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blade failure

Why Fabricators Should Consider Minimum Quantity Lubrication

December 10, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , , , ,


There is no question that coolants should be considered a critical part of your metal-cutting operations. They save you maintenance time, improve cut quality, and extend tooling life. However, not all lubricating options are created equally. As this blog post describes, managers have a wide range of fluid options available to them. And while coolant selection may seem like a small detail, it should be treated like any other operational purchase, with both strategy and cost in mind.

One coolant choice that many fabricators overlook is Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL). This alternative option sprays a very small quantity of lubricant precisely on the cutting surface, eliminating any cutting fluid waste. In fact, many consider it a near-dry process, as less than 2 percent of the fluid adheres to the chips.

MQL is great for smaller saws and for structural applications, both of which are popular in fabrication shops. This type of coolant application is most commonly used in precision circular saw operations, but it can also be used in band sawing as well.

Below are just a few of the key benefits to using MQL over traditional flood coolants:

Managers need to be aware, however, that MQL application is a more sensitive process than flood cooling. Mist must be aimed precisely at the tool to be effective. Fluid selection, equipment, and material type also play key roles in proper MQL application. For a full description of what is needed to use MQL, including equipment and fluid types, download The MQL Handbook. This helpful resource also offers some “rules of thumb” and other important tips to consider before transitioning to MQL.

As stated in the handbook, changing over to MQL is not as simple as just plugging in a lubrication system. It will require some research, upfront investment, and some training. However, it can offer significant advantages to your business, your employees, and the environment—three major reasons to at least consider using it in your fabricating and metal-cutting operations.

blade failure

Tips for Using Metal Cutting Fluids in Machine Shops

November 20, 2014 / , , , , , , ,


As any maintenance manager can attest, coolants are a critical part of any metal-cutting  operation. They save you maintenance time, improve cut quality, and extend tooling life. They also save you money. For example, according to this white paper, low coolant levels on a band saw can lead to premature and uneven wear of band wheels, which typically cost a whopping $1,000 each. By instituting regular coolant checks as part of a preventative maintenance program or daily operator checks, managers can eliminate unnecessary tooling costs, as well as the time needed to replace the band wheel.

However, understanding the purpose of metal-cutting fluids and actually knowing how to properly use them are two different things. Like any other tool used in your shop, getting the most out of your metal-cutting coolant requires some know-how. Below are some tips to ensure you are properly using metal-cutting fluids in your machine shop:

blade failure

Proper Use of Metal Cutting Fluids in Forging Operations

October 25, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , ,


As discussed in a previous blog post, too many metalworking companies fail to understand the importance of metal-cutting fluids. While they are an added cost and an added step in the forging process, the long-term cost benefits of coolants are worth every dime and every minute spent.

For example, a common misstep among operations managers is to “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 this white paper explains, low coolant levels on a band saw can lead to premature and uneven wear of band wheels, which typically cost a whopping $1,000 each. In addition, early tooling replacement turns productive cutting time into maintenance downtime. This quickly snowballs into lost output, slow delivery, and potential quality issues.

Of course, knowing the importance of using metal-cutting fluids and actually knowing how to properly use them are two different things. Below are some tips to ensure you are properly using metal-cutting fluids in your forging operation:

 

blade failure

Three Low Cost Ways Fabricators Can Improve Output

October 15, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Reports continue to show that U.S. manufacturing is on the upswing. According to the latest data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), manufacturing continued to expand in October, and new orders posted growth for the 17th consecutive month. The Fabricated Metal Products sector