New Products, New Space to Enhance Customer Service

Voortman USA Corporation

Voortman USA LLC is preparing for a huge product launch. The Monee, Illinois-based company is a subsidiary of Dutch firm Voortman Steel Machinery and sells computer numerical control (CNC) machines and related software programs for clients in the plate processing and steel fabrication sectors, among other markets.

The company’s machines are used for painting, shearing, marking, shot blasting, cutting, drilling, cambering, and sawing steel plates and beams of varying shapes and sizes. Voortman USA offers various software systems that drive automation, reduce cycle times and allow for remote machine monitoring.

The company, profiled in 2018 in Business in Focus magazine, has a new groundbreaking machine that was years in the making. “We’ll be introducing a new machine on October 7 called the V807. It’s a robotic plasma processing system. It will be supplementing a product line we already have,” says Vice President of Sales Ben Morrall.

Officially called a Robotic Thermal Profile Processor, the new V807 will be displayed at the Fabtech 2019 exposition, which takes place mid-November in Chicago. The V807 is one of several new machines and software programs that the company is introducing.

These product launches have been complemented by other improvements: the company is expanding its facilities and has acquired a new warehouse management system. The goal of all this activity is to provide clients with better tools while enhancing customer service.

To this end, the V807, while providing triple the production capacity of other models, has a small footprint for clients that do not want bulky machines that take up too much space. This is the successor to Voortman USA’s hugely successful V808 Profile Processor. An operator can manually switch the V807 between plasma and oxy-fuel torches. The new machine is also easy to install, thanks to a design in which most of the V807’s hardware and electronics are in the main cabinet.

For all that is new here, one thing remains the same since the firm was last profiled: the company’s main product line is exclusively proprietary. “We’re only selling and servicing Voortman-manufactured-and-designed equipment,” he says.

The key markets for Voortman USA’s wares are structural steel, shipbuilding, steel service centers, manufacturing, and energy. “We continue to push into manufacturing. That’s always been a segment of the business. We’re hoping to continue to expand in that area,” notes Morrall.

While he is extremely excited about the V807, it is not the only new machine the company has. “We have a couple of new machines. We introduced the V631. That’s a big drilling machine with milling capabilities. We also introduced a pair of new plate machines, the V310 and V325,” says After Sales Manager Robert Abbink.

The double-gantry V310 steel plate drilling and cutting line boasts a thirty-meter (ninety-foot) table, permitting varied plate thicknesses to be lined up, ready for processing. This is augmented by a forty-horsepower servo drill, three-dimensional plasma bevel unit, oxy-fuel 4.0 torch, and ten-station automatic tool changer. Designated for steel service centers and manufacturing environments, the V310 also features advanced nesting software to reduce the labor needs of clients.

The V325 was developed with heavy plate processing in mind. It has automatic part removal capability, a twenty-tool automatic tool changer, arc glare protection for safety, and a huge three-meter by twelve-meter (ten-foot by forty-foot) operating range.

While designed for beam drilling, the V631 is also capable of rapid milling. The V631 has three powerful direct-drive motors. This automated drilling machine also promises precise carbide drilling and impressive processing speeds.

The V631 is the company’s first machine to be fully developed with the company’s newly updated operating software: VACAM 4.0 This stands for Voortman Automation computer-aided manufacturing and offers automation and connectivity functions. VACAM software can collect data, generate maintenance and production reports, and has a remote-monitoring feature.

All the company’s machines are fitted with VACAM software. “Until recently, most of our machines have been running on a previous version of VACAM, but now we’re moving to VACAM 4.0. The look and feel are similar, but the system that’s running in the background is different,” explains Morrall. The 4.0 version also offers a simplified user interface for ease-of-use, adds Abbink.

Naturally, the soon-to-be-launched V807 Robotic Thermal Profile Processor is equipped with VACAM 4.0 software.

