Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Three Ways Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Can Empower Operators

February 29, 2016 / , , , , , , , , , , ,

As ball and roller bearing manufacturers strive for continuous improvement and optimization within their operations, there is no question that process improvement is a top priority. Leaders know that today’s competitive environment requires them to invest time and resources in finding new tools, technology, and strategies for increasing productivity and reducing waste.

However, managers need to be sure they are not so wrapped up in process improvements that they are neglecting the other half of the continuous improvement equation—people.

As explained in the white paper, Accounting for Operator Inefficiencies in the Metals 2.0 Environment, people affect process. “Mechanical inefficiencies can often be solved with technology, but industry leaders are finding they can no longer ignore the human variables that contribute to productivity,” the paper states. “A lack of skill sets, business knowledge, and employee morale can affect vital areas of an operation, from inventory and parts costs to output and safety.”

When managers fail to focus on their operators, they are likely hurting their processes and, even more so, missing out on a prime opportunity for improvement. According to an article from The Manufacturer, a valued workforce can make the biggest impact on a factory’s efficiency. “Creating an environment where your workforce feels valued and respected results in motivation and loyalty,” the article states. This, it adds, can add up to tangible benefits, including higher output and lower absenteeism.

“Studies have found if employees are engaged, they put in twice as much effort, and will take just two-and-a-half sick days/year instead of six-and-a-half,” the article states. “This involvement leads to staff identifying with the company, its products, and sharing the corporate values.”

Indeed, a growing number of manufacturers are finding employee engagement can be just as critical as skills training when it comes to operator productivity. According to the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization, operators who take ownership of their process or work area can positively affect all aspects of an industrial metal-cutting operation, including quality, productivity, and in the end, the bottom line. “Similarly, when employees feel disconnected, those same business areas can be negatively affected,” the eBook states.

The following are three key ways managers can better engage operators and make them feel valued:

A recent article from the Liquid Planner also encourages managers to be intentional about creating a positive work environment by simply engaging in meaningful in-person conversations. “We’re all human, and most humans respond well to the real thing—in-person communication that says ‘you matter,’” the article states.

Perhaps an article from IndustryWeek states it best: “Most employees don’t need a $10 gas card; they just need to know that they can have an impact, their ideas matter, and they are appreciated.“

Yes, the idea of engaging and empowering employees sounds a bit cliché, especially as technology advances and competition intensifies. However, managers are finding that operators who feel valued are able to bring more value to the business.

In what ways could you better engage your operators?

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

How Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Can Build Strategic Supplier Relationships

January 30, 2016 / , , , , , ,

As ball and roller bearing manufacturers continue to search for new ways to optimize their operations, many are starting to take a fresh look at their supply chain. Instead of simply treating their supplier relationships as a series of business transactions, they are treating them as a valuable part of their business strategy—and with good reason. According to a 2013 Global Supply Chain Survey from PwC, better supply chain efficiency has a measurable impact. In fact, the PwC report found that companies who consider supply chain a strategic asset achieve 70% higher performance.

Define the Relationship
Of course, there are many ways to strategically manage a supply chain. According to an eBook from the LENOX Institute of Technology, a good starting point is to clearly identify and define your current supplier relationships. Paul Ericksen, author of IndustryWeek’s “Next Generation Supply Chain” blog, suggests dividing supplier relationships into four categories:

Position the Relationship
According to Ericksen, managers need to make sure they categorize their suppliers carefully. While it might seem logical to throw suppliers of commodity products in the “basic” category, these types of suppliers can actually be strategic (“approved” or “key”) depending on how critical they are to your operation. “It is important to be highly disciplined such that suppliers are categorized solely based on the potential for negative financial impact that resourcing from them presents, not by the type of products they supply,” Ericksen says.

Once you have identified strategic suppliers, the next step is to position those relationships so that they bring value to your company. A white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology offers a few best practices:

Make it a Win-Win Relationship
Like any relationship, it is important to remember that there are two parties involved. An article from Gallup stresses the benefit of intentional supplier engagement. “Companies must create a different set of conversations that aim to emotionally engage their suppliers and to become a “customer of choice,’” the article states. “Customers of choice gain unique benefits, such as access to the supplier’s best people, access to the resources required to serve account relationships, first access to the supplier’s latest technological advances, more favorable terms, shared risk taking, and priority allocation of resources or production capacity in times of scarcity. Being a supplier’s customer of choice creates a vital strategic advantage.”

