August 10, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, blade life, blade selection, cost per cut, industry news, LIT, preventative maintenance, productivity
As reported in our recent Metal-Cutting Industry Report on Non-Residential Construction, the use of industrial and structural steel tube and pipe is growing. According to a market tracker from Metal Bulletin Research (MBR), the category is growing at the fastest rate since the recession, mostly due to economic growth and falling oil prices.
“Construction demand for structural tubing is now growing at a steady pace in most regions of the USA,” the MBR report states. “There has been some concern among market participants that the drop in oil prices and the associated hit to the local energy-centered economies would be detrimental to their construction outlook, especially since these were some of the initial drivers of growth in the recovery. So far, construction continues unabated, as contracts, financing and permitting have already been settled.”
Industry players are also optimistic. HGG, a supplier of tube-processing machinery, told MetalForming magazine it expects the category to grow by about 15 percent in North America alone. (You can read the full MetalForming article here.)
This is good news for fabricators that serve the industrial and commercial construction industries or that cut structural tube for other applications. In either case, most shops are working with hollow structural steel (HSS) tube specified to ASTM A500 (the standard specification for cold-formed welded and seamless carbon steel structural tubing in round, square and rectangular shapes). Although most shops wouldn’t categorize HSS as difficult to cut, it does have some unique characteristics operators need to understand to ensure proper cutting.
Unlike solid tubing, which only requires one cut, HSS tube requires the blade to cut through two thin solids with a space in between. These types of cuts—known as interrupted cuts—are best suited for bi-metal band saw blades because they are designed to withstand the vibration. Carbide band saw blades, on the other hand, have strong, durable teeth, but they are not shock resistant. Therefore, bi-metal blades that reduce harmonics are the best choice.
HSS tubes also aren’t ideal for bundle cutting. While cutting tubing in bundles can allow shops to increase the number of parts per shift, it can substantially reduce blade life. In fact, some experts say that any increased part volume efficiency is offset by a 20 to 25 percent reduction in band life.
A recent article from thefabricator.com highlights several other best practices for sawing structural tube. The following are a few of the industry publication’s tips:
- Look for variable clamping pressure. This allows for the vise-clamping pressure to be reduced to prevent deformation of thin-wall tube. The pressure should be enough to hold the tube firmly to ensure it doesn’t move, but not enough to bend it.
- Watch for the weld orientation. Although quality saws will cut a tube regardless of the weld orientation, a fabricator should position the weld at the top or side of the saw entrance, rather than at the bottom, to maximize tool life. (Note: In a bottom-up cutting configuration, the weld should be at the bottom or on the side.)
- Be aware of blade bias. When cutting non-round tubing in a band saw, it is preferable to have a bias on the blade (ie, a canted head). This is valuable for both good cut quality and longer blade life. Having the blade penetrate the material at an angle allows the fabricator to use the most efficient tooth configuration and prevents overloading of the blade gullet. Even a 1- to 3-degree bias will do the trick; a very large bias, however, will add to the overall cut time.
- Pay attention to tooth geometry. Using the correct tooth geometry for a particular application helps to ensure a quality cut, while also prolonging the blade life. Although it is possible to use one type of blade for most structural tube applications, fine-tuning it for longer production runs is worth the additional effort. As a general rule, a fabricator using a band saw wants six to 12 teeth to be exposed to the widest part of the cut.
For more guidelines on cutting HSS tube, including a discussion on circular saw blade options, you can read the full thefabricator.com article here.
August 5, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, blade life, blade selection, cost per cut, industry news, material costs, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality
Over the next few years, experts anticipate growth in the use of high performance alloys or “superalloy” materials such as Inconel and Hastelloy. The high-performance metals, which are known for their outstanding corrosion and high temperature resistance, continue to find uses in aerospace and aircraft applications, and more recently, are expanding into the oil and gas industries.
“Growing corrosion as a cost concern in exploration and production in offshore drilling rigs is expected to propel use of high performance alloys such as superalloys in oil and gas applications,” states one study from Grand View Research, Inc. “Non-ferrous alloys such as nickel and titanium are also expected to witness above average growth due to their high mechanical strength coupled with increased use in aerospace, oil & gas and gas turbine applications,” the study continues. Specifically, Grand View Research forecasts that superalloy demand will experience an annual compound growth rate of more than 3.0 percent from 2014 to 2020.