Voortman USA also offers multi-system integration (MSI) automation software and SigmaNEST advanced nesting software. MSI automates production by connecting machines to cross transports, conveyors, and sensors, and automatically distributes production-related data between linked machines. SigmaNEST advanced nesting software, meanwhile, is designed to enhance cutting efficiency and material optimization in plasma/oxy-fuel, water jet, or laser plate cutting machines.

Its new product launches have been accompanied by big internal changes. The company is poised to dramatically expand its Monee operations, following a decision by tenants to move out of the building. Voortman USA will be taking this space – nearly half the building – over, “essentially doubling our footprint in the building,” says Morrall.

On top of this big expansion, it has acquired an automated warehouse management system called Power Pick Global, from Maine-based company Kardex Remstar. This system simplifies and improves the order fulfillment process by facilitating batch picking – a process that allows an operator to fill several orders at the same time – and other methods.

“A laser pointer tells us exactly where a part is located on a tray. There are big monitors hanging above the unit that show a picture of the part [and information about] the quantity and the order number. There’s a lot less room for error. Basically, [the system] takes everything horizontal from the floor and moves it into vertical storage … from floor to ceiling,” Abbink says.

“Power Pick Global communicates with various peripheral devices such as barcode scanners, batch lights, LED or laser light pointers, and printers,” adds Kardex Remstar literature.

The company’s equipment has been involved in some interesting projects. For example, a client used Voortman USA machines while doing work on Tesla’s Gigafactory project, which is the facility designed to produce lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicle components. Another client used the equipment for major renovations carried out recently on Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins NFL team.

The company has roughly twenty-five employees right now, according to Abbink. However, the company augments this staff with additional technicians and other workers. When added to the mix, “that brings us up to forty to forty-five people on a daily basis in the U.S. working for Voortman,” he adds.

Staff are expected to be more than just technology experts. While Voortman USA specializes in cutting-edge machinery and software, the company understands the importance of the human touch. “Ultimately, our growth and success has been built on taking care of our customers,” notes Morrall.

In addition to selling CNC machines and related software, it installs machinery and offers training and preventative maintenance. There are plans to launch training programs at the newly-expanded Monee operations.

“We’re going to have onsite training at our facility. We will offer a lower-cost training option where we can have customers come in and learn about our software and basic maintenance on the machinery. We’re going to continue to bundle that with our planned maintenance, so we can offer a more in-depth relationship with our customers, and the customers can expect more reliability from their equipment and operators,” says Morrall.

“I think we’ve got a great team. We build relationships with the customers. It’s really taking off for us. We see a lot of customers putting in orders for new machines. They choose Voortman because they like the focus on customer service,” says Abbink.

Customer relations are at the core of what the company sees as its main challenge: “Because the economy is doing really well, delivery times on machines and parts is a big challenge… All suppliers are getting busier, lead times on parts are getting longer. That’s why we stock more parts, have introduced an automated stock system and expanded our warehouse,” he adds.

Over the next few years, Voortman USA representatives envision an ongoing emphasis on customer care and technical innovation. “We want to keep expanding the team to make sure we keep high standards and [excellent] customer service. We are focused on building relationships with the customer. The customer needs to be able to rely on us. We work with the customers to make sure they get their solution through as quickly and as easily as possible,” says Abbink.

“Five years down the road, I would like to see us having a larger building, with more machines to demonstrate and do practical training on. And just continue to grow our business. I’d like to see us working more with manufacturers and continue to grow with service centers,” adds Morrall.

Security as Culture

If you take a close look at all the many gadgets and electronic devices that fit into your daily life you’ll likely find that an exceedingly large number of them are made in China. This probably won’t surprise you, as offshore manufacturing has been a staple of the North American electronics market for almost fifty years. Beyond electronic gizmos, you’ll also find that toys, clothes, even some food products are being manufactured in low-cost foreign regions. This has been a prevailing reality for a very long time, but things are about to change.

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November 18, 2019, 2:15 AM EST

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