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Southwest Fabricators needs fast response... and gets it from Shercon. Southwest Fabricators needs fast response... and gets it from Shercon.

Southwest Fabricators manufactures steel enclosures and chassis for several industries, where absolute quality and reliability are critical. When they were tasked with the production of a new steel enclosure cabinet that protected sensitive wireless communications electronics in outdoor settings, they didn't have time for lengthy rounds of design/prototype/refinement. "We needed a fair number of die cut masks for this cabinet, which is a considerably larger than a side by side refrigerator," said Carl Tepel, Southwest Fabricators' Buyer. “The sizes range small to considerably large, the majority being custom.”

Shercon gets the call

Because of a prior working relationship, Tepel contacted Shercon about the project. Within 48 hours of the initial call, Shercon's Tom Diaz was on his way to Southwest's factory site with a prototype set of masks. Said Tepel of the quick turnaround: "We showed him what needed to be done and he did it." Diaz recalled getting alterations made to the prototypes in two more days, and getting what amounted to a "production" mask set to Southwest within the space of one week. "We got the mask kit going pretty quickly" Diaz said. "They never had to hand mask a single cabinet. And we managed to keep up with them as they quickly ramped from 25 cabinets a week to 100. There were times that we had to turnaround masking kits very quickly, but we managed." Tepel's feelings about about Shercon's turnarounds are succinct. "Shercon always does whatever it takes to keep us out of trouble."

A masking set.. with a difference

While die cut masks often are shipped in rolls, Shercon took a different route with Southwest's masking kit. "We created a kit which contained all 25 die cuts on a single, poster-sized piece of material," said Jim Rodriguez, Design Engineer. "It's like a huge decal sheet for a model airplane." Integrated masking kits benefit users, especially in complex masking situations like Southwest's steel enclosure, where 25 separate masks must be installed on every cabinet. With Shercon's masking kit, operators are less likely to forget a mask – they can quickly check the kit before sending the steel enclosure down the production line. "The masking kit is a good concept," said Rodriguez. "It's an excellent example of looking for ways to improve our customers' productivity beyond simply creating masks." Southwest Fabricator's Tepel agreed. "If we have to pull an enclosure off the line because somebody forgot a mask, it's a problem. The rejected unit takes up a lot of space on the floor and creates bottlenecks, and you don't want either of those when you've got products to get out the door."

Quality demands quality

While many think that masks are simply masks, and the only real difference is the shape, Diaz disagrees. "Southwest required very fine paint lines and dimensional stability. We could have cut the price by recommending a less-expensive tape for the masks, but to do the job the way they wanted it done, we needed stable, high-quality tape." In several cases, large cutouts and access panel areas had to be masked, and internal pressures created during the powder process could have resulted in blow-outs among masks with average-quality adhesives. "Any mask failure would have been a big problem for Southwest given how quickly they produce these enclosures" said Diaz. "We weren't going to let that happen."

The service difference

While Shercon's masking kit has been a hit, the real success story lies with Shercon's rapid turnarounds on prototypes and production quantities. Tepel had a lot to say about this aspect. "Tom Diaz knows how to make things work" he said. "He can show up at our site, look at our operation, explore the application, and solve our masking problems in a way that improves our process." Explaining the basis for his seven-year relationship with Shercon, Tepel was clear. "It's Shercon's service that attracts me most. I can always get someone on the phone, and if I need masks right away, they get them to me. Otherwise, we'd have a production bottleneck, and Shercon doesn't let that happen." Keith Ennis, Shercon CEO, is always happy to hear that kind of customer feedback. "We try hard to help our customers succeed – and not just by supplying high quality masks. If we can improve their productivity in any way, then we've done our jobs."



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