Newview Oklahoma empowers, and consequently changes, the lives of its workforce – 75% of whom are blind or visually impaired. Incorporated in 1949 as the Oklahoma League for the Blind, the organization creates and sustains meaningful jobs and careers in manufacturing. These jobs play an important role in the restoration of the independence many of its employees feared they had lost. A Laguna Tools SmartShop® II 4 X 8 table is an important part of the jobs and the hope and empowerment they create.
Chief Operating Officer Randy Hearn tells the story of Newview Oklahoma and Laguna Tools. “We employ over 135 people, including 50 in our Oklahoma City manufacturing facility. We’ve produced a diverse group of primarily wooden products throughout our history, such as mop and broom handles and step and extension ladders. We’ve always used conventional woodworking and drill presses. But we wanted to expand our use of technology to engage employees and achieve greater efficiency, productivity and quality. We also want to share the excitement and value of American manufacturing with our employees and use it to help them pursue meaningful jobs and the upward mobility that goes with them. Modern CNC controlled machinery for wood and metal working allows us to pursue both those goals.”
The organization’s first application of CNC machinery was with a milling machine it used to manufacture wooden wheel chocks for the United States Department of Defense. It was quickly discovered that the unit was safer (a concern for any shop, whether its employees are visually impaired or not) and produced both more output and higher quality products. This led to the realization that the faster spindle speeds and open architecture of a CNC router would produce considerable advantages. It also led Hearn to the annual AWFS show in Las Vegas.
“I actually ran across Laguna Tools’ CNC machines while looking for a moulder and saw for a different project,” he recalls. “When I met with Jay Andrews to discuss the equipment I was introduced to Laguna’s CNC line of machines, including the 11HP 4 X 8 we ultimately chose.”
“We’ve used the machine to manufacture plastic cutting boards and make signage, as well as for the wheel chocks,” says Hearn. “We’re still learning about router technology.”
“But the powerful programming capability of the V-Carve software has already opened up a variety of directions we can go with the machinery.”
“These new directions become both highly personal and individual when applied to people such as Adam Higby,” continues Hearn. “Adam is the first Newview Oklahoma graduate of CNC and Precision Machine Skills training at the local Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Adam already had an interest in computers. What’s more, his dad made a career as a construction contractor. So Adam was exposed to woodworking growing up. He uses Zoom Text screen magnification software to program the SmartShop® II. His success has also led the way for others to follow. A second Newview Oklahoma employee is now enrolled to learn programming at Francis Tuttle. In addition, several employees are also training to operate the router. Now our challenge is to develop additional business for the department.”
When asked what’s ahead for the organization, Hearn responds, “We have to expand business opportunities for the router to sustain employment and growth. We understand we must continue to give our customers the highest possible value. We leverage every means available to ensure that we’re competitive, offer quality that exceeds customer expectations and provide timely delivery. It’s obvious that CNC-operated machinery will be a significant part of that initiative. ADA signage and custom woodworking for cabinet finishers and furniture manufacturers all fit perfectly with our mission.” The same can be said about the Laguna Tools SmartShop® II.
• SmartShop® II 4 x 8 CNC Router
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