There’s no magic path to success in the fabrication business. But it does take a plan. In 1994, when owner Chris Curtis took over Elkhart, Indiana-based RC Industries, it was just a basic fabrication shop that wasn’t doing very well. Under his leadership, the company has experienced double digit revenue growth nearly every year since.
Making the finest truck mounted storage is the company’s main focus. “Our custom toolboxes are the best value in the industry,” Chris said. RC is also known for its heavy-duty custom front and rear bumpers, and they do a brisk business in made-to-order fabrications as well.
RC Industries has 160 employees on three shifts with very low employee turnover. Several people have been there for over 25 years. Thanks in part to that loyalty and experience, they have a 99% on-time delivery rate.
Finding a Fabrication Equipment Partner
As the business grew, Chris and his crew wanted fabrication machines that were as tough as they are, and a company with the same passion for customer service that they have. There were a few CINCINNATI machines on the floor when Chris bought the company, and he has built the business on them ever since. He likes the fact that they are robust machines with heavy frames built to withstand the rigors of the production environment.
The company now owns one mechanical shear, six press brakes, four lasers and one automation system with a tower—all CINCINNATI. The company’s oldest CI machine was made in 1953 and the newest in 2018. Chris spells out the reason: “I don’t have to worry about the equipment,” he says. “Nothing is made like a CINCINNATI.”
Changing with the Times
Another reason for the company’s success is a continuous evolution. Whether it is a working pickup, a firetruck or an emergency response vehicle, the trend is to build storage out of lighter materials for better fuel economy. The need for customization has also increased dramatically, with any combination of shelving, slide-out drawers and compartments you can think of. RC Industries strongly believes in leveraging technology to meet these demands. Their willingness to adapt and change has made them a nimble and valuable partner to customers. This agility also makes them very difficult to compete with.
A perfect example of this is the company’s latest acquisitions from CINCINNATI. In 2018, they purchased a CL-900 Fiber Laser System with a MARCH (Multi Axis Rapid CINCINNATI Handling) 360 System with the optional tower.
“The CL-900 has been a game changer for us,” said Chris. “It’s a vast improvement over our old CO2laser and really determines the pace of the shop.” Automating the material handling with the MARCH system has also had a huge impact on the company’s throughput. “It offers amazingly fast cycle times and I like the fact that it is expandable for both material size and material storage so it can grow with us.” Chris says the combination has bumped the company’s capacity by 35 – 40% and created new opportunities.
For example, the shop can now cut aluminum tread plate tread up. “CINCINNATI modified the cups on the MARCH automation system so it can pick the plates up. Many offerings from other machine builders are cookie cutter. They don't want to do specials. CINCINNATI will modify their machine to make it work for you.”
In 2018, the company also added a robotic integrated bending solution (RIBS 3) cell from ACIETA, consisting of a PROFORM+ press brake combined with a FANUC robot for automated forming. What used to be two-man job is now a one-robot job. The cell can perform staged bending (multiple tooling setups along the bed), which is perfect for making truck mounted toolboxes and panel work.
Tech Has Changed the Business
RC Industries’ 2018 upgrades resulted in the biggest cap ex spend in the history of company, but Chris says it was worth every penny. “Our customers are delighted, we’ve increased capacity, made the manufacturing process safer and were able to reassign our labor force into higher tech jobs such as nesting, robot programming and high-tech maintenance.”
Chris says the company’s relationship with CINCINNATI is key to its success. “They are good people to deal with and have values that match our own,” he says. “They keep their word, don’t overpromise, have a strong history of service and support and are always willing to modify their products to meet the customer’s needs.”
In closing, Chris said, “Made in USA is a big part of our brand. We try to always buy domestically. It can be difficult, but a quality partner like CINCINNATI makes it a lot easier.”