Case Studies

ITAR Investment Casting Supplier

65 years after opening its doors, Schmid Tool and Engineering knew just about everything there was to know about casting parts.
Then it switched from another investment casting supplier to Signicast.
Ten years later, the Chicago-area contract machine shop has grown its business by 1000%, and now dominates its niche in the firearm component market including their role as the primary or secondary supplier of certain parts for government firearm contracts.

GENERATIONS OF SERVICE

Schmid Tool is a third-generation, family-owned contract manufacturer. Today it’s operated by a brother and sister team whose grandfather started the company in 1943 and continually evolved it as new innovations developed.

The company spent its early years as a tool and die shop and then expanded into stamping as well—first building stamping dies, and eventually the production of metal stamping. By the late 1970s, it had evolved into a CNC machine shop, taking on its first firearms part in 1980—and opening the opportunity to enter the competitive firearms production market it thrives in today.

“We are a full-service contract manufacturer,” says co-owner Eric Schmid. “We take our customers’ ideas and put them into metal for them. We specialize in castings, machining castings, or machining other net shape materials that are harder to fixture.”

Working with an investment casting supplier, the company creates a net shape part that they can then machine, heat treat, finish, and inspect—ready for assembly.

But in 2006 and 2007, Schmid began running into issues with one of its casting suppliers.

“People in this industry tend to stay loyal to their suppliers, and we are no exception,” says Schmid. “There was one vendor that just wasn't really providing the services and delivery that we needed for these parts. Their price was okay, but quality was a huge issue.” And passing the quality problems on to Schmid’s end customers was not an option.

PROCESSING QUALITY

“Investment casting is such a precise process that if you provide the correct geometry, you will get a precision component,” says Fritz Marston, Signicast’s Market Manager for firearms. “But in this industry, it is ITAR controlled” —meaning the US Department of State has regulatory oversight—“so manufacturing is a bit more restricted.”

With military, government, and OEM contracts at stake, end product quality was of unquestionable importance.

Already very experienced in casting parts, Eric Schmid visited the Signicast facility with the expectation that he’d see its investment casting production and value-added operations. What he got was something quite different.

“Signicast walked me through their entire process. They took time to educate me about casting, gave me a tour of their plant, and showed me their in-house procedures,” says Schmid. “Now I've already bought millions of castings so I am very familiar with how it works, but internally, I was amazed—at their organization, their thought processes, and the way they had everything working. I walked away from Signicast thinking, ‘this is how manufacturing should work.’”

IT TAKES JUST ONE

As a trial, Schmid Tool awarded Signicast one part—and the results they saw were compelling.

“All of a sudden, out of the dozens of parts we outsourced to casting suppliers—this one started running just perfectly for us,” says Eric Schmid.

“I kept on looking at this thing thinking, ‘You know, I've got this one part over here and I never have any trouble. It just shows up. It shows up right and it shows up on time.”

That was 10 years ago. Since then, Schmid says, “We tooled up Signicast to run every single one of our jobs and we switched over, one hundred percent to Signicast.”

Says Signicast’s Marston, “It is about being present for them, it’s about solving their problems, and being there for them. We can come to the table and provide a complete solution to a customer.”

“Signicast as an organization is well past price, delivery, and quality. That's just a given. When you have people that are doing good business and making good business decisions, all the rest becomes easy.” – Eric Schmid, Schmid Tool & Engineering

Signicast. Challenge accepted.

For over 50 years, Signicast has helped leading manufacturers overcome their most pressing commercial challenges. We help them work faster, using state-of-the-art automation to deliver components in a fraction of the time of old-school alternatives. We help them unleash radical innovation with manufacturing experts who know how to push the limits of investment casting in every possible way. And we help them drive greater competitiveness, removing cost at every stage, and unlocking true just-in-time efficiencies. We can do this because we refuse to limit our ambition for our customers’ success to current thinking or yesterday’s processes.

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Last updated 12.09.2019