Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers
April 30, 2015 / best practices, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, industry news, KPIs, lean manufacturing, LIT, operations metrics, Output, performance metrics, productivity, resource allocation, root cause analysis, strategic planning, workflow process
As reported in the 2015 Industrial Metal Cutting Outlook from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT), many manufacturing executives expect 2015 to be a solid year. A survey of executives conducted by Prime Advantage, for example, shows that the vast majority of small and midsized industrial manufacturers anticipate revenues to increase or match 2014. For metals companies, industries such as automotive, commercial construction, and energy are expected to drive growth.
It comes as no surprise, then, that analysts expect growth in the ball and roller bearing segment as well. With the economy poised for recovery, research firm IBISWorld says that demand for downstream markets like automotive will rebound, which will bolster demand for ball bearings. A separate study from Grand View Research echoes these sentiments, forecasting that the global bearings market will reach $117.27 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5% from 2014 to 2020.
Industry leaders, however, seem to have some concerns. In late January, The Timken Company, a bearing manufacturer based in North Canton, OH, said it was viewing its markets “slightly more cautiously than 2014.” Specifically, the company said that “new business wins combined with modest market growth are expected to result in approximately 4% organic growth, but that will largely be offset by the impact of currency.”
Earlier this month, SKF, a global bearing maker based in Sweden, forecast flat second quarter demand for its business. SKF CEO Alrik Danielson said that while there are some positive signs for growth in Europe, they were “not robust enough to merit a more positive outlook,” Reuters reports. He also said there was still a lot of uncertainty about what the market would do in the next quarter.
Using Connectivity to Stay Competitive
The fact is that the last several years have made it difficult for any company to be anything but cautious. However, regardless of where the market lands, the goal for manufacturers should still be continuous improvement. To be competitive, especially on a global scale, companies need to stay focused on efficiency so that they can be agile enough to respond to whatever 2015 brings.
Of course, there are several ways to attack continuous improvement. Traditional lean tools are always effective; however, more and more manufacturers are literally working smarter by using technology. According to the Prime Advantage survey, many industrial manufacturers are leveraging digital tools, additive manufacturing, and other technological advancements to operate more efficiently.
A separate report from manufacturing.net agrees, adding that manufacturers that want to stay competitive in an ever-changing global market cannot underestimate the value of connectivity. According to the article, leading manufacturers started in 2014 to put buzz words like the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), machine to machine (M2M), and “big data” into practice. To be successful in 2015, the manufacturing.net author suggests that the trend needs to continue.
How? The article states that manufacturers need to start by creating a fully connected framework for top asset performance and strategic data analysis. This framework should include three important processes:
- Measure. “The first step, measurement, is critical to asset strategies because every asset in industrial organizations is essential for successful operations,” the article states. “Regular audits and automated measuring allow manufacturers to detect problems early before they become more severe and costly.”
- Monitor. “While measurement is the first step for asset performance management, machines must be continuously monitored for valuable insights,” the article states. “Software tools today identify root cause failure through data analysis and initiate proactive maintenance to protect assets and reduce downtime.”
- Manage. “Asset performance management provides structured processes and analytics to identify critical assets and failure modes, calculate equipment reliability, and determine downtime impacts,” the article states. “Executives and operators need the end-to-end picture of operations to drive impactful change.”
(For a more in-depth explanation of these steps, you can view the full manufacturing.net article here.)
A Year of Improvement?
In the end, the forecast for 2015 is no more certain than any annual forecast. Even the most educated analyst knows that there is no crystal ball to accurately gauge how the market will fare. There are just too many factors at play. However, by regularly measuring, monitoring, and managing your operation’s performance, ball and roller bearing manufacturers can more accurately gauge how their operations will fare.
Will 2015 be the year your operation improved? That is perhaps the only factor today’s manufacturing executives can control.
Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers
March 30, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, blade selection, bottlenecks, circular sawing, continuous improvement, Cost Management, cost per cut, LIT, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality, resource allocation, ROI, strategic planning
Cost is and always will be a top concern for every manufacturer, no matter how great their efficiency efforts. The reality is that everything that happens in a manufacturing operation carries a cost, regardless of whether or not it has a price tag attached to it. This is why so many industry leaders now approach cost strategically. Instead of looking for short-term savings, today’s managers are making cost decisions based on big-picture goals and long-term benefits.
For example, in a high-production metal-cutting environment, it is tempting to run circular saw blades as fast as possible to increase productivity and meet a tight deadline. However, according to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal Cutting, the true value of a saw blade goes far beyond its cutting time or price tag. This is especially true in a high-production operation, where there is no time to constantly change out blades. To get the best return on investment, metal-cutting leaders know that it pays for operators to focus on prolonging blade life. By running blades at proper speed and feed settings, as well as maintaining adequate lubrication during the cutting process, manufacturers can get the most out of their blades and, in turn, save on tooling costs, maintenance costs, and the cost of unexpected downtime.
Like any strategic endeavor, cost management can be used as a competitive advantage. In an article recently published by IndustryWeek, Bill Moore, a senior vice president at ball and roller bearing manufacturer SKF USA Inc., echoes this sentiment and states that executives can use parts and components de-costing programs to make their factories more competitive. When done strategically, Moore says that parts and components de-costing can yield strong results, with measureable improvements seen within 90 days and major savings within 24 to 36 months.
Here are two of Moore’s strategies:
- Quality parts and world-class maintenance matter. According to Moore, one way to save on parts and components spending is to invest in high-quality parts and world-class maintenance practices. As an example, Moore states that a premium bearing that costs 30% more but lasts twice as long can save a plant 50% of its bearing procurement cost. He also suggests transitioning non-critical equipment to the same maintenance standard used for mission-critical equipment. “When the use of superior parts is combined with the implementation of trial-tested maintenance standards, results expand to include reduced machinery downtime, improved productivity, and stronger output,” Moore explains.
- Strategic partnerships are essential. Moore states that factories with a strong record in de-costing often create local customer teams made up of top suppliers. This could include original equipment manufacturers, parts suppliers, distributors, etc. He also suggests seeking expertise from suppliers who can provide a global perspective and international best practices. According to Moore, this type of collaboration should be characteristic of any good, high-quality supplier relationship. “A leading parts supplier should be able to help establish de-costing program goals and benchmarks, including ongoing monitoring of parts and equipment performance,” Moore says. “Trusted suppliers can recommend and, if desired, oversee maintenance best practices.
Moore’s methods suggest that successful cost management in today’s marketplace requires managers to look at cost from a high level before making any decisions. In other words, gone are the days of “quick fixes.” By taking the time to approach cost strategically, ball and roller bearing manufacturers can make improvements that have a long-term—and more importantly, sustainable—impact on the bottom line.
Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers
How Should Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Allocate Resources for their Metal Cutting Operations?
February 28, 2015 / blade selection, circular sawing, Cost Management, employee incentives, Employee Morale, human capital, LIT, maintaining talent, operator training, productivity, quality, resource allocation, skills gap, strategic planning
Today’s cost-sensitive market makes it difficult for managers to gauge how they should strategically allocate resources within their industrial metal-cutting operations. Is it wise to make high-tech capital investments in an uncertain economy, or would manufacturers be better served to invest in their human capital to close the growing skills gap?
These types of questions can be especially challenging in a mature market like ball and roller bearing manufacturing, where seasoned employees may be resistant to change, both in terms of company culture and technology. However, leaders need to be sure they are making strategic decisions that benefit both the company and their employees, and avoiding the trap of making allocation decisions because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.”
To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers discern how to best allocate resources within their operations, below are some resources that discuss some of the trends and strategies today’s manufacturing leaders are using to get ahead in today’s market:
- Be Smart about Getting Smart. The ideology that industry leaders use cutting-edge technology carries some truth, but that doesn’t mean that every manufacturer should go out and invest in the latest high-tech connectivity software. That is, not without at least doing a little research. Check out this article from IndustryWeek, which does a great job of explaining how managers can start to make a business case around “smart” manufacturing investments, including data capture, connectivity, remote control and analytics. In addition, business consultancy ARC Advisory Group has developed a handful of evaluation and selection guides to help industrial manufacturers determine which technologies they should adopt to get the best return on investment.
