4 Examples of American Machining Evolution

4 Examples of American Machining Evolution

Although the American machine tool industry is not what it used to be, American engineers continue to design and American workers continued to build metal-cutting equipment. At the Fives Giddings & Lewis plant in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, they’ve been doing so for more than a century — a storied history the company celebrated June 20-22 with an 160th anniversary open house event.

Although the machine tools retain the Giddings & Lewis (G&L) brand, the company has passed through a series of owners over the years. Given its age, and the fact that French fur trappers were the first Europeans to explore the area in the 17th century, it is somehow fitting that the plant’s current owner is Fives (pronounced “feeve”), a 200-plus-year-old, Paris-based industrial conglomerate. Beginning in 1859 as a machine shop serving the increasingly industrialized agricultural sector, G&L began producing engine lathes at its current facility in the late 1890s. Today, this plant occupies 145,000 square feet and specializes in the manufacture of large vertical turning lathes (VTLs) and horizontal boring mills.

From the days of belt-driven manual machines to the 2013 acquisition by Fives and beyond, G&L’s technology and manufacturing operation have evolved to keep pace with the broader industry. A facility tour revealed four examples of this ongoing evolution:

New Strategies

At the time of the open house, the company was implementing a more efficient layout for leaner workflow. Unlike years past, G&L also can work with other Fives business units, such as Cincinnati and Forest-Line. For example, tour guides pointed out that one of the five-axis heads on a G&L machine was originally developed by Forest-Line. G&L representatives also report that Forest-Line’s expertise is informing their first forays into more in-depth automation integration for customers.

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