Lester in front of Aggressive Grinding Services Shipping Ceramic Parts

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2012 Year End Newsletter

Aggressive Grinding Service, Inc. and the Sutton Family want to thank the employees for all the hard work and dedication that made 2012 such a successful year. It is only through the efforts of the employees of AGS that all of our accomplishments are possible. It is with great appreciation and admiration of all of you, our employees and your families, that we look forward to 2013 and your continued support.

Management Changes

We have made many changes with our management structure. Our Production and Operations are being led by Operations Manager Blake Hauser and Production Managers Dave Brendlinger, Eric Hantz and Donny Seybold with assistance from Gerry Baldonieri, Jr, Joe Shandel, Barry Sutton, Craig Hill and John Yandora. Our Department Leaders including: Gerry Baldonieri, Sr, Josh Campbell, Michelle Farrell, Darrin Geyer, Fran Keough, Fred Stynchula, Barry Trice, Chris Vicola, Billy Wano and Rich Wolford have all worked very hard to ensure our success as well.

We have separated the production operation into three divisions, placing management teams over each. The divisions are: Surface/ODTT, CNC ID/OD and Drill Division. The goal of these changes is to increase communication, workflow, output and quality throughout AGS.

"Using this team approach to running our production has made an extraordinary difference in our ability to communicate, teach, learn and respond to our customers' needs. Our Team includes some of the best in the Industry. We've now been at this for 25 years and have the most competent, focused and sharp group of people I have ever worked with. I am humbled every day we work together." Lester Sutton.

In addition, Thomas Shearer has joined the AGS family in the role of General Manager. The addition of Tom will allow for a different perspective; his integrity and calm demeanor will be welcomed by us all. Tom has experience in both tungsten carbide and advanced ceramic materials in a variety of industries. He has worked for Kennametal, Sandvik/Valenite and General Carbide for a total of 27 years. He also worked for Saint Gobain/Norton Advanced Ceramics for 10 years. His management experience includes engineering, sales, marketing and most recently managing director of the General Carbide|UK facility in England. Tom is a veteran of the United States Air Force having served four years as a captain with the 17th Bomb Wing, Strategic Air Command, at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio.

"I would also like to express my many thanks to Jeff Craig who's planning, mentoring, ideas and perspective helped us achieve many of the things in place today. His role as a Consultant helped bring about and accomplish countless items." Lester Sutton

This year our sales exceeded $10 million while our capital expenditures were $3.8 million of those sales. By effectively utilizing the tax incentives to our advantage we have placed ourselves in a very strong position going forward. AGS still remains debt free and will keep growing within our budget. Our wish list for new machines and equipment for 2013 is a short one, which will allow us to focus this year on the growth of the company and our employees.

New Machinery

The AGS equipment list was expanded with the addition of 4 brand new Okuma CNC OD grinders and 4 brand new Usach 5-Axis CNC ID grinders.

The CNC OD Okuma's are rock solid performers and add needed capacity to our OD department. We now total 4 angle head and two straight head CNC grinders that allow us to free up the Kellenberger and ODTT areas to focus on the products that best fit their capabilities.

The Usach's are exceptionally capable CNC ID grinders which not only add capacity but also shorten cycle-times by completing many operations in one setup. With 4 spindles on each machine we can cover the widest range of ID sizes and because of identical tooling, large orders are spread over the machines to provide unmatched delivery.

In addition to the investments to machinery and equipment, over $1 million has been invested in the new addition that houses our Drill Division and Machinery Rebuilding center.

Major Equipment and Tooling Purchases

Inspection/Quality

2012 marked a high point for Inspection with the implementation of Mitutoyo's Measurlink system. It was a significant investment in both time and equipment including computers, large screen LCD TV monitors, U-Wave receivers, transmitters and cabling which serve to keep us conscious of our customers print specifications. It represented a large portion of the almost $105,000 spent on inspection equipment in 2012. During plant tours this technology never fails to impress our customers. After all, when a part is scrapped we not only waste the time and energy of everyone who has handled it but our reputation and future orders are put in jeopardy. Randy Lechner, Ian Walmsley and Josh Bowser from Vita-Charge were key personnel in making this system and its implementation a success.

Another improvement to our overall quality system was the implementation of bi-weekly quality meetings. During these sessions our Production Managers, Operations Manager, Quality Managers and staff review quality-related issues. The meetings are designed to troubleshoot, resolve and institute corrective measures and preventative actions to continuously improve our quality and systems.

