JPC in Elkhart, IN: Executing the Dream
May 6, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Systems, What you can do with your plotter/cutter,
“”This machine is going to allow us to add three more sewers!”
JPC, located in Elkhart, IN, is a family owned and operated contract sewing and fabricating company with a 25 year history of providing top quality products with short lead times. JPC started in 1984 supplying floor mats to the local van conversion industry — now they make truck covers, agricultural equipment covers, recreational vehicle covers and enclosures, custom bags, pads and mats, custom upholstery, and marine canvas. Owner, Greg Haradine, has a special interest in the marine industry — he grew up boating on the many lakes near Elkhart and previously co-owned a boat dealership with his brother. Greg knows the importance of good marine canvas and how hard it can be to fairly charge for your time to making measure, cut, and sew a quality cover. When JPC learned the Carlson Plotter/Cutter and Laser Products 3D Digitizer would allow him to digitize, nest, and plot/cut boat covers, he had a new vision for the future of JPC’s marine canvas department.
“The Dream would be to drive around the country and measure stuff. We have a system back at the shop to make what we digitize. I can clean the patterns up in the hotel at night and get rid of the six week lead time.”
|Customer||JPC, Elkhart IN
|Plotter Cutter Model||PT-84 Plotter/Cutter|
|Plotter Cutter Width||84 Inches|
|Maximum Material Size
Maximum Cut Width
|Table Length||24′ Long Phillocraft Vacuum Table|
|Vacuum Blowers||3 x 3 HP Radial Blowers|
Greg’s dream is simple in concept.
- Get the 3D Digitizing solution from Laser Products to digitally pattern boats.
- Establish a manufacturing system at JPC to mark and cut those digital patterns with a Carlson Design Plotter/Cutter.
- Hit the road!
However, when JPC purchased their Carlson Design Plotter/Cutter and 3D Digitizer, they got more than just “the dream”. They didn’t think they’d get any benefit out of their cutting table until they learned how to 3D Digitize. Once they saw what it could do, Greg realized “it can be cutting jobs from day one paying for everything while I go learn how to 3D CAD.” The Plotter/Cutter offers a lot of advantages for their day-to-day operations:
- Cut high-ply jobs faster than hand cutting.
- Save material with nesting
- Reduce load on key personnel
- Sew faster with straighter lines and clearly marked seams
- Eliminate inventory build up with just-in-time manufacturing
- Save time on pattern markers for hard to cut materials.
“I don’t know how quickly [the Plotter/Cutter] will pay for itself but based on prototyping time, changes, decreasing stress on my head sewer Bev, but, it’s going to be quick. If I land a decent a job or two it will pay for itself this year.”
JPC saved days, not hours on our first cuts with the Plotter/Cutter. “We purchased the Plotter/Cutter for the marine application only, but I am immediately seeing lots of opportunities to cut our high-ply and other existing jobs. I know the laser is going to take a little time to learn, but I’m blown away by how much time this Plotter/Cutter can save immediately.” And while Greg was right, it did take him a little time to cut his first boat cover, it didn’t take THAT much time. He cut his first cover in less than 3 months after automating – mainly because they were so busy taking advantage of the other unexpected advantages of their new Plotter/Cutter system!
Crawl, Walk, Run:
Automating isn’t about solving every patterning, marking, and cutting problem on the first day. Most custom canvas shop owners wear many hats. They’ve spent years teaching themselves to pattern, cut, sew, bill collect, be the accountant, the marketer, head of hiring and firing, and even make coffee! Learning how to digitize and automatically plot/cut a marine cover is no different — it starts with the first job. After purchasing the Carlson Design Plotter/Cutter and 3D Laser Digitizer Greg took the following steps to get started.
- Greg heads to Chicago for a two day 3D Digitizer training session at Laser Products.
- Carlson comes to Elkhart to installs the Plotter/Cutter — we select “first jobs” to plot/cut so the system can starts paying for itself Day 1.
- JPC continuously learns CAD basics using the Carlson Design simple CAD toolbar in Sketchup.
- JPC selects a “first job” to 3D Digitize. They pattern, cut, and sew a Pontoon boat cover.
- Keep going! Digitize 3-5 boats until comfortable. Enjoy saving time, money, material, and increasing opportunity.
Start Saving Day One:
“If I knew what I know now, I would have bought the table in Minneapolis [at the IFAI Expo in 2014] and had it running and paying for itself while I learned how to digitize. It’s definitely going to bring us additional business.” – Greg Haradine, President JPC
For the first job we started simple, cutting rectangles out of .030″ thick urethane to make covers for the electronics pad on a fertilizer spreader. The rectangles were generated using our integrated rectangle maker — easily making the 17″x28″ rectangles nested to fill their table, three wide by nine rectangles long. Urethane is hard to cut by hand — it’s sticky and can only be cut one layer at a time, which is why cutting 100 parts takes an entire 8 hour day by hand. That’s not the case with the Carlson Plotter/Cutter — We cut 27 pieces in 1 minute and 23 seconds and 200 in less than an hour. This Plotter/Cutter just saved 15 hours, eliminated all waste, improved cut quality, and freed up their best person to do ANYTHING else. And that’s just our first cut.