Ball and roller bearing leader SKF, for example, engages its suppliers by awarding its top suppliers and then holding an annual SKF Supplier Day to recognize their contributions. As described here, suppliers are recognized based on nine categories.

In the end, the goal is to build a relationship that benefits both you and your suppliers. How can you create more of a win-win relationship with your supply chain?

To read more about the benefits of value-added supplier relationships, including some key areas where suppliers can help, download the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization, or check out the white paper, Managing Your Blade Manufacturer Relationship.

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Why Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Should Consider ISO 9001 Certification

December 30, 2015 / , , , , , ,

With the New Year upon us, everyone is starting to think about goals. For manufacturers focused on continuous improvement and customer service, higher quality is likely at the top of the list. While speed may help you gain new customers, industry leaders know that quality will help you keep them.

As we reported in a previously published blog, many industrial manufacturers are improving their quality by becoming ISO 9001 certified. In fact, the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) found it to be a best practice for several leading industrial metal-cutting organizations.

There are several reasons to consider undergoing ISO 9001 certification. The standard, which was just updated in September 2015, is designed to help companies provide customers with consistent, good quality products and services, which, in turn, often brings business benefits like improved financial performance. According to ISO’s quality management principles, there are seven strong reasons to consider adopting the standard:

Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is that ISO 9001 certification helps companies make quality a formal, measureable process. As reiterated in an article from Quality Digest, registration to ISO 9001 helps establish “a coherent standard by which managers can measure their procedures and streamline processes.”

Mike Baron, vice president of high production metal processor Jet Cutting Service, Inc., has found this to be true. In a case study published by LIT, Baron says that maintaining ISO certification has improved quality in his shop and helped them stay focused on continuous improvement. “If you don’t track it, you can’t measure it, and then you can’t improve upon that,” Baron says.

However, ISO certification isn’t a quick fix nor should it be taken lightly. Like any company-wide initiative, it requires time, money, and strategic planning. The eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization, offers three key considerations ball and roller bearing manufacturers should take into account before undergoing ISO certification:

Is it time for your shop to up its game? Could improved quality be part of the answer? If that’s the case, ISO 9001:2015 is worth consideration. As Baron of Jet Cutting Service has found, formal processes like ISO 9001 certification can help your operation achieve some real, measureable, bottom-line improvements.

For more information on ISO 9001:2015, visit the ISO website here.

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Increase Safety by Getting Back to Basics

November 30, 2015 / , , , , , ,

Nearly every manager recognizes the need for workplace safety and aims to foster a safe environment within their operations. In fact, the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the rate for nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses continues to decline—and has so for the past 12 years.

According to OSHA’s “Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses,” private industry employers reported 54,000 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2014 compared to the prior year. Unfortunately, the manufacturing industry is the exception. OSHA data shows that although the total number of manufacturing cases remains unchanged, the number of cases that required a job transfer or restriction (DJTR) exceeded those that only required days away from work (DAFW). In other words, the majority of all manufacturing cases were serious enough in nature that those workers involved could not return to their job or had job restrictions after the workplace accident.

It is clear that industrial metal-cutting companies need to place a priority on safety—despite the many other priorities today’s high-production environment demands. As a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology points out, ball and roller manufacturers are facing many operational challenges, but safety shouldn’t be pushed to the wayside. Instead, it should be integrated into day-to-day processes. By instituting standard safety procedures, industrial metal-cutting companies can ensure their workforce stays healthy and productive.

To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers improve safety in their daily operations, below are a few strategies to consider:

  1. First, managers must ensure that employees have shared beliefs and values. This is generally achieved and agreed upon during a Safety Excellence Workshop where employees agree about the current status of the workplace and opportunities for improvements and change. For example, the group can agree that they want everyone to go home safe every day and then identify and implement how that goal can be achieved.
  2. The second element of Partner-Centered Safety is focused on the workplace environment. During the Safety Excellence Workshop, employees discuss the challenges they face and then develop a plan to help and support each other during those challenges. This ensures that the best safety decisions are being made in the moment when action is needed.
  3. The third element, also developed in the workshop, happens intrinsically throughout the process. The third element provides cohesion and order for the organization. What Knowles calls “The Bowl,” is essentially a culture of safety where outliers are called out and leaders and managers help everyone understand and maintain the safe culture. This sense of behavior and standards creates an agreed-upon culture that provides cohesion and order for the workplace, and empowers employees to follow and enforce those shared values and action plans created earlier in the workshop.

