Buchanan Sales Company, Inc., represents industry leaders in the manufacture of custom-engineered metal and plastic components. By working with a variety of highly skilled specialists in various manufacturing methods – such as injection molding; vacuum and pressure forming; machining; stamping; wire forming and coiling; die casting; powdered metal; electro-mechanical assembly; and fabricating – BSC is able to bring a unique problem-solving approach to its relationship with clients. Made in PA wanted to learn more about Buchanan and its niche in the industry. We talked with CEO Elry Cramer for all of the details.
Made in PA: Tell us a little about your background in the industry and give us an elevator pitch for Buchanan Sales.
Elry Cramer: Buchanan Sales was founded by Bob Buchanan in 1957. I joined the company in 1979 and bought the company in 1999. In 2013 the company was sold to Frank Hueske, the current owner. Frank has 35 years on the manufacturing side of the casting industry. Our people are technically strong, and we are active in working with our customers in both the design phase and value engineering phase of projects.
MIPA: Give us more insight on what it means to be a manufacturers’ representative group. How do you work with your customers?
E.C.: We are an outsourced sales organization providing sales and marketing support for our manufacturers. In my 40 years with Buchanan Sales our role has changed dramatically. Now our role is as much project management as it is sales. The rep function is a great way for a company to get substantial penetration into a territory or market with little upfront cost, and for our customers to work with us in a consultative manner due to the depth of our product offering.
MIPA: Can you tell us about the diff erent service processes that you provide from machining and metal forming to plastics and electronics?
E.C.: We have traditionally specialized in custom-engineered mechanical and electro-mechanical parts and assemblies. A small part of our business is in PCB assembly, wire harnesses and cables. We work primarily in metal and plastic manufacturing processes and try to be very complete in those areas so we can work with our customers as a consultant rather than trying to make a single process work even when it will not provide the best solution. We have excellent prototyping processes and can work on a project from prototyping through production. We have Swiss, CNC, high-volume and low-volume machining. Our metal forming capabilities include prototyping , short-run stamping, photo-etching, four-slide stampings, springs, wire forms and production stamping, powdered metal, MIM and 3D metal. In plastics, we off er prototyping, tool building, injection molding, thermo forming and urethane casting. With Frank’s extensive casting background, we off er a variety of sand casting, investment casting, die casting and centrifugal castings. We are currently working on some turnkey projects with one of our Taiwanese partners, which is new for us and looks to off er some significant advantages to our customers. Two of our prototyping specialists should provide significant benefits to the local manufacturers for both prototyping and lower volume production needs. Incodema, our metal forming specialists, are producers of complex, metal-formed parts, including all secondaries in less than two weeks. Their capabilities exceed more conventional low-volume processes and allow the production of prototypes that accurately replicate parts from production tooling. This allows for more design freedom for low-volume parts and test results that accurately reflect how the production parts will perform.
On a recent design project for a local Fortune 500 company, there were five metal-formed parts. They made three for which their in-house process was capable and we made the other two. Upon seeing some of our samples, a local engineer told us that he had what he felt were good designs fail in testing because he could not get prototypes with some of the features he saw in our samples.
ProtoCAM is our plastic 3D service center. They have all the traditional processes: SLA, SLS, FDM and PolyJet. They also have the new Hewlett Packard Multi Jet Fusion process. In my opinion, the MJF process will replace a portion of the low-volume injection molding market. The process is fast; the parts are actually stronger than injection molding. It also opens whole new possibilities for design. In addition, they produce urethane cast parts and are very good at optically clear parts. They also have a sophisticated in-house finishing capability.
MIPA: Do you work with companies of all sizes to take an idea on paper and turn it into a part or product?
E.C.: Our customer base ranges from some of the largest Fortune 500 companies to one-man startups. A significant amount of our business is the processing of RFQs for which the design is usually finalized. We match the project to the best manufacturing process based upon the drawing, quantities, tolerances, materials, etc. and send the RFQ to our manufacturer best suited to make the part. In some rare cases there are better processes than those we represent, and we advise the customer that we are not able to off er a quote and recommend a different process. A lot of our business involves getting involved in the design phase. It is here that we have the potential to make substantial cost reductions.
MIPA: What are some of the latest trends in value engineering and DFM?
E.C.: Our involvement in DFM has traditionally been the ability to recommend manufacturing processes that result in reduced manufacturing cost. In other cases, we make recommendations within an already chosen process to reduce the cost of the part. As an example, I recommended a change in material on a machined part that reduced the cost of the part by half. Value engineering is much the same, only we are looking for opportunities on existing projects. On one project, we reduced the cost of a part from $0.15 to $0.07 and the improved part allowed the customer to automate their process saving another $0.08 in the manufacturing cost and improved quality. There was a $100,000 capital investment. The volume was 185,000 per week so the capital investment was recovered very quickly and the project ran for 20 years.
MIPA: You have quite deep roots in this industry, how do you see it evolving into the future?
E.C.: The changes that I have seen in my 40 years with Buchanan Sales are incredible and the pace of change is ever increasing. I recently attended the Manufacturing Conference in Pittsburgh and there was not one booth promoting traditional manufacturing technology. Everything was IOT, Cloud-Based Technology and data collection. Additive is huge and it will continue to grow. I see 3D technology like ProtoCAM’s HP Multi Jet Fusion process being an alternative to low-volume injection molding and machining of plastic parts. 3D will allow designs that were not manufacturable until now. Buchanan Sales has embraced 3D for many years. We regularly use rapid prototyping to confirm design concepts for both design and value engineering projects. We are constantly evaluating new processes to find new value to offer to our customers.
For the foreseeable future conventional manufacturing processes are still the best solution for most mechanical parts with any volume. We continue to support our customers in both conventional and additive manufacturing. We are always looking for the best solution for their needs.