII quickly made it to the top of their list. Okuma’s reliability and support, as well as their employees’ existing knowledge of Okuma products, is what originally drew them to Okuma, Dextraze says, but what ultimately drove their decision to make the purchase was the MCR-A5CII's ability to produce large parts with precision and efficiency.

Okuma mcra5cii

“We did our homework and checked other competing brands, it just didn’t make sense when you looked at everything -- from the price to the packages to the quality,” Dextraze says.

The MCR-A5CII is a high-speed double column machining center with compact auto-loading/unloading attachments. The solid double column construction ensures greater rigidity and closer tolerances, making this machine well-suited for efficient machining. The 80x100” bridge style machine uses an indexable head, so that when working on a huge cubed workpiece, it’ll be able to touch five faces without handling the part five times.

As the MCR-A5CII gets settled in its new home, new business opportunities are beginning to bud. Contracts the Usinage team once had to turn down are now welcomed. With the MCR-A5CII, they can now machine large parts in one setup which in turn has also reduced cycles times. With the MCR-A5CII's deeper table, the part stays in one spot and doesn’t move until it’s done, which wasn’t mechanically possible before.

“This machine will truly open the possibilities into what projects we can take on,” Dextraze says. “The possibilities of who this massive machine could attract are completely unlocked.”

Not to mention, the MCR-A5CII gives Usinage an undeniable leg up on the competition since it’s the only double column machine of its kind in the Quebec area. This fact alone has allowed the company to explore a new customer base and tap into previously untouched industries.

INVESTING IN RELIABILITY AND CUSTOMER SATISFACTION

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Regardless of how much Usinage Superieur grows, one thing remains the same: reliability and customer satisfaction is central—and they expect the same from their machines. That’s why they continue to invest in Okuma.

Usinage runs over 10 Okuma machines on their shop floor; their first machine being the MC-40V, which after 70,000 hours on the clock is still running strong.

“It’s like if you buy a Rolex. You’re paying for a strong mechanical part; it stays accurate. Even if it costs a little more, you know it won’t let you down,” Dextraze says. “We knew we wanted to stay with Okuma because it’s strong.”

And the MC-40V isn’t the first experience the shop has had with Okuma’s reliability. Dextraze says not too long ago, they found a 1990 Okuma through Kijiji, Canada’s premiere classified ads. They immediately went down to test it and found that, although it had a negligible misalignment in the X-axis and a cracked screen, it was in perfect working condition. They brought it back, plugged it in and by the next morning, it was up and running. It’s been running 50 hours per week for the past 2-3 months.

But the reliability doesn’t stop with the construction of Okuma machines. Being part of the Okuma family means being able to rely on customer service, with special access to repair services, care kits and around-the-clock help from actual people.

“The people we’re dealing with at EMEC Machine Tools Inc. (Usinage Superieur’s local Okuma distributor) are outstanding. The repair guys are always available. The team has an incredibly quick turnaround. If I need to talk to someone over the phone I can. The service that’s provided is complete and very personalized,” Dextraze says.

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CONTINUING TO OPEN POSSIBILITIES

The Usinage Superieur name is going to be one to watch over the next couple of years. Rondeau says they’re just dipping their toes in the water. The MCR-A5CII allows them take on unique and diverse jobs that other enterprises around them aren’t equipped to handle.

Dextraze says although they plan to evolve and expand by increasing sales and growing the team, they still plan on giving their customers a family experience. They’re looking to develop partners and relationships, not just offer the service of their machines.

“It’s very personalized. We know you by name, not by a number in the customer base. No automatic message. We put the energy into things for our customers to develop those special relationships,” Dextraze says.

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At Okuma, we get that. We take pride in our customer relationships, and while we’re dedicated to the highest level of craftsmanship for every product we make, our mission is informed by the philosophy that there’s an actual human being behind every machine in use—a value we have in common Usinage Superieur.

We’re excited to continue our partnership with Usinage and follow their journey, as they continue taking big strides with their business. And the feeling is mutual, according to Dextraze.

“If we purchase another machine in the future, it’s very likely we’d go with Okuma. I can’t see a reason to go somewhere else,” he says.

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