While there is certainly a science to cutting any metal material, tackling tough-to-cut materials like superalloys can be even more challenging as managers try to balance cutting speed, finish quality, and blade life. However, with the right tools and know-how, service centers can efficiently and cost-effectively handle tough-to-cut materials without compromising quality.
The following are three key tips for service centers that want to cut superalloy materials:
- Use the right blade. Although it is possible to use bi-metal band saw blades to cut superalloys, carbide-tipped blades are typically better suited for the task and offer longer life, faster cutting, and better part finish. As with bi-metal blades, carbide-tipped blades are designed with multi-metal tooth constructions to provide high performance and prolonged blade life. In a carbide blade, the more durable tooth tips are welded to a high-strength alloy backing, enabling it to cut even the toughest metal. While carbide blades are more expensive, they are designed to take more bite and more chip load, which allows for faster cutting and can improve productivity and cost per cut. Aeordyne Alloys, a service center featured here in a LENOX case study, found this to be the case. Working with hard-to-cut metals like Inconel 718 and Hastelloy X, the service center decided to upgrade from bi-metal blades to carbide-tipped blades to get higher performance out of its band saws. By using a carbide blade, Aerodyne was able to tackle the hard, nickel-based alloys, while also improving cutting time on easier to cut materials like stainless steel.
- Coolant is key. There is no question that tougher metals take a toll on blade life, but this issue is even more compounded if operators fail to use coolants. As explained in an article from Canadian Industrial Machinery (CIM), choosing the right coolant, as well as getting the coolant into the cut, will extend blade life and improve cut quality. While some experts suggest highly compounded straight oil coolants for the more difficult tocut metals like superalloys and certain stainless steels, Matt Lacroix, director of marketing, LENOX Industrial Products & Services, says the choice isn’t always that simple. “There’s an inverse relationship between the lubrication and cooling effect of the fluid,” Lacroix tells CIM. “A water-soluble oil or straight oil is good for lubrication, but not as good for cooling. The synthetics and semisynthetics are better for cooling, but offer less lubricity than fluids with a higher oil content.” In the end, Lacroix says selecting the right coolant depends on the application.
- Break in blades. As discussed in a previous blog post, when it comes to band sawing, it always pays to break in blades. This is especially true when getting ready to cut harder materials that quickly wear down band saw blades. A new blade has razor sharp tooth tips, and in order to withstand the cutting pressures used in band sawing, tooth tips should be honed to form a micro-fine radius. Failure to perform this honing will cause microscopic damage to the tips of the teeth, resulting in reduced blade life and poor-quality cuts. When done correctly, performing this simple task can extend blade life by up to 30 percent.
July 30, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, blade life, Cost Management, cost per cut, LIT, preventative maintenance, resource allocation, ROI
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
July 10, 2015 / blade failure, blade life, blade selection, Cost Management, cost per cut, LIT, productivity, resource allocation, ROI
Most operations managers understand the importance of keeping productivity high and costs low. However, many managers fail to understand that in many cases, spending more in the short term is necessary to achieve the long-term goal of productivity.
This concept is especially true when it comes to metal-cutting tools. Because tools are consumables that need to be purchased and replaced often, it is tempting for managers to focus more on upfront cost. But as the following examples will explain, this strategy does not always offer the best return on investment.
At an event held earlier this year, Jacob Harpaz, CEO of Ingersoll Cutting Tools, explained why managers need to look beyond the price tag when investing in a new tool. According to Harpaz, featured here in Modern Machine Shop, a cutting tool can deliver improvement in three ways:
- Lower price
- Longer tool life
- Greater productivity
Although all three can be beneficial, Harpaz says choosing a tool with greater productivity will always offer the most lucrative return. Here’s why: For a representative machined part, Harpaz estimates that the cost of machinery represents 26 percent of the cost of machining a part; overhead represents 21 percent of the unit cost of machining; and labor and raw material account for 28 and 22 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the cost of cutting tools accounts for just 3 percent.
