Fabrication Shops

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					Business Profile—




Turret punch operator Luis Oliveros, sets up a Wiedemann Centrum 3500 CNC turret punch, part of FabCor’s arsenal of sheetmetal
fabrication equipment. The company offers laser cutting, CNC turret punching, sheering, tig and mig welding, line grain finishing,
roll forming, CNC press brake and machining services.




     Engineering a Fabrication Job Shop
               How Two Engineers Are Building a One-Stop Fabrication Job Shop.
                                            Story and photos by C. H. Bush, editor



B
         ill Davis has a degree in mechanical engineering           on the trail toward moving into manufacturing.”
         from Stanford University. He spent years following            In 2001 a young engineer named Gabe Corbett joined Da-
         his profession, working in an engineering division of      vis’s company.
a Fortune 500 company, creating advanced technology com-               “Gabe has a degree in mechanical engineering from Colo-
posite materials and applications for NASA, the Air Force           rado State University,” Davis says, “but even more important
and other organizations. In 1992 the Fortune 500 company            to me was his years of experience in manufacturing. He was
spun off the engineering division. Davis and a partner bought       just what I needed to help make the move to manufacturing.”
it and gave it a new name—Applied Material Technologies,               “My dad owned a welding fabrication company when I
Inc. In 1999 when his partner retired, Davis took full control.     was growing up,” Corbett says, “so I started out as a shop
    “At that time we had about eight employees,” he says,           brat. His company did a lot of cutting, grinding, fabrica-
“good engineers designing solutions for some pretty com-            tion, welding, that type of work. Eventually I did all those
plex, high-tech applications. The only problem for me was           different jobs through high school. When I got into engi-
bidding and chasing work for them. It was an old problem.           neering school, I didn’t have a lot of money, so I needed a
If I worked, I couldn’t sell. If I spent time selling to keep the   job. Then one of my professors says, ‘Hey, I know this big
people busy, I couldn’t work. It was that Catch 22 that set me      research lab that’s looking for welders and people who un-
Gabe Corbett, left, and Bill Davis, FabCor president,
      discuss a new project to be machined on the
          Hwacheon 200 A turning center (shown).


derstand fabrication.’ It was a perfect job for me
with my background, so I worked there all the way
through school. It was great experience.”
   “When Gabe came to California, I hired him
right away,” Davis says. “I sent him out bottom
fishing for a company with machine shop equip-
ment that I could buy at an affordable price.”

Change in Plans
   “We sent out letters all over Southern California
looking for CNC machining job shops,” Corbett
adds. “That’s what we wanted, but that’s not what
we found. We found a sheet metal shop instead.”
   “One of the shops we talked to said, ‘Well, I’m
not interested in selling, but I know a guy who had
a pretty good sheet metal operation at one time, but
the business is deteriorating, and he wants out.’ It             out over twenty good customers,” Corbett says. “We’re very
wasn’t a CNC machine shop, but it was manufacturing, and         satisfied with how we’ve done in five years.”
the guy wanted to retire, so we made a deal.”
   “Bill bought the company in 2003,” Corbett says, “and we      Services Offered
turned it into an Applied Material Technologies DBA called           For the first five years of its existence FabCor remained a
FabCor, which is what it’s been every since.”                    sheet metal shop, Davis says.
   “At one time the sheet metal company had sales as high as         “We offer laser cutting, CNC turret punching, shearing,
$2.5 million,” Davis says. “The economy was pretty bad in        tig and mig welding, line graining for finishing, we have
2003, but we figured that when it turned around, some of the      a small roll former and CNC press brakes,” he says. “In
old customers would come back, and they did.”                    2005 we bought a 4-kilowatt Mitsubishi laser cutter, which
                                                                 brought in a lot of business. If you want to be in the sheet
Starting From Scratch                                            metal business these days, you really need a laser, in addition
    To get the new business going, both Davis and Corbett,       to a turret punch for making flat patterns prior to bending.”
who now has the title ‘new business manager,’ started pound-         “We also have hardware installation equipment for put-
ing the streets for business.                                    ting in Pem nuts, fasteners and threaded studs,” says Corbett.
    “We’ve been pretty successful,” Davis says. “We’re in a      “Bill has put together a really nice manufacturing capabil-
14,200 square-foot facility; we have 25 employees; we’re         ity.”
making money, and we now have CNC machining equip-                   “Except for CNC machining,” Davis says. “But thanks to
ment, along with expanded sheet metal fabrication capabili-      Gabe’s desire to run his own engineering business, we now
ties. We currently serve customers in the automotive, elec-      have machining, too.”
tronics, aerospace, commercial and general aviation, and
fitness equipment markets.”
    “We also sub out to other job shops who want to offer
sheet metal work to their customers,” Corbett adds. “About
the only thing we don’t do now, is take small jobs that come
in off the street.”
    “We want to be a manufacturing company, but we’re not
quite there yet,” says Davis. “I call us a semi-manufacturing,
semi-job-shop company. We tend to specialize in short to
medium runs up to about 500 pieces at a time.”
    “Nowadays we offer a pretty wide range of services spread


         David Moffat, CNC machine operator, checks a part on
            a Fadal VMC 3016 FX mahining center, one of four
         brought in by Gabe Corbett when he rejoined FabCor.
CNC laser operator checks specs for parts to be run on FabCor’s recently acquired Mitsubishi ML3015LVPlus 4-kilowatt laser cut-
ting machine. “If you want to be in the sheetmetal business these days, you really have to have a laser,” Bill Davis says.

Temporary Business Detour                                         worked so well, we probably ought to tell people we planned
                                                                  it that way. Bill now has the broad manufacturing capability
   How did Corbett’s engineering desires bring machine
                                                                  he wanted, and I have a great place to produce the products
-shop capabilities to FabCor?
                                                                  I’m going to design in the future.”
   “Gabe has always wanted to be a product designer,” Davis
says, “So, once we had FabCor up and going, Gabe took off         And the Future?
to form his own engineering-design business, which is what
led us finally into CNC machining.”                                   With an outstanding amount of success during the first
   “What happened was I went out and started doing design         five years of operation, what does Davis see as act 2 in his
work,” Corbett says, “and then one of my customers says,          operation?
‘Hey, can you get this made for me too?’ So, I started sending       “Well, when you grow as fast as we have,” he says,
Bill some work from my customers, plus I was sending work         “things can get a bit messy. I guess our next phase will be to
out to some machine shops, too. That got to be quite a bit,       work on our internal efficiency. During a quality audit with
so I decided to buy my own equipment, which probably was          one of our Fortune 500 customers, we were asked to imple-
a mistake, because I really don’t want to run a shop. I like      ment 5S and lean manufacturing practices, so I think that’s
engineering and business development, so I called Bill and        what we’ll be working on for a while. We have to integrate
asked him if he would like to take over my equipment , my         the machine shop business, reorganize the workflow in the
customers and my employees. He said, ‘Sure.’ And, that’s          shop, get things running as smoothly as possible. And who
how FabCor got it’s machining capability.”                        knows, maybe when we have all that done, we’ll turn our
   “Gabe agreed to come back to help us through the transi-       engineering skills on to designing and building a product or
tion,” Davis says, “but he plans to go back again and do his      two of our own.” 
own engineering and product design as soon as we have it all
running smoothly.”
   “I brought in four Fadal CNC machines, a Hwacheon
turning center, a lot of support equipment and some really
experienced employees,” Corbett says. “The whole thing has