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Engineer’s Week 2017

In honor of  National Engineering Week we took the time to talk with some of the engineers here at ABTech. We wanted to find out how they got the “spark” that made them want to go into this field.

“As far back as I can remember I always wondered how things worked and I took everything apart when I was a kid.  All my toys, bikes, appliances, neighbors snowmobiles, motorcycles, whatever I could get my hands on.  If the toaster stopped working my Mother would give it to me to dissect and see what went wrong and it kept me busy and out of her hair (sometimes).  I probably didn’t put much of it back together the original form and I was always looking for ways to tweak things to make them better.  Do you remember Sid in the toy story movie?  I was that kid! I used to build model cars, then fill them with fire crackers, launch down the street and blow them up into a million pieces.  I was in heaven!!!!  I would then start over and build some crazy custom buggy with the extra pieces.
As I got older, in middle and high school it was a clear choice for me to go to an Engineering college and obtain the training and skills I needed to make a living at it.  I still enjoy the creative aspects of product design, the troubleshooting and problem solving aspects of Engineering.”
– Ken Abbott – Mechanical Engineer

“Hmm, my start in engineering probably goes back to teenage years when I developed a love for British and Italian sports cars. Since both had a penchant for quirky electrics, it became obvious early on that, in addition to enjoying the mechanical work, I needed to learn about electronics. Once I graduated college I was determined to stay in Vermont rather than move back to the big city.  Not too long after graduation I landed a job with a machine tool re-builder rebuilding, maintaining and retrofitting mostly milling machines, screw machines and grinders of various types. I did all the electrical work in addition to mechanical work.
This led to a job in engineering with a firm that built machinery used in the printed circuit board and plating industries. With my experience in electrical maintenance and retrofits I went to designing control systems, writing PLC programs and developing HMI software for use with our products.
Now I work here at ABTech enjoying a variety of electrical and related work and trying to keep up with technology is always changing.”
– Chris Lundberg – Electrical Engineer

engineers-week-2017-2“From the time my family got our first computer (a Hewlett Packard i286), I spent numerous hours trying to figure out how to use DOS. I got pretty good at it, and would often help my parents with the computer. We eventually upgraded to our first Windows machine, at which point I immediately dove into how to use Windows proficiently. It got to the point that I became so good with computers (they were relatively new at the time) that the librarian would come to me and ask for help when the computers in the library weren’t working correctly. This love of computers continued through middle school and high school, and I took my first C++ programming class later in high school. My buddy and I also programmed our first text-based adventure game in Basic on a computer in his parent’s basement. Programming didn’t entirely click with me back then, but the brief experience I got with it only added to my life-long love of working with computers and fixing problems.
Later on, after a career in IT in both the military and the corporate world, I decided that I wanted to go to school to back-up my already established work experience with a diploma. It was then in our Computer Science classes that I realized just how interesting programming was; building software from lines of code to become something really usable and substantial. My final project in my advanced programming class was a bi-directional, multi-threaded chat application, which really showed me just how powerful programming could be.  It was then that I realized that I was actually good at it and really enjoyed the problem solving aspect.  I realized that I could make it into a career, which lead me to working here at ABTech as a software engineer.”
–  Michiel Byington – Software Engineer

“My story starts at a young age as well. As far back as I can remember I watched my dad work on his cars, four-wheelers, motorcycles etc. I grew up wanting to be just like him, learning how things work, and being able to fix anything. He has this desire to always improve, whether its fixing up an old car, or motorcycle, or building something for his house.  It’s a passion that drives him and fills him with pride, a trait and passion he has instilled in me. I was always trying to take toys apart and put them back together. I remember one Christmas I got this little RC boat and after a few minutes of playing with it we decided that it was too slow, so he wired up a cordless drill battery to it and it was way cooler!…. For about a minute until the motor burnt out and stunk up the house! Fortunately, there are a ton of stories just like that, making for a childhood packed with fun and learning.
This passion to understand how toys, cars, (really anything mechanical) works and to improve them or create new and improved versions of them, carried me through to studying mechanical engineering at UNH, and eventually to becoming a Mechanical Engineer here at ABTech. I am grateful that the work we do here is very challenging, pushing the envelope when it comes to accuracy and problem solving. This allows me to learn new things every day and gives me the freedom to create and experiment with new designs and/or ideas.”
Chris Abbott – Mechanical Engineer