The implications of this are significant, according to Harpaz. Using the above estimates, dropping the price of the tool by 20 percent would only deliver a 0.6-percent unit cost reduction. The seemingly even greater change of increasing the life of the tool by a factor of 2 would still only save 1.5 percent. However, increasing productivity would increase the number of pieces the shop can produce in the same period of time, which means the labor cost, overhead cost, and machinery cost per piece would all decrease. Increasing productivity by 20 percent, thus, produces a savings of 15 percent overall, providing the greatest savings opportunity.
Benefits of Upgrading
With the above in mind, managers that want to get the best return out of their tooling need to remain open about investing in upgrades and new technologies In saw blades, advancements in tooth geometry and wear-resistant materials are providing significant improvements for many metal-cutting operations. This article from Canadian Industrial Machinery, for example, explains why the additional cost of a coating on a band saw or circular saw blade can be worth the investment, especially when cutting a challenging material or when higher performance is needed.
There is no question that high-performance blades will cost more. However, because they are able to cut faster and with more accuracy, they improve productivity and save money in the long run. O’Neal Steel, a Birmingham, Alabama-based fabricator featured in a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, found that incurring a significant upfront expense to upgrade some of its blade was worth it. Before the upgrade, O’Neal was spending about $90 per blade, but the fabricator was only getting one day’s worth of cutting. “We had a fair margin, but we were constantly messing up material,” explains Jim Davis, corporate operations services manager. “Most people think it’s costing a lot of money in blades to switch. Well, that’s true, but when you’re cutting really tight tolerances, your blade’s going bad and the material lengths are off, you can add up money really fast and lose all your profits in just an hour or two if you have blade issues.”
For another job in its Knoxville, TN, location, O’Neal was only getting two days of cutting per blade, so they were going through three blades a week. Again, Davis upgraded from a blade costing $280 to one that was $40 more, and immediately his blade-life increased to seven days.. He estimates that in the long run O’Neal saved $600 a week, or an annual total of around $30,000. “That’s a radical change, about a 3:1 ratio on the life of a blade,” said Davis.
The Deciding Factors
Of course, not every upgrade will be worth the cost. The key is for managers to weigh the opportunity cost against the hard cost, considering the true benefits a new tool can offer and whether or not it will contribute positively to the bottom line. To do this effectively, managers need to work closely with their tooling partners to discuss the pros and cons of the different metal-cutting options, while also evaluating all of the factors that contribute to the cost of the cutting process. If the long-term benefit is there, managers need to be sure they aren’t being shortsighted by the price tag. As fabricators like O’Neal are finding, the upfront investment may offer higher productivity, as well as substantial bottom-line savings.
April 1, 2015 / agility, best practices, blade failure, Cost Management, human capital, industry news, KPIs, LIT, operations metrics, performance metrics, predictive management, preventative maintenance, productivity, skills gap, strategic planning, value-added services
Like most manufacturers, industrial metal-cutting companies went into 2015 with both optimism and caution. While all signs seem to be pointing to a full economic recovery, concerns surrounding an unstable political landscape, foreign markets, and pricing continue to keep many metals companies on their toes.
Some Growth Ahead
As we enter the second quarter of 2015, most experts anticipate growth in the metals industry. Early predictions painted a positive picture for the year, and recent reports are confirming that the industry will, at the very least, see slight improvements over 2014.
According to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI), industrial production increased at a 3.8% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2014 and posted 3.6% growth for the year as whole—over a percentage point higher than the 2.4% gain in the overall economy. The manufacturing outlook for 2015 and 2016 calls for a minor acceleration from the 2014 growth rate. According to the MAPI Foundation’s most recent U.S. Industrial Outlook, manufacturing production is forecast to grow by 3.7% in 2015 and 3.6% in 2016.
MAPI’s outlook also predicts that 21 out of 23 industries will show gains in 2015. This includes growth in metals industries such as iron and steel products (5%), alumina and aluminum production and processing (7%), and fabricated metal products (3%). The top industry performer will be housing starts, which is expected to increase by 16%.
Forecasts for steel demand are also positive, but growth rates will not be as strong as they were in 2014. According to the Short Range Outlook 2014-2015 from the World Steel Association (worldsteel), U.S. steel demand is expected to increase by 1.9% in 2015—much lower than the 6% growth the U.S. experienced in 2014. Globally, worldsteel forecasts that global apparent steel use will increase by 2.0% this year. This is a downward revision from previous forecasts, due to a slowdown in emerging economies like China.
