When Bob Malone and Randy Dague established 3-D CNC 25 years ago as a two-man operation in an office little bigger than a closet, they really didn’t have a vision of the future that showed them employing almost 30 people in a 14,000-square-foot building. But that is where they are today.
3-D CNC Inc. (the letters CNC represent computer numerical control) is celebrating 25 years as a precision manufacturer this year. Malone and Dague teamed up because they saw a niche in the manufacturing industry using the latest technologies. The original focus of the business was the sales, support and training of computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing software.
3-D CNC today is a precision technology manufacturer specializing in precision tooling, wire EDM services, close tolerance component parts, automated manufacturing equipment, and prototypes. It serves customers in the computer, medical, electronic, aerospace and industrial equipment industries.
“We started with programming for CAD/CAM for early PC use in the tool and die industry,” Dague said this past week. One of their first pieces of equipment was a used $75 tape winder for punched tapes that ran machines. They delivered punched tapes that customers used to run their machines. Later, they helped companies hook computers directly to machines.
“We just kept moving forward with the idea to be a top tool and die shop,” Malone added. In the early 1990s, the business transitioned into precision tooling and component manufacturing with the purchase of a Mitsubishi 90SB wire electrical discharge machine and Milltronics Partner I vertical machining center.
That was followed in 1995 with its move into a new 6,000-square-foot building along Fifth Avenue Southeast in Hutchinson’s industrial park to accommodate business growth. The new building, four times the size of the old facility, increased the capabilities and capacity of the company.
The facility was expanded in 1998 and include the addition of a state-of-the-art Wire EDM room, quality lab and new surface grinding department. A second expansion in 2004 expanded the building to the current size of 14,000 square feet.
A LEAN future
Today, while the company still has many customers in the Hutchinson area and across Minnesota, it also serves manufacturers across the country, especially on the West Coast, and with an expanding presence in the East, Canada and Mexico. “Our business has definitely changed with technology,” Dague said. “We’ve changed to adapt with customers’ changing needs.”
One change is an increased emphasis on marketing in recent years, Malone added. 3-D CNC is continuing to find ways to improve operations. Earlier this year, 3-D CNC met with Enterprise Minnesota and industry peers in multiple marketing roundtable meetings. The goal of the meetings was to develop a marketing plan to reach new customers and enhance relationships with current customers.
The company is empowering employees by becoming a lean manufacturer. A team of employees has been formed to review and recommend changes to current operations with consultation from Enterprise Minnesota. Malone and Dague believe that LEAN manufacturing will lead to improved efficiency, quicker lead times, and a reduction in scrap and rework.
“We want to empower the employees to make the decisions,” Dague said.