- Small Upgrades Can Pay Off. Having the right tools for the job is critical in metal-cutting, which means that even a small upgrade in tooling has the potential to make a huge impact. According to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal Cutting, managers should re-evaluate their tooling choices every few years, even if they feel satisfied with current results. While testing new blade technologies can be a time-consuming endeavor, it can certainly pay off if the end result is faster cutting times and lower costs. Recent advancements in tooth geometries, wear-resistant materials, and blade life are providing significant improvements in productivity and quality. For example, the tips of many precision circular saw blades are now made with cermet, a composite material composed of ceramic and metallic materials. These blades can cost more upfront, but they are said to offer longer blade life as well as provide exceptional heat and wear resistance when cutting solid, carbon-based metals.
- Human Capital Counts. While manufacturers have historically invested in machines over people, the looming skills gap is starting to change that. As more baby boomers retire, industry reports like this one from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute have been suggesting that manufacturers focus on investing in their human capital, both in terms of training and recruiting. And according to a recent article from manufacturing.net, companies may also want to consider increasing the wages they pay their employees. The trend, the article states, is moving in that direction. “We have seen an increase in jobs, but not an increase in pay, but that is starting to change,” Traci Fiatte, president of General Staffing at recruiting firm Randstad, tells manufacturing.net. “Even in entry level positions, the salaries are staring to creep up, and that is what you would expect to find when demand is high and supply is low.” Regardless of how managers decide to address the skills gap, the overarching lesson it is teaching the manufacturing industry is clear: human capital counts.
Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers
January 30, 2015 / agility, ball and roller bearings, best practices, blade failure, bottlenecks, circular sawing, Cost Management, customer service, LIT, productivity, quality, ROI, strategic planning, workflow process
The key to customer satisfaction has always been finding a balance between fast turnaround and high quality. Growing demand has made this even more of a challenge for many of today’s ball and roller bearing manufacturers. With the economy poised for recovery thanks to stronger demand from the transportation and industrial manufacturing industries, industry analysts are anticipating increased demand for ball bearings. According to a report from Freedonia Group, global demand for bearings is projected to rise 7.3 percent annually through 2018, with ball and roller bearings registering the fastest gains.
This increase in demand is certainly good news for manufacturers, but it also means that companies need to make sure they remain focused on quality. Speed and agility will always be key attributes of any leading high-production operation, but they cannot come at the expense of accuracy.
To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers ensure quality in their metal-cutting operations, below are a few highlights from the paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal Cutting, written by the LENOX Institute of Technology:
- Think of the long-term cost impact of short-term production gains. Ball and roller bearing production requires high-speed, precision cutting, and pushing machinery too hard can directly impact the quality of a cut and long-term costs. In circular sawing, for example, if an operator increases the speed of the saw to get more cuts per minute without considering the feed setting or the demands of the material, the end result will be premature blade failure. These actions are costly in terms of process flow and equipment. When blades cost several hundred dollars, going through twice as many blades just to get 50 more cuts just isn’t cost effective. In addition, shorter blade life creates more unplanned downtime for blade changes.
- Many industry leaders are also finding that becoming ISO 9001 certified can help them maintain quality standards. The ISO standard is based on a number of quality management principles, including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, and continuous improvement. The basic goal of the standard is to help companies provide customers with consistent, good quality products and services, which, in turn, often brings business benefits like improved financial performance. It most cases, it is used to strengthen an existing quality program by making it a formal, documented procedure.
- Close supplier relationships can also help ball and roller bearing manufacturers improve quality. Many supply chain partners are willing to lend their expertise to help optimize processes and ensure that manufacturers are getting the best possible results out of their equipment and industrial metal-cutting tools. By utilizing value-added services from trusted suppliers and making them more of a partner, managers have another means of improving both quality and productivity. In fact, this is one of the eight key principles on which the quality management system standards of the ISO 9000 series are based.