Immediate Results With Sketchup:
The “learning CAD” challenge mentioned earlier refers to Greg wanting to become more familiar with Rhino and Mpanel — the two CAD programs used in conjunction to unfold the 3D Digitized patterns. Learning Rhino CAD isn’t difficult but, like any new skill it takes practice. We think the best way to familiarize yourself with the world of Computer Aided Drawing (CAD) is to start Sketchup and our free Carlson Plugin.
Sketchup is free, easy to learn CAD program that has thousands of training videos and tutorials, and is fun to use! Oh, and did we say free? Regularly used by architects and building planners, Sketchup makes drawing squares, circles, and basic arcs very intuitive. Almost all of the skills learned to operate Sketchup are applicable in Rhino — we find the simplicity of Sketchup makes it less daunting to get started. That’s how Greg was able to start drawing his existing pattern library without any prior CAD or Sketchup experience. He enjoyed it so much he took patterns home the first night of training keep drawing on his own.
Their First Pattern drawn in Sketchup was an end-cap for a piece of industrial equipment. It took around 15 minutes for Greg to draw and nest all the parts for an end cap. We were then able to mark and cut all seventeen of those sets 12 minutes, and 100 sets in 90 minutes. They were sure stack cutting would be faster, but it takes two hours to stack cut 100. Not only is the Plotter/Cutter faster, but we saved them material and freed their operator to work on other projects. Greg said it best:
“So I’m gaining half an hour, plus the other 1.5 hour guy can be doing something else, plus less waste, since there’s no way we can nest [our patterns] that close together.”
Starting Simple: 3D Digitizing
JPC made their first boat cover with their Laser Products 3D Digitizer and Carlson Design Plotter/Cutter system less than three months after their install and training. JPC chose a pontoon boat interior for their first project — making sure the customer wasn’t in a hurry, and could leave their boat while they worked on the cover. Greg estimated this first job took about two weeks and, once paneled and sewn, they had one corner that was “about 3″ or 4″ off”. But Greg concluded, “that’s just learning how to measure. I’ll be practicing on a BBQ grill cover for me and my brother. Then an old Ski Nautic. We’ve learned a lot on our first cover. Once we’ve patterned four or five boats we should be able to knock a whole cover out in 24 hours.” Even though it was their first cover using their new Laser/Carlson system, “Our first cover fit a lot better than the one they made at the factory!”.
“Once we’ve patterned four or five boats we should be able to knock a whole cover out in 24 hours.”
At The Click of a Button:
We like our installs to cover a wide variety of projects. Once JPC discovered how easy it is to draw existing patterns in Sketchup, they started looking for a project to cut our of every material in the shop. Once a job is drawn and nested, it is stored in the computer and can be cut at anytime at the click of a button. This means they have less inventory, shorter lead times, while improving the quality and repeatability of their products.
Below we look at several of the projects we cut on the first two days of the install — look at all the opportunity!
Drawn in Sketchup, we cut two complete sets with near zero waste out of PVC in less than eight minutes. These take a lot of time to draw by hand — it would be hard to find your physical pattern in the amount of time it took us to finish marking and cutting perfect patterns.
They cut covers for an artisan pizza oven by hand — pull patterns, 25 minutes to cut by hand, then each one is marked. We drew the cover parts in Sketchup, nested in Plotmaster, and cut FOUR covers, with marks in 8 minutes and 30 seconds. Now anyone can pull material, select the cover file, and cut a perfect cover.
Collapsible Picnic Blanket
They have several products they produce on a regular basis. This collapsible picnic blanket is a great example of a complex product made simple by Carlson Design automation. The blankets have multiple parts cut out of multiple materials. We were able to cut the fleece and 400D nylon together, saving time and ensuring the two are identical in size. We cut a complete set in thee minutes and eight sets in 25 minutes. That’s FAST.
Versatility: Cutting Heavy Materials
JPC started with cutting carpet, so we can’t neglect to examine how the Plotter/Cutter handles cutting heavier materials. The Plotter/Cutter can cut heavy materials like Linoleum using the carbide drag blade holder. We cut carpet with the steel rotary blade holder by slowing the cut and modifying the cutter lift angle. And for all other materials, including high-ply pattern markers, we can always plot.
Drawing a Pattern Marker
We hope all of these projects have stirred your creative juices. We are excited JPC is automating their simple projects, learning to draw their more complext project, all while working toward “The Dream”. It won’t be long before the dream is their new reality.
Here are a few more “Glamour Shots” of a great installation. Thank you Greg and Bev for making our time in Elkhart a great trip – it definitely won’t be our last.