“Recoveries in the EU, United States and Japan are expected to be stronger than previously thought, but not strong enough to offset the slowdown in the emerging economies,” stated Hans Jürgen Kerkhof, chairman of worldsteel’s Economics Committee. “In 2015, we expect steel demand growth in developed economies to moderate, while we project growth in the emerging and developing economies to pick up.”
Concerns and Challenges
Buying into the positive forecasts, most metals manufacturers expect business to improve this year. According to an annual survey of metals executives by American Metal Market (AMM), 42% of respondents expect the economy to turn around in 2015 and 67% expected business to improve overall, mostly due to growth in the auto and energy sectors.
However, AMM reports that respondents did have some reservations. Political events, cheap imports, and foreign markets were all causes for concern, as well as uncertainty about “where important industry segments like construction might be headed,” AMM states in its survey report.
In his State of the Industry address earlier this year, Robert Weidner, president and CEO of the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI), listed several trends that will affect the metals industry in 2015 and beyond. Below are the five challenges he outlined, as reported by thefabricator.com (You can read the full coverage here.):
- Market Intelligence – Volatile markets and increasing competition have heightened the need for trustworthy data and analysis tools, as well as the need for cybersecurity resources and training to secure market intelligence.
- Business Disruption – World events have an even bigger impact on local economies than before, creating a need for topic- and area-specific experts and information and enhanced vehicles and technology to provide information.
- Congressional Gridlock – U.S. partisan politics have stalled action in the legislative branch, often resulting in extreme actions through regulators that have impeded manufacturing growth.
- Safety and Risk Management – Slow market growth has left companies cautious to invest.
- Skilled Labor and Changing Demographics – Attracting a skilled workforce remains a challenge for the industry.
With both forecasts and anticipated challenges in mind, industrial metal-cutting companies can strategically approach the market from both a business and operational standpoint. In fact, as we reported here, it is critical for today’s managers to develop operational short-term plans that are effective in achieving the overall strategy set forth in the business plan. For instance, if the goal is continuous improvement, then make sure your metrics, your daily practices, and communication with your team all point to that overall strategy.
As a global company serving the industrial metal-cutting industry, we at LENOX Tools have a unique vantage point of what is happening in the marketplace. We have watched some metal companies barely survive, while others have found ways to thrive. The difference, in most instances, seems to be the company’s commitment to making improvements. Whether investing in new equipment to improve cutting time and quality or investing in training to improve and empower their human capital, industry leaders are continuing to focus on making positive changes on the shop floor so they can be ready to respond to changing customer demands. In other words, the only way to offset external uncertainties is to focus on making internal improvements.
Based on industry trends and our own experience, LENOX sees the following as key strategies for industrial metal-cutting companies that want to be successful in today’s marketplace:
- Invest in Operators and Training. In light of the manufacturing industry’s ongoing skills gap, experts like MSCI’s Weidner are stressing the importance of employee safety and ongoing training as a means of attracting and maintaining workers. In addition, LIT’s benchmark survey of industrial metal-cutting companies provides evidence that investing in areas like training can provide additional benefits, including better quality, faster on-time customer delivery, higher revenue per operator, and lower rework costs.
- Embrace Proactive Care and Maintenance. No matter how efficient an operation, some machine downtime is inevitable. The key is to be proactive and minimize it as much as possible. This includes practices such as breaking in blades and regular coolant checks. By adhering to a preventative maintenance schedule, managers can actually anticipate maintenance bottlenecks and turn “interruptive downtime” into “predictive downtime.”
- Form Strategic Supplier Relationships. Whether you need help with training, gathering metrics, or de-costing, help is likely no further than your closest supplier. And if that’s not the case, you may want to rethink your supply chain. By utilizing value-added services from trusted suppliers and making them more of a partner than simply a supplier, metal-cutting companies can improve quality and productivity—both of which impact the bottom line.
- Seek New Opportunities. Market trends such on re-shoring and an automotive boom could translate into new opportunities for your metal-cutting company. Are there value-added processes you can add to your operation to stay competitive? Are there previous customers that could now benefit from the convenience and cost benefits of your U.S. manufacturing base? Is there new equipment or tooling that could help you better serve a certain customer base? Asking critical questions such as these may reveal new prospects for growth. Start brainstorming.