How does your company promote safety in your daily operations?

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Four Changes Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Can Make to Address the Skills Gap

October 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , , ,

After years of focusing on automation and processes, today’s manufacturers are starting to realize the growing importance of allocating resources to the workforce. According to the U.S. News & World Report, it is estimated that more than half a million skilled manufacturing jobs remain unfilled due to the labor skills gap in the U.S., and that number will likely increase as more Americans age out of the workforce. This shortage in skilled production workers—often referred to as the “skills gap”—is forcing managers to rethink how they spend their time and their money.

As explained in a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, there are two reasons for the growing skills gap. “First, a large number of workers are facing retirement in the coming years, which will have a significant impact on shop floor experience,” the paper states. “In addition, reports state that by 2020, companies will have up to five generations in the workforce at once. This unbalanced level of skill and experience in a metal-cutting operation can have a significant impact on both
quality and productivity.”

Michael Collins, president of MPC Consulting, feels one of the root causes of  today’s workforce challenge is the fact that companies haven’t invested in advanced training, either because they didn’t want to or because they didn’t have the money.  “It has been at least 25 years since the alarm was sounded on skills shortages in manufacturing and the threat of retiring baby boomers,” Collins writes in an article published in IndustryWeek. “Just about everyone who follows manufacturing has known about this problem for a long time. So the question is: Why didn’t we invest in advanced skill training before it became a serious problem?”

Collins goes on to suggest that it’s time for manufacturers to learn from their mistakes and to start making changes. Specifically, he lists four ways manufacturers can acquire the highly skilled workers they need. These include the following:

  1. Invest in training
  2. Recalculate the ROI of training
  3. Stop the pursuit of low-cost labor
  4. Demonstrate that manufacturing jobs are a secure career opportunity

Some industry leaders have already started to make some changes. As we reported here, ball and roller bearing manufacturer Timken Co. is working with Apprenticeship 2000, an apprenticeship partnership located in the Charlotte, NC region, to offer technical career opportunities to high school students and employment after graduation.

Pegasus Manufacturing Inc., a Middletown, CT-based fabricator of tubing and parts for jet engines, is taking advantage of its state’s training and efficiency programs. “Our focus on maintaining the workforce here in Connecticut and adding to it, getting the pipeline out of the technical skills system, making sure we have high caliber folks, is really second to none in the United States and probably worldwide,” Chris DiPentima, the Pegasus CEO, told the Hartford Courant. Since participating in the state-wide programs, Pegasus has added 16 jobs to its payroll in less than a year.

In the end, successfully managing the skills gap will require manufacturing executives to take a hard look at how they are investing in their workforce, whether that means investing money into advanced training programs or investing time into seeking apprenticeship opportunities. Companies that fail to make real, active changes now may find themselves dealing with bigger, bottom-line challenges in the future.

How is your company actively tackling the skills gap?

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Preventative Maintenance of Circular Saws in Ball and Roller Bearing Production

September 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,

In ball and roller bearing manufacturing, circular sawing is just one of many steps in the production process. However, one maintenance hiccup in the middle of a long production run can throw off the entire schedule.

This is why preventative maintenance is so critical. When equipment and tooling is well maintained, it is more reliable, more predictable, and more productive—all of which adds up to a more efficient operation.

For example, a benchmark study from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) revealed that 67 percent of industrial metal-cutting operations that follow all scheduled and planned maintenance on their machines also report that their job completion rate is trending upward year over year—a meaningful correlation. The implication is that less disruptive, unplanned downtime and more anticipated, planned downtime translates into more jobs being completed on time.

Being proactive—not reactive—when it comes to maintaining your manufacturing equipment can bring major benefits to your operation. This is especially true in high-speed, precision metal-cutting applications.