“I have always asked “why” and wanted to know exactly how things work and how they could be improved.  I still take things apart just to figure them out and put them back together!  I have a picture of myself at two or three years old crouching down in the driveway next to a car as it was backing up – apparently talking about how the car could move and stop.  As I got older and the toys got bigger I enjoyed fixing them as much if not more then I liked to play with them.   As the toys started to have engines I loved modifying them to go faster, and it was more than just buying a product that claimed to do that, I wanted to understand how this part could accomplish that claim.
Through many crashes and broken parts I was exposed to welding and metal working which lead me to the manufacturing world.  I was fascinated with how something so “tuff” like steel could be so easily molded into just about anything if you had the right tools so I took all the metals and machining classes I could as well as the Automotive program at Keene High.  This lead me to my first job in manufacturing which got me to Keene State for their Sustainable Product Design and Innovation Program.  This program was the obvious choice for me because of how “hands on” focused all the classes were.  The program always made us ask “why” and the projects always made us figure that out and make improvements, just like I still love to do.  The toys only continue to get bigger and more expensive, but the fun of making them faster and understanding how to do it has only grown! “
– Joe Breckell – Technical Sales/Applications Engineer

“Growing up in a small New England community somewhat far from the reaches of entertainment offerings of urban life we developed means to self-explore and entertain ourselves, friends, and family.  Little did I know at the time I was learning a great deal about problem solving… whether it was related to road building (civil engineering), water control and dam building (hydro engineering), tree house construction, or tinkering with mechanical systems such as bicycle or lawnmower repair.   There was always something to do that involved working with our hands and minds with nothing greater to achieve other than the satisfaction of getting something broken to work as it was designed.   Early in my life my Father had been a radio and TV repair man, I remember going on service calls to neighbors homes and watching him as he replaced vacuum tubes and made adjustments so as to restore the black and white imagery of the TV’s in those days.  As I progressed through primary education, I delved into electricity and its fundamental theory.  As I was approaching my High School graduation, an unexpected call from an Army recruiter offered me the opportunity to refine my direction as a profession…  I signed up for 4 years of service gaining more fundamentals of Electrical Engineering as a missile systems repairman.  I became fascinated by computer technology at the time and how something electro-mechanical can perform arithmetic or yet guide a missile some 1100 miles.   From that point onward, I only imagined the possibilities of what modern day computer and electronic technology could do and how I might use these tools creatively to solve problems whether it be a need for tracking my checkbook and savings activities or automating an aluminum can crushing device for recycling.   Attaining my Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering expanded my knowledge and exposure to greater array of how the world uses electricity and computer systems as problem solving solutions.

Now that I am 30+ years into my chosen engineering discipline and technology has evolved faster than I am able to keep up with, there remains much for me to learn which is something I welcome.   My current development is in data extraction, systems simulation, and production support activities.  Far from the specifics of electrical engineering… yet leveraging knowledge gained on how to solve problems as far back as from the years I was in that small town in New England making roads or adjusting the spark plug on the lawnmower.” – Warren Davis – Electrical Engineer

2016 A Year in Review

For the second straight year we have realized an increase of more than 50% in shipped orders from the year before! Thank You to all of our customers, suppliers and selling partners for your continued support. We are proud to have maintained many loyal customers that have honored us with their business over the years.
We are equally excited for all of the new customers that have selected us as their
preferred supplier.

With this sustained growth we will continue to add more manufacturing equipment and skilled personnel to ply their craft. These investments will increase our overall capacity and help bring our turnaround times in line with customers’ expectations.ABTech-sign

We have not been complacent on the engineering side either. A new, more compact MicroForm roundness gage was rolled out, several mechanical improvements and software enhancements were incorporated into our line. We designed our own gage head to meet demand for lighter probe tip force with higher frequency response for the most critical applications. A budding partnership has also begun for 3D non-contact measurement platforms.

All segments of our business are showing strength. Demand for our ultra-precision measurement gages, jet engine assembly systems, and custom engineered motion equipment remains strong and serves as proof that we provide a needed niche.

