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NPK’s Walton Hills Op Boasts More Than Just Distribution

Sat November 19, 2005 - Midwest Edition
CEG



A few have made the mistake of thinking NPK’s Walton Hills, OH, operation is a simple distribution facility –– that is until they visit the operation and come to realize it is more than just a link in the supply chain.

According to Larry Masek, president of NPK Construction Equipment Inc., the key is added value. By designing, building and selling direct to the North American market, the company can employ innovations and the modifications that customers need.

The operation has a department of 12 engineers with design control who are the first step in producing attachments from raw material to finished product.

This decentralized approach is a direct response to an equipment market that varies across the globe from machines and hydraulic kits to mounting brackets. In Japan, as well as many parts of Europe, it would be unthinkable to use explosives to demolish a building because the buildings are so close together, so NPK’s dealer network has adapted to meet these changing needs.

Products such as grapples and compactor attachments, as well as refurbished equipment, are popular in North America. Part of NPK’s Ohio operation –– along with a very steady parts business –– is refurbishing used attachments, which it usually acquires by trade. The units are disassembled, sandblasted and rebuilt under the same parameters as the new products produced at the facility.

The 30,000-sq.-ft. Ohio fabrication facility was purchased in 1989 and houses approximately 25 employees –– including certified pressure vessel welders who worked for the building’s previous operation. With the use of welding positioners and fixtures to eliminate line boring, NPK eliminated a step in the manufacturing process without sacrificing tolerances and quality.

The operation is old school –– far from mass production –– concentrating on quality, although its methods have an assembly-line feel.

It produces hundreds of attachments per month. Raw materials are brought in and follow a path down the middle of the facility and back down the sides. A new “Cutting Systems Inc. ServoPac AC8” plasma cutter shapes the components of each attachment. According to Dennis Simpson, general manager of NPK Construction Equipment, the new burning machine and nesting software has brought the scrap rate down to less than 2 percent.

The attachments move “down the line” where they are fitted, welded and milled, all to tolerances that ensure a clean fit when topped. A GH-30, the largest hammer in the NPK line, takes more than 90 man-hours to complete.

The welding operations use various gases fed throughout the facility by bulk tanks.

According to Masek, the attachment industry seems to follow six to eight months behind the trends of heavy equipment.

“Last year we had problems with steel availability and getting goods from Japan,” he said. “Keeping up has been a challenge.”

Over the summer, Masek had begun to see an easing of the strains from the steel shortage and business has continued to increase.

NPK is headquartered in Osaka, Japan, with plants in China, the Czech Republic and Ohio.