To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers implement an effective preventative maintenance (PM) program for their circular sawing operations, the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) offers the following best practices:

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Solving the Six Common Cutting Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face

August 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , ,

Like most high-production operations, ball and roller bearing manufacturers are running on tight schedules and can’t afford unexpected downtime or tooling issues. This means that every step of the manufacturing process must be optimized, starting with the first operation—circular sawing.

While precision circular sawing may seem like a simple operation, any metal-cutting expert can confirm that proper cutting depends on several variables. As this article from Canadian Metalworking points out, the overall performance of your cutting tool depends on speed, feed, depth of cut, and the material being cut. Knowing how to balance these variables is critical to cutting success.

For example, according to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal-Cutting, increasing the speed of a saw to get more cuts per minute without considering the feed setting or the demands of the material will result in premature blade failure and increased tooling costs. This, in turn, can lead to unplanned downtime for blade change-out, which directly impacts productivity.

Understanding how these different variables affect the cutting process can also help operators quickly and properly resolve any cutting challenges that arise. In many cases, this knowledge can make or break a production schedule.

To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers keep their circular sawing operations running at optimal levels, the LENOX Institute of Technology offers the followings tips for solving six of the most common problems operators may face:

Problem #1: Excessive vibration or noise
Potential solutions:

Problem #2: Crooked cutting
Potential Solutions:

Problem #3: Wavy cutting
Potential Solution:

Problem #4: Chips are too hot or glowing
Potential Solutions:

Problem #5: Poor finish/Excessive stripping
Potential Solutions:

Problem #6: Heavy burr
Potential Solutions:

For more information on optimizing your precision circular sawing operation, including best practices, white papers, and case studies, check out LIT’s resource center here.

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Five Tips for Using Metal Cutting Coolants in Ball and Roller Bearing Production

July 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,

As any machining expert will tell you, coolants are a critical part of the metal-cutting process. While they are an added cost and an added step in the production process, the long-term cost benefits of coolants are worth every dime and every minute spent. This is especially true if your goal is optimization. As an article from Production Machining states, manufacturers should view coolants as an asset or, better yet, a “liquid tool.”

Unfortunately, many managers and operators fail to understand the importance of  proper lubrication during the metal-cutting process. According to Modern Machine Shop, most manufacturers see lubricant as “the least important factor in the total cost of machining and the last place to look for process improvements.” In fact, it is common for companies to often “cheat” on the proper concentration levels of metal-cutting fluids in order to save money. This may reduce coolant costs in the short term, but the high costs of machine wear and tooling replacement make this a poor management choice.

As explained in the white paper, Understanding the Cut: Factors that Affect the Cost of Cutting, coolants provide lubrication, which is essential for long blade life and economical cutting. Properly applied to the shear zone, lubricant substantially reduces heat and produces good chip flow up the face of the tooth. Without lubrication, excessive friction can produce heat; high enough to weld the chip to the tooth. This slows down the cutting action, requires more energy to shear the material, and can cause tooth chipping or stripping, which can destroy the blade.

Like any manufacturing tool, proper use and coolant management is essential if you want to get the most out of your investment. To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers ensure proper lubrication management in their metal-cutting operations, the LENOX Institute of Technology offers the following five tips:

  1. Start with a clean machine. As an article from MoldMaking Technology explains, proper metalworking fluid management starts with the draining, cleaning, and recharging of the machine. When changing coolants for any reason, clean and disinfect thoroughly with a fluid advised by the supplier of the coolant.
  2. A proper fluid mix is key. Extending the life of your fluids and achieving the best fluid performance starts with proper fluid preparation. Metal-cutting fluids need to be mixed a certain way in order for their chemical makeup to be correct. Experts recommend pouring the water into the mixing container first and then stirring the coolant concentrate into the water. One way to remember the proper technique is by the acronym O.I.L. (Oil In Last).
  3. Remove tramp oil to extend fluid life. Waste oils, which come from the machine or surfaces of the raw materials, are often picked up by the metalworking fluid and are referred to as “tramp oils.” Regular removal of tramp oil from the manufacturing process helps improve fluid performance and longevity, air quality, bacterial resistance, corrosion resistance, and tool life. Typical methods for tramp oil removal include regular inspection and the use of skimmers, centrifuges, and coalescers.
  4. Monitor fluids regularly. Measure, with a regular frequency, the concentration and quality of your fluids. Testing tools include refractometers, which can quickly determine the total amount of solubles in a solution, or titration kits, which are more extensive and are used to analyze fluid concentration in metal-cutting fluids contaminated with tramp oils. Tests for PH levels and alkalinity can also be useful,  as pH readings outside the acceptable range indicate a need for machine cleaning, concentration adjustment, or the addition of biocide.
  5. Make coolant checks part of everyday maintenance. Instituting regular coolant checks as part of a preventative maintenance program or daily operator checks can eliminate unnecessary tooling costs and maintenance downtime. Low coolant levels on a band saw, for example, can lead to premature and uneven wear of band wheels, which typically cost $1,000 each.