Highlights over the year:

  • Introduced a new MicroForm Gage model µFG100 and incorporated improvements to all articulating arm designs
  • Launched joint program to supply ultra-precision multi-axis metrology platforms for 3D non-contact imaging and measurement applications
  • Supported new customers with on-site installation and training throughout the US and abroad
  • Added 2 more machinists and 1 grind specialist to our manufacturing team
  • Added a Technical Sales/Applications Engineer to increase presence at US manufacturing companies
  • Added another large Hurco CNC milling machine
  • Bought duplicate grinding machines to double capacity and allow some to be dedicated with specific setups reducing lead time and cost
  • Bought a large Blanchard grinder for added size capacity and reducing grind times
AT250 with brake and DRO-sm

New Larger Model AT250 Rotary Air Bearing Index Table with Digital Display

EAS3000-2T-sm

New EAS3000-2T with 2 Meter Dual Counterbalanced Gage Towers

MFG100-Platform-Photo1-clipped-sm

New Compact Model µFG100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will be demonstrating our equipment at the following events in 2017:

EASTEC –  SME’s Eastern Manufacturing Exposition 

WESTEC – SME’s Western Manufacturing Exposition       

The Quality Show Expo                                                                                                                                   

A Time For Giving Thanks

It’s the day before Thanksgiving, 2016 has flown by and you’re probably looking forward to spending the weekend feasting with family and friends! Before tomorrows holiday we have taken the time to ask a few ABTech employees what they have to be thankful for this year…

Here are some of the answers we got:

  •  “Having family close by, seeing family that I don’t see on a regular basis during the holiday season and I continue to be grateful for this job opportunity”
  • “I’m thankful for the wisdom and insight that comes with growing older, a loving companion and the ability to make a difference.”
  • “Family and Friends, to be a part of the ABTech community”
  • “I am thankful for having a heightened state of self-awareness.  That may sound funny to be thankful for that and I believe it is the reason why I am so thankful for everything else in my life.  Self-awareness has allowed me to live in the present moment and have an understanding that other people think differently and process information differently.  I have been able to strengthen relationships, reduce my stress level and be a better person and a better leader.  It allows me to be so thankful for everything else that I have, both in relationships and material possessions.  I have what I want and love what I have!  Life is good!”
  •  “I am thankful for every day and the opportunities and choices it presents, animal friends and people friends past and present, and my loving family.”
  • “Family, (some) friends, and New England Sport Teams”

A Time For Giving Thanks

Before we go for the weekend, we would like to spend some time saying ‘thank you’ to all those who’ve helped make ABTech the thriving company that it is today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS)

We just returned from the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in Chicago, our biggest marketing event of the year, and it was a great success! Over the six long event days we were constantly doing live demonstrations of our products, reviewing many unique and interesting applications that will require custom solutions, and reconnecting with many existing customers.  It’s little wonder why we were kept busy based on the attendance at this year’s event, it surpassed 115,000 people!

International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS)

Leaving Chicago IMTS Show

The week did not start out trouble free, though. As we arrived Sunday in Chicago, we learned that two of our shipping containers could not be found! After a few frustrating hours trying to track them down, they were finally located. Thankfully a fork truck operator helped transport them to our booth space. With that behind us, the setup of our new booth design went very well and we were all pleased with the layout.

Global Interest Growing

While we are still working to follow up all of the leads from the show, the preliminary analysis shows a strong presence from mid-western states although we had interest from almost every other state as well. Even though the majority of the leads are from North America, we did have solid interest from companies in Argentina, Belarus, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Italy, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.

The dominant industries represented were automotive, aviation and aerospace, bearings, heavy machinery, military, medical and scientific equipment, and general tooling and machining. This is a fairly typical cross-section of our customer base.  Some household names you likely will recognize amongst them are Cummins, General Electric, Honda, John Deere, Lockheed Martin, Ruger Firearms, and SpaceX.

We’d like to thank two different groups from within Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories for purchasing two of our systems before we even got to the show! Those are now on the way to their new home in California.

OK, enough with the name dropping!

In addition to picking up so many new leads, these shows are a great source of marketing information for us. We continue to confirm, based on customer testimonials and attendees’ reactions, that our reputation for quality is growing. Our product designs are meeting the desired needs and are keeping pace with current market trends. The prevailing reaction from customers and new prospects alike focused on the ease-of-use of our equipment combined with their flexibility and broad capabilities. We also gathered more field data for our next product development projects. Stay tuned for that!

We have already signed up for our booth space to exhibit again at the next IMTS in 2018.

Adventures of Implementing an MRP System

What does it take to implement an MRP system?

Let’s be honest, how many people actually know what an MRP system is? From what I have gathered from our experience, ‘More Reams of Paper’ seems to be appropriate. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia I have been able to get a better understanding of the term. An MRP system is a Material Requirement Planning, AKA “Manufacturing Resource Planning” system, that aids with production planning, scheduling, and inventory control. It is used to manage manufacturing processes. We are also using the program to help with order entry, quotations and accounting. These all-in-one systems are intended to meet three objectives:

  1. To ensure material is available for production and products are available for delivery to customers
  2. Maintain the lowest possible material and product levels in inventory
  3. Plan manufacturing activities, delivery schedules and purchasing activities.

