Astroll through the production facility at G.A. Systems Inc. has the tendency to stir up memories of grade-school cafeteria lunches – sheet-pan pizza, tater tots, fruit cocktail and the like. Ah, the good old days of being young and free and not worrying about calories or carbs.
Back in 1968, when G.A. Systems first pioneered its lunchroom serving system, the Speedee-Serv, Gordon Anderson, the company’s founder, was at the helm. At that time, 18.9 million students participated in the National School Lunch Program. Fifty years later, his son Steve serves as president, carrying on the legacy his dad built – producing equipment used to feed the 30.4 million students that participate in the program today.
G.A. Systems designs and develops its products in-house for sale nationwide – for large urban schools and small rural schools alike. Educational facilities of all kinds look to the company for serving buffet lines and any other equipment that their cafeterias might need, from steam tables and salad bars to cashier stands and warming cabinets. Products are built to mechanical specifications with customers able to specify the custom sizes they may need for the layout of their individual cafeterias.
The bulk of the company’s products are made from 304 stainless steel sheet and cold-rolled tubing. It’s all cut, bent and welded in-house with some of the most sophisticated machines available to the fabricating industry today. Not that long ago, however, parts were buffed and finished by hand to round out sharp edges and remove burrs.
Take The Edge Off
When asked about the manual process that G.A. Systems used to rely on, Anderson is quick to use the company’s stainless steel slides as an example. The slides can be found in a variety of the company’s cabinets, and because they come in direct contact with cafeteria staff and students, they have to have smooth edges. Sharp edges, understandably, create a safety hazard.
“We produce about 2,800 slides every two weeks,” Anderson says. “And as you can imagine, manually deburring all of those parts got to be incredibly time consuming. We would miter the edges, take them to a buffing wheel to remove any remaining burrs and then finish them. It was creating a bottleneck.”
Anderson decided to do something about it and reached out to Joe Malek, president of Condor Technology Services, a fabrication equipment consultancy firm. Malek suggested that Anderson take a look at NS Maqinas, a company based in Portugal that specializes in tube polishing, deburring and edge rounding equipment.
“In an effort to improve their products and differentiate themselves from the competition, many shops have invested in NS Maquinas machines,” Malek says. “They’re leveraging the equipment to remove small burrs and dross from their parts, and they’re rounding off the sharp edges from the inside and outside contours of punched parts and parts that were cut with laser, plasma or waterjet.”
After vetting several machines from a variety of OEMs, Anderson decided on NS Maquinas’ DM1100 C edge rounding machine, based in part on its ease of use. An operator simply feeds a part into the machine that passes through two sets of abrasive blocks that operate in opposite directions. When the part exits the machine, it has smooth edges and no burrs on the inside and outside contours.
“We have shaved countless hours off our production time over the past eight months and are producing a better looking, more consistent and higher quality product,” Anderson says. “My customers are elated with the products they are receiving from G.A. Systems and the machine has separated us from the competition. I would recommend it to any metal fabrication shop.”
A skilled worker is oftentimes defined as someone experienced in running a specific type of equipment or skilled in a specific trade, such as welding. The reality for the manufacturing industry, however, is that manual tasks, such as deburring and finishing, require experienced laborers, as well. Producing a consistent edge around the outside and the inside contours of a part takes time and practice. And when orders need to move out the door, time isn’t a luxury that many manufacturers have.
Therefore, shifting more experienced employees off of labor-intensive work is an added bonus to the timesaving benefits that the edge rounding machine already delivers. Anderson says that training his employees on the NS Maquinas equipment was simple thanks to minimal programming requirements.
“Anybody can run it,” he says. “You just set the height and let it do its work.”
Malek concurs, adding that the edge rounder can do the job 10 times faster than a laborer and with an abrasive cost as low as $0.30 per hour, which dramatically reduces overall costs and helps manufacturers achieve ROI in a shorter amount of time. Previously, Anderson had to pull two guys off of the floor to handle the manual work, whereas, today, “I can do it with one guy and still get a better final product.”
In fact, many customers have found that the edge rounder adds a desirable finish to the top and bottom of parts while also removing burrs and sharp edges. Furthermore, virtually any type of material can be processed on the edge rounder, including copper, brass, stainless steel, aluminum and titanium. It can process large parts up to 62 in. in width and small parts all the way down to 2 in.
Coated material also isn’t an issue; PVC coated material can be processed without removing the film, and galvanized and aluminized material can be processed without damaging the integrity of the surface. In fact, parts that have been processed on the edge-rounding machine respond to powder coating much better than parts that might have rough or sharp edges. When a part has a sharp edge, it essentially can cut through the powder coating, diminishing the integrity of the coating and exposing the part to corrosion.