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.
February 20, 2015 / blade failure, blade selection, circular sawing, continuous improvement, Cost Management, cost per cut, customer delivery, LIT, Output, productivity, quality, resource allocation, ROI, workflow process
When it comes to circular sawing, productivity is always the goal, especially as demand increases. However, industry leaders understand that productivity isn’t about going as fast as possible. In fact, speed can be detrimental to cutting tool life—a fact that not only negatively affects your bottom line, but can also decrease your overall productivity.
The real goal for today’s machine shops should be optimization. This requires operations managers to adopt strategies that allow their shops to achieve the highest possible cutting performance without sacrificing tool life.
As this article from Canadian Metalworking points out, the overall performance of your cutting tool depends on a variety of factors, including speed, feed, depth of cut, and the material being cut. The ability to balance all of these variables is critical for companies that want to be productive and stay competitive in today’s challenging environment.
To help machine shops optimize their precision circular sawing operations, the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) created a series of charts that describes some common cutting challenges operators face. For example, here are some tips and tricks operators can use to prolong blade life and keep cutting operations running at peak efficiency levels:
Another critical aspect of optimization is making sure you have the right blade for the job. Advancements in tooth geometries, wear-resistant materials, and blade life can offer significant improvements in productivity and quality that can contribute to the bottom line. In the spirit of continuous improvement, managers should re-evaluate their circular saw blade choices every few years, even if they feel satisfied with current results. Testing new blades and technologies can be a time-consuming endeavor, but if the end result is faster cutting times and lower costs, it can certainly pay off.
The key is for machine shops to run the right tools at the right parameters—an approach that is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice. However, by combining operational tricks and strategic investments, many of today’s shops are finding their “sweet spot” and striking a balancing between cutting speed, quality, and cost. In today’s competitive and growing marketplace, industry leaders understand that optimization can mean the difference between “getting by” and getting ahead.
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.
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.
January 5, 2015 / best practices, blade failure, Cost Management, cost per cut, Employee Morale, LIT, productivity, quality, resource allocation, ROI, Safety, strategic planning
If your metal service center is doing its part to ensure proper coolant management, then you are fully aware that it is not as simple as it seems. From choosing the right coolant to proper fluid prep and monitoring, getting the most out of your metal-cutting fluids takes time and effort, but it is well worth the investment.
Cut quality, productivity, and cost savings are all major reasons your service center should continue to make coolant management a priority. Case in point: As this white paper explains, low coolant levels on a band saw can lead to premature and uneven wear of band wheels, which can cost $1,000 each. Poor fluid management can have negative effects on circular saws as well, causing blade problems such as excessive edge chipping and tooth damage. (You can read more about that here.)
Really, any informed manager can typically accept the ROI argument for most areas of coolant management, except maybe when it comes to disposal. In today’s environmentally conscious world, coolant waste disposal can get expensive (up to $0.50 a gallon), and if you are a larger service center, this adds up fast.
For this reason alone, more and more manufacturers are investing in in-house coolant recycling. Some experts claim that coolant recycling can cut coolant waste disposal costs by up to 90 percent, and according to an archived article from Manufacturing Engineering magazine, tool life can also be significantly extended—from 25 percent up to 209 percent—with effective coolant recycling equipment.
In a recent article from Canadian Metalworking, Tom Tripepi, technical director for the fluid filtration division of PRAB, discusses some of the advantages of in-house coolant recycling. Below are a few highlights from the article:
- Some coolants are easier to recycle than others. “The tighter the emulsion, the easier it is to filter out the impurities without affecting the coolant,” Tripepi states in the article.
- Consider getting a coolant recycling system with an automatic proportionating system. This feature will tell you when coolant levels drop and if it is the correct concentration. “That process itself can probably save 10 to 20 percent in new coolant purchases, just because it’s giving you control over how you’re mixing your coolant,” Tripepi says.
- Smaller shops can benefit from coolant recycling, too. “We’ve got shops where we’ve sold recycling stations that have as few as four machines,” Tripepi tells Canadian Metalworking. “A typical machine shop that is looking at recycling their coolant will probably have somewhere between 15 and 20 machines, and from there on up to the larger shops with 80 to 100 machines or more.”