Training

This year with the addition of new employees and equipment we had quite a few training opportunities. This included training on the set-up, operation and programming of the new Usach 5-Axis CNC ID grinders. Operators received basic training on the operation of these machines. Additional in-depth training is scheduled for February and March of 2013.

After the installation of the new Okuma CNC OD grinders, operators received training on using the flagger, which is a measuring device that locates the stock on a part, thereby preventing a crash of the machine when preform parts vary in size. The training also covered other advanced features and a discussion on constant surface feet per minute.

Larry from Stahli USA provided training on the double disk grinders that gave our operators the proper insight into formulating carrier designs and proper wheel dressing procedures. Also discussed during the training were the proper pressures and speeds to use as a starting point for different thickness parts.

In February, Jeffrey Badger, PhD (The Grinding Doctor) spent five days at AGS first observing our processes and then providing training for eighteen AGS employees. The sessions helped our operators gain insight into the science of grinding. The training process aided in connecting standard grinding techniques and routines to the quotation process which includes estimating cycle times.

We developed new processes and procedures based on the formulas we developed with Jeff, allowing us to reduce wear and improve performance in every area of our grinding process. Dr. Badger’s training introduced AGS to the Grind-O-Meter, a grinding monitor he created that measures the amps applied (pressure) and wheel load/breakdown. This device gives us the ability to test wheels under a controlled environment and improve our process with clear scientific results. We can now calculate G-ratio (Aggressiveness), Material Removal Rates (MRR), Wheel Dressing rates and form holding formulas.

During the course of the summer and fall thirty-eight employees were trained in Basic Shop Mathematics which focused on the math fundamentals necessary for our machine operators. This course was followed up with thirty-nine employees attending Blueprint Reading training, which gave operators an in-depth look at blueprints and the features, symbols and dimensions represented on them. A group of thirty-six employees also received training in Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing. This training was provided at AGS by Bob Friel of REF Technical Training Services.

AGS was awarded a grant for approximately $27,000 in training funds to be used over the next 5 years. This funding will allow us to continue the momentum we have started in regards to employee training.

R&&D and Technology

We'd like to thank Ken Saucier and Bryan McClure, both of Norton/St Gobain, who were in last May testing new diamond wheel formulations at the OD Tru-Tech and Rollomatic departments. Both tests showed increased stock removal rates and slightly better surface finishes. Ken and Bryan returned again in September to test a Centerless wheel designed to grind Polycrystalline Diamond (PCD) products. Its performance was excellent on our PCD samples and initial testing on nozzles showed great promise. We currently have 3 grinding wheels on loan for testing in our ID grinding department. Norton plans another visit to test a new Rollomatic wheel at the end of January. Their knowledge, technical expertise and willingness to teach are very much appreciated.

Early last December, Abrasive Technology Inc. (ATI) provided AGS with a Centerless wheel designed to grind PCD. Glen Rosier, Slawomir Klim, Rory Taylor and Scott Weller were on hand to perform testing on PCD samples and provide a venue for us to ask questions about optimizing our grinding process. Testing went well on both PCD and carbide nozzles. The ATI wheel is currently installed on the Centerless rougher in the surface grinding area for nozzles and is providing satisfactory results. AGS's previous work with ATI created the metal bond wheels we use in the OD Tru-Tech department that provide longer life and better edge holding ability. We thank ATI for the experience, in-depth knowledge and recommendations that have helped increase our throughput. George Killinger of Rite-Way tool has worked alongside AGS and our vendors in lending his experience and expertise in our R&D process.

AGS Maintenance Department

Our Maintenance Department was instrumental in aiding in the completion of the new building. They were involved in multiple projects that helped to ensure a timely completion of the new addition. Some of the projects they were involved in include pouring concrete for the pads located outside of the building, installing the 2 new A/C units and landscaping of the parking lot and grounds.

The Maintenance Department, along with help from employees from production, has worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition in moving and relocating machinery and equipment throughout the building to maximize work flow. This included moving entire departments and installing the necessary wiring, duct work and plumbing to accomplish this massive undertaking.

