The development time for new gauges for use on engine production lines can now be done in one year from conception to having a customer-ready product through the synergies of Adcole Corporation and Artemis Capital Partners.
Adcole Corporation, which designs and manufactures specialized machines for measuring engine components, was acquired by Artemis Capital Partners in May of 2014. Long-time head of Adcole Metrology, J Brooks Reece, promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer of the company, was the addition of a new Chief Financial Officer in Douglas H. Vandenberg. Over 500 automobile manufacturers and auto suppliers use ADCOLE’s computerized inspection gages for quality control checks on camshafts and crankshafts.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Reece what have been the major changes at Adcole since it was acquired by Artemis Capital Partners.
Reece: Artemis has been a terrific partner in helping us develop and begin to implement Adcole’s long-term strategic vision. In addition to providing invaluable guidance to the management team, Artemis has assisted us in hiring top tier personnel and in accessing new technology and capabilities from outside the company. With the addition of some top new hires
augmented by expert outside consultant, Adcole has been able to accelerate its new product development process to a whole new level.
AI: Where do you see Adcole’s future growth coming from?
Reece: We believe the future is in fast, non-contact measurement, where appropriate. Adcole contact gages are the most accurate in the world. There will always be a place for those high-accuracy measurements in labs and R&D departments, but we feel the commercial future is in no or “light touch” measurement on automotive manufacturing lines. We see growth coming from the sliding and assembled camshafts, as well as emerging markets. Our engineers are aggressively pursuing solutions for the leading edge of the sliding and assembled camshaft technology curve, and our sales and marketing teams are actively deploying in new and growing markets globally.
AI: What was the strategy behind your refurbished Adcole 1310 S Camshaft Gage?
Reece: This gage was designed for long runs of camshafts measuring all camlobes and journals with single axial locations and occasional checks for straightness. This is the first version of our Model 1310 that will be able to make straightness measurements. The basic intention of the design was to remove expensive features that are not required by most mainstream camshaft manufacturers. But, the gage design does include the improved follower positioning capability introduced on the Model 1310 Gen3.
AI: What products that have emerged from this research?
Reece: We have developed a new Model 1304 with two heads for in-line measuring of sliding camshaft segments. This gage features an integrated robot. Also, the Model 1304 for audit checks has a new dual follower assembly which includes the ability to measure the form of the camshaft track side walls and bottom. The sidewall measuring device can handle the form measurement range without indexing the carriage. Adcole has also partnered with Zygo Corporation and added a non-contact surface finish (optical non-contact) head to the existing Model 1000. The Zygo head measures the two sidewalls and bottom track for surface finish at the same time.
AI asked Stephen Corrado, Vice President of Engineering, Adcole Corporation what customer reaction has been to the upgraded Adcole 1310 High-Speed Camshaft Gage.
Corrado: Our Gen3 1310s are now online in our customers’ factories in Mexico, Canada, and Europe, and we’re heard nothing but delight from the field. The newest iteration of the 1310 is considerably more flexible with a programmable headstock with 100mm of travel, 18mm follower modules, and a newly designed quick disconnect system for faster relocation of the follower modules. The motion control systems in the 1310 Gen 3s have been completely overhauled with Siemens components. Our customers are increasingly interested in manufacturing different parts on their existing lines, necessitating fast changeover and improved flexibility.
AI: What R&D inputs went into the new 1310?
Corrado: Our electrical engineering team developed a proprietary motion control system and a novel DAQ board to handle up to six transducer inputs. These two developments combined with the replacement of the servomotor drives with pneumatics are responsible for a large reduction in cost and a similar increase in reliability.
AI: Tell us a little about the other recent upgraded models such as the Adcole Model 911 Camshaft Gage.
Corrado: The 911 is a workhorse in the world of camshaft measuring. Our latest upgrade allows a 40% improvement in gage throughput. An optional groove sidewall measuring attachment and related software for measuring camshaft tracks was developed based on customer feedback.
AI: How important is the research and product development department at Adcole?
Corrado: Innovation and new product development is at the heart of what we do. We have always been known for trusted accuracy. Now what our customers are seeing from us is an accelerated new product launch schedule. New products have become a major focus for the engineering group since the sale of the company.
AI: What role do customers play in product development?
Corrado: VOC (Voice of Customer) work is critical to our success. Our new output driven and user friendly software is a direct result of customer feedback. During the process of revamping our software platform we held review meetings with some of our key customers who were invaluable to the success of the development effort. Similarly, the decision to pursue the 1310S line came about after in-depth discussions with our Asian customers who expressed their desire for a cost-efficient gage designed for long runs and increased efficiency.
AI: How do you see your automotive business growing?
Corrado: We see continued growth over the next few years with ever-increasing need for accuracy and repeatability especially in the production line. More and more customers are switching to Adcole in-line camshaft measuring. The push by automotive manufacturers for more fuel-efficient engines has resulted in much tighter dimensional tolerances for camshafts and crankshafts. This, in turn, increases the need for improved gaging equipment for these components. Our accelerated product development process will allow us to respond to these ever increasing customer demands.
AI then asked Peter A. Hunter, Managing Director, Artemis Capital Partners, what he sees as the synergies between the two companies.
Hunter: Artemis partnered with Adcole because of its legendary technology, unmatched reputation, and experienced management team. Prior to Artemis’s involvement Adcole was solely focused on creating the most accurate products in the world and hadn’t been able to fully develop some key internal functions like operations, finance, and marketing. Artemis viewed this as a rare and exciting opportunity to work with a great company and help make it even better.
Together, Adcole and Artemis have implemented sweeping changes to the Company’s operations including an extensive LEAN effort supported by a competitive grant from the State of Massachusetts. Through this effort, Adcole intends to reduce lead times, improve operating efficiency (an important factor for remaining competitive in a global industry), and further increase quality.
At the core of Adcole’s strength is its engineering and product development capabilities. Since Artemis and Adcole began working together, Adcole’s new product development process has been accelerated with the addition of several top-tier engineering hires, subject matter expert consultants, and a hands-on board member with experience leading large engineering-oriented companies in the optics space.
AI: What expertise has Artemis added to Adcole’s business strategy – especially in the automotive sector?
Hunter: Artemis brings to Adcole over a decade of experience operating high-tech industrial technology companies, many of which have been in the automotive market. Artemis is actively engaged in Adcole’s strategic planning and new product development processes and is working with Adcole’s management to flesh out a long-term strategic plan. Ultimately, Adcole’s knowledge of their niche market is unparalleled, and we at Artemis must focus on catalyzing that knowledge into long-term growth.