Staying Price Competitive

On Small Lot Orders with the New GERBERcutter Z1.

IF YOU'RE AN OUTDOOR SPORTING AND recreation enthusiast, chances are you've seen Commercial Sewing's canvas covers for boats, snowmobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and personal watercrafts. 

The company's customer list is a "Who's Who" of U.S. sporting companies including Chaparral, Cobalt, Honda, Kawasaki, MasterCraft, Polaris and Yamaha, to name a few. 

"Our product line is more diverse today than ever before," explains David Mazzarelli, vice president of Engineering and Research for the family-owned company. "While this diversity helps shield us from downturns in one market, it makes managing the business – everything from new product development, to operations, to customer service – more complex." Commercial Sewing operates according to a just-in-time production strategy that focuses on minimizing in-process inventory. It is a "soup-to-nuts" business that handles design, material cutting, silk screening, sewing, assembly and even product prototyping. 

Nearly 20 years ago, the company purchased its first multi-ply GERBERcutter® to cut material for large orders. As business grew, they purchased an additional two cutting systems, each capable of cutting up to 7.2 cm. (2.8 inches) of compressed material. "About five to seven years ago, we started to notice a shift in how orders were coming in," explained Stephen Mazzarelli, vice president of Manufacturing. "Rather than ordering 200 units at one time, we were getting requests for two and three units at one time. It was difficult to be price competitive when we were taking time away from cutting multiple plies of material for large orders to cutting material to produce only two or three snowmobile covers." So, the company relegated an older multi-ply cutter to cutting single plies of material.

In April of last year, Stephen was made aware that Gerber was in the final stages of design on its new single-ply cutting system that could significantly improve his throughput. Commercial Sewing agreed to serve as a beta test site for the new GERBERcutter Z1. In November, they purchased the system. "We're delighted by what the Z1 is doing for us. Based on the time and motion studies we've conducted, results show that the Z1 is five times faster than our older cutter and produces much more accurately cut parts and precise notches. And by being a beta test site, we had an opportunity to recommend enhancements to the system that we wanted." 

undefinedThe GERBERcutter Z1 is the next generation computer-controlled, automated cutting system and the optimal solution for single- and low-ply cutting of a wide range of challenging composite materials, upholstery fabric and technical textiles. It is designed using a distributed control system that improves processing power and reliability and enables options like part identification devices to be easily added. Powerful Axis™ software delivers comprehensive reports and delivers multiple productivity enhancements, including job queue functionality, that enable simultaneous loading of all jobs to be cut during an entire shift or day's work. The cutting head accommodates up to three cutting, notching and punching tools as well as a pen for annotation.

Terry, a 35-year veteran of Commercial Sewing, was charged with learning to operate the new GERBERcutter Z1 system and for providing feedback to Gerber's engineering and product manage-ment teams throughout the testing process. She noted, "The only exposure I've ever had to computers was with our older cutting system. I don't even use email at home. But, this was so easy to learn, and it enables me to work so much faster, I can't imagine life without it now. I challenge myself to keep up with it. If I can pick all the cut parts without allowing any to drop on the floor, I've really accomplished something." 

After purchasing the GERBERcutter Z1, Commercial Sewing added an optional part identification/part recut station. "This station helps me recognize the smaller cut parts in a nest as I pick them," Terry said. "And if there's a flaw in my material, all I have to do is touch the part or parts on the screen that I want to recut, and the system adds it to the end of the job." On this day, Terry was cutting a mooring cover for a 27-foot Cobalt luxury powerboat – a product comprised of 54 individual parts. "After weathering the economic downturn of the past few years, last year was one of our most successful," noted Stephen. "Of course, much of that is due to everyone carefully considering every dollar we spend, but it's also a result of investments in automation. Last year, our production folks worked about 28 percent less to generate nearly the same revenues as we did in 2008, and our cutting team operated at 40 percent above target. It's obvious to us that improving our internal efficiencies is the best way for us to remain price competitive." ♦ 

Contact us to learn more about the GERBERcutter Z1.