The CNC ID/OD cell was reorganized and included relocating the Overbeck CNC ID grinders, Okuma CNC OD grinders, Usach 5-Axis CNC grinders as well as the Heald grinder. Our Hone Department was relocated to maximize productivity and allow room for the reinstallation of the Sunnen CNC Vertical Hone. The Kellenberger Department was moved to the front of the shop for better work flow, specifically with nozzle production. The Rollomatic, Centerless, 3-Axis Departments, along with two Surface grinders and two Manual OD grinders were relocated to the new addition to house the AGS Drill Division. This move has allowed us to maximize production of an entire product line. All drills and round tools can be completed in one localized area.

Since the completion of the addition, our Maintenance Department has begun focusing on rebuilding equipment. Currently several ODTTs are nearing completion, and a Centerless grinder is in process as well. Time is also being spent salvaging parts from older equipment for future rebuilds and repairs.

AGS in Print

Aggressive Grinding Service was featured in several trade magazines in recent months. This included a feature on the cover of Ceramic Industry magazine for the June 2012 issue. We were again featured in Ceramic Industry in a Supplier Spotlight article in November of 2012. Most recently an article was written in Cutting Tool Engineering regarding AGS's use of metal-bond wheels in grinding, specifically for the Stahli double-disc grinders, published January 2013. Hardinge, Inc. USA also featured AGS in an article currently appearing on their website.

AGS hosted a Media Tour Event on Wednesday, December 5th. This event brought journalists from several trade publications for a tour of our company and its capabilities. Some of the publications represented include: Pipeline & Gas Journal, Energy Wire, Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation, Site Selection, Manufacturing Engineering and Industry Today. Stay tuned for additional features of AGS in the months to come!

Open House

On September 21st, AGS held a Grand Opening celebration of the new addition. Customers, vendors and employees were on hand to support the event. The Open House was organized to showcase the new building, increased capacity, new equipment and advanced technology that AGS has to offer.

Customer Relations

Customer relationships were further strengthened in 2012 as demonstrated by an increase in visits by existing as well as new customers to our facility. The general consensus has been very favorable with great interest expressed in our capacity, technology and quality systems. Several visits were made by AGS staff to customer facilities as well. In 2013, we will continue to build these relationships to maximize AGS's share of the market.

Community Projects/Charitable Contributions

AGS continued on our philanthropic path in 2012, making contributions to community and charitable organizations. This included more than $50,000 in monetary donations and 100's of man and machine hours. Some of the organizations we supported:

  • Eastern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center
  • Greater Latrobe School District Stream Project
  • Latrobe Foundation Little League Tractor
  • Greater Latrobe Partners in Education
  • Latrobe Parks and Recreation
  • United Way

2013 and Beyond

2012 is behind us and the accomplishments of AGS last year are many, as noted above. Looking forward, we are confident in the future of AGS and can share our vision of what we see in store for 2013. 2013 marks our 25th year in business!

First let's start with the US economy. Several economic indicators are showing growth in the coming months and year. One of these indicators is The Industrial Production Index, which is a good barometer of general industrial growth in our manufacturing segment of the US economy. Also showing growth are our customer's markets such as oil/gas, petrochemical, metal forming and general industrial tooling and wear parts. These factors demonstrate that AGS is poised for the growth potential we desire.

"It is hard to believe that 25 years has passed since Karen and I started this business. We are proud to see how it has grown to a staff of almost 100. Now that we are planning to grow and market our services to additional major manufacturers in the Advanced Ceramic Field, it is hard to fathom what the next 25 years may bring." Lester Sutton

Our plans are to continue to support our current customers and to grow with them through increased market share. "There is no easier customer to get than one we already have." Reliable on-time deliveries coupled with excellent quality will allow us to increase our sales for all our customers. Our focus will not only be on strengthening our relationships with current customers, we will also seek new business.

Our efforts will be focused on a marketing campaign larger than has ever been undertaken here at AGS. These efforts will include improvements to our web site, the design of sales literature and capabilities video, as well as press releases, published application success stories and direct customer emails and mailers to targeted customers. The strength of the Aggressive Grinding Service's reputation will be promoted more broadly within our industry and new market segments.

A special, heartfelt thank you to all of our employees, customers and vendors that have made the 2012 year a successful one at Aggressive Grinding Service!

Aggressive Grinding Service, discusses important parameters for the grinding of advanced ceramic materials.
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03:27
Capabilities Brochure The cover photo of August's Ceramic Industry features our wireless digital micrometers that send a real-time data point signal, captured by the MeasurLink® system, to the SPC database which is then displayed on overhead screens posted throughout the shop.