- There are benefits to coolant recycling that go beyond cost. These include health benefits such as improved air quality and a common skin condition called dermatitis. “Not all operators wear gloves, and they will be pulling parts in and out of a machine,” Tripepi notes. “By eliminating the bacteria, you can eliminate the dermatitis.”
To read about some metal-cutting companies that have reaped the benefits of coolant recycling, check out these case studies. SME also offers technical papers that discuss more recycling best practices as well as a review of the different types of recycling technologies.
December 15, 2014 / benchmarking, best practices, blade failure, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, Cost Management, lean manufacturing, LIT, performance metrics, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality, resource allocation, strategic planning, workflow process
While process and workflow bottlenecks are a common challenge for any manufacturing operation, it can be especially challenging for high production metal-cutting companies. The fast pace and constant volume can tempt operators and managers to focus on speed before quality, which often leads to failures in equipment and blades, costly mistakes, and a decrease in overall productivity.
This is why process control is critical. When production requirements increase, it is imperative that systems are in place to keep quality consistent and, even more so, make it easy to identify and correct any mistakes or maintenance issues that create bottlenecks.
There are several strategies high production metal-cutting organizations can implement to keep processes under control and production moving. The following are a few best practices used by high production metal-cutting leaders:
- Measure. While smart planning can be a helpful strategy for smaller, low-mix manufacturers, this isn’t always a feasible option for high-production metal cutting operations. However, managers still need to have processes in place to ensure that deadlines are met. Jett Cutting Service, Inc., a metal-cutting service center featured in a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology, knows this first hand. Orders are constantly changing at the Bedford Park, IL-based company, which runs 10 precision circular saws and 8 band saws and averages about 700,000 cuts a month. Because of this, Mike Baron, vice president, says he can’t rely on accurate forecasting to provide a buffer when bottlenecks occur. To combat this, Baron relies on daily measurement to not only monitor production, but to keep tabs on his operators and costs. Operators are required to track how many pieces they cut on their shifts, and if their totals are lower or higher than the goal set by Baron, it is addressed immediately.“Supervisors are responsible for approving their operators’ job tickets daily so they can tell immediately if someone is struggling,” Baron says. If operators, for example, are cutting more than the expected goal, Baron knows they are pushing the machine too hard, which can lead to blade failure and increased tooling costs. On the other hand, if operators are falling behind production goals, Baron says he may need to make sure that the forecasted rates are achievable. “We do the math and just keep a running total to see that things are in check,” he explains.
- Prevent. Maintenance downtime is perhaps one of the biggest bottlenecks managers face. Equipment and tooling failures immediately slow production and can be a huge added cost. One strategy for controlling maintenance costs and equipment downtime is to implement a preventative maintenance (PM) program. In fact, a recent benchmark study confirmed that preventative maintenance is a best practice among many of today’s leading industrial metal-cutting companies. By adhering to a preventative maintenance schedule, managers can actually anticipate maintenance bottlenecks and turn “interruptive downtime” into “predictive downtime.”As stated in an article by consultant William Worsham, the key to executing a successful PM program is scheduling. According to Worsham, scheduling should be automated to the maximum extent possible. He suggests that managers implement “a very aggressive program to monitor the schedule and ensure that the work is completed according to schedule.” This means both documentation and accountability are critical.
- Organize. Managers also need to realize that some bottlenecks aren’t immediately obvious and can be hidden in issues such as a poor workflow on the shop floor. Strategic equipment placement and organized workspaces are key elements of high productivity and optimized workflow. Many companies rely heavily on the lean manufacturing tool referred to as “5S,” which not only helps get your shop floor organized but also ensures it stays that way. As described here, the five pillars of 5S are to Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain the cycle. This methodology results in continuous improvement and helps keep workflow efficient.If a complete reorganization like 5S is too overwhelming, managers can focus on organizing just one area of their operation. For example, Cd’A Metals, a metal service center featured recently in Modern Metals magazine, decided that workers were wasting too much time digging for inventory, and, therefore decided to upgrade and customize its storage and retrieval system. However, instead of making a huge capital investment, the metals company is reconfiguring a SpaceSaver rack system purchased in 1992. You can read the entire MM article here.