While coolants may feel like just another cost item on your consumables list, they play an important role in keeping maintenance costs down and cutting tool performance high. By following a few best practices, ball and roller bearing manufacturers can ensure that their metal-cutting coolants are not a necessary evil, but an opportunity to improve process efficiencies.

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

How Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Can Invest in their Workforce

June 30, 2015 / , , , , , , ,

As any successful manager understands, a company is only as good as its employees. Although metal companies have traditionally spent more on equipment than on people, the tide is changing. With a shortage of skilled production workers, manufacturers are finding that it is not only beneficial but necessary to invest in their workforce.

For example, according to results from a 2014 survey from Prime Advantage, a buying group for manufacturing firms, companies stated that while they are growing and looking to hire, finding qualified workers is becoming harder. In fact, survey respondents listed “access to qualified workers” as the top growth barrier for small and mid-sized industrial manufacturers.

Attacking this “skills gap” will require many companies to change the way they train and maintain talent, whether by beefing up training programs or rethinking hiring tactics. Below are a few strategies roller ball and bearing manufacturers can use to fully equip new employees, while also optimizing the skill set of their existing workforce:

Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers

Simple Lean Strategies to Improve Workflow in Ball and Roller Bearing Production

May 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,

For ball and roller bearing manufacturers, the future looks relatively bright. According to Freedonia Group, global demand for bearings is projected to rise 7.3 percent annually through 2018, with ball and roller bearings driving the growth..

However, even with optimistic forecasts, industry leaders can’t afford to rest on their laurels. Market opportunity only intensifies competition, and ball and bearing manufactures are already fighting against imports from lower-cost countries. Staying profitable in a global market requires manufacturers to constantly seek new ways to both differentiate themselves and minimize costs. This means continuous improvement and optimization are critical.

The Workflow Challenge
To remain competitive, today’s industrial manufacturers need to face their greatest operational challenges head on, starting with improving workflow and eliminating bottlenecks. As stated in the latest white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, this is one of the top five challenges ball and roller bearing manufacturers face. Workflow bottlenecks can negatively impact productivity, customer delivery, and ultimately, the bottom line.

Identifying and eliminating bottlenecks is a difficult, but important task for any metal-cutting company striving to be successful. For example, in an article from, Curt Schmidgall, value stream manager at Winegard, describes how the antennae manufacturer struggled to meet market demand. A lean manufacturing exercise revealed the issue: Product testing at the end of Winegard’s manufacturing process was creating a huge bottleneck. By changing when the testing occurred (during the assembly process versus after the product is built), the company more than doubled its output and was able to meet market demand.

Getting Lean
Like Winegard, many companies are using lean manufacturing strategies to reduce bottlenecks and improve workflow. This includes applying the well-known Theory of Constraints, as well as a host of other lean tools. However, don’t get bogged down with the terminology; continuous improvement doesn’t have to be complex to have an impact. While you may not have the extra hours or resources to implement an aggressive lean program, there are some basic strategies managers can use to improve workflow.

In Reliable Plant’s article, “6 Ways to Get Lean in 2015,” three of the six strategies listed are geared specifically toward improving your operation’s workflow. These tactics are good examples of how “lean” can be simple, but effective:

In the end, the pressure to meet customer deadlines can easily take priority in any high-volume manufacturing operation, especially as demand increases. However, manufacturing leaders know that constantly improving their processes and attacking challenges like workflow can make all the difference. By implementing even a few simple lean strategies, ball and roller bearing manufacturers can identify and eliminate bottlenecks, improve productivity, and increase profitability.

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