Adventures of Implementing an MRP System

Less Paper, More Time…

In layman’s terms, an MRP system assists manufacturers in being more efficient when processing orders. When you go from using countless spreadsheets, reports and a project management Cloud-Based application to an all-in-one MRP system, you realize just how many extra steps you were taking.  However, the implementation process that it requires to transfer all of your files and reports into the new software makes you step back and question if this decision is really the right one! Was it really that bad having so many extra steps before? The answer to this question is yes. Regardless of how overwhelming and daunting a task it is to migrate to an all-in-one system, the original process was inefficient.

Taking the First Step

As you start the implementation process you begin to realize that the spreadsheets you are filling out don’t really make much sense. There are terms that the MRP system will recognize but you may not know if you are putting things in the right columns. You start second guessing most of what you are doing which in turn, proves to be quite stressful. We may have to re-enter most of the information at a later date because you were not sure where to enter it correctly in the first place.

The best part is the training, after all your information has been entered into the system you realize the confusion has just begun! Don’t get me wrong, we did our homework. We consulted with other companies to see how this process worked for them.  We understood it was going to be a learning process, but again an over-whelming feeling. In complete honesty whatever program you choose will be challenging in the beginning. You will learn to work through the glitches, and the moments when you feel like you are taking one step forward and four steps back.

Trust in the Process

After you make it through the initial entry of the data, you are now able to go live with your new MRP system. The question that has been weighing on your mind since the beginning of this process; “when do you go live?”.  Originally we planned to launch our new system in 2015, this turned out to be a bit too optimistic and we were forced to push it out to January of 2016. It’s almost like the feeling when you’re first learning to swim, your parents are in the pool and they keep telling you to jump in and they will catch you, except here my mom isn’t going to catch me.  I guess at the end of the day you are just going to have to trust the process and get wet!

Stay tuned as this adventure is just getting started.

Employee Spotlight – Alfred St Laurent

Production Supervision (aka Mr. Versatile)

Alfred-Employee-spotlight

Alf makes final adjustments to a recent system

Alfred’s path to ABTech started when he purchased his first car, a 1989 Ford Bronco II.  He wanted a professional opinion so he brought his new wheels to a garage to have it looked over by a mechanic. The mechanic told him that the rear wheel bearings needed to be replaced.  After getting a quote from the garage and seeing the cost, Alfred figured he could ask his grandfather for help fixing the car himself. Doing the work on his own, with his grandfather’s guidance, his curiosity was sparked. He became interested in how things worked and realized he had the ability to fix things for himself.

Alfred wasn’t sure that college was the right path for him.  He had not always enjoyed school and he didn’t see himself paying to sit in a lecture hall!

Upon graduating from Monadnock Regional High School, he dove right into the work force. Having an interest in making things, Alfred got a job working as a vertical mill machine set up and operator. Soon Alfred was ready for a change as he wanted to expand on his knowledge.  He began working at a shop that received contract work so every week brought something different. Starting out as a lathe operator, Alfred worked his way to setting up and programming lathes. With the variety of work that would come through the shop, he felt it would make him a better machinist while giving him the ability to hone his skills.

Braving the Tail

Alfred riding Tail of the Dragon

Riding the Tail of the Dragon

Having only worked in large companies, Alfred was ready to make the jump to a smaller one. He began working at ABTech in 2007. During the first few years, Alfred was able to see that many of his co-workers also had a passion for being ‘gear heads’.  It was around this time he was ready to trade in his car for something more fun. Speaking with other people who drove motorcycles, Alfred was able to choose a bike that would give him room to grow.  He landed on a Suzuki SV 650N. He has since upgraded to a Trumph Tiger 800 following a recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains where he ripped up the Tail of the Dragon.

Pride in His Team

Alfred has experienced professional growth here at ABTech.  He first started out on mills, worked his way up to Assembly Technician, and most recently he has been promoted to Production Supervisor. His growth within ABTech has provided him with a valuable perspective across the manufacturing and customer fulfillment process. As a result he has played a key role in researching and selecting new machines, hiring several new employees, and learning along with the company how to better achieve goals. He describes ABTech as having a family like environment. If a challenge presents itself, there isn’t the pressure of having to fix it alone.  At ABTech you feel comfortable talking to co-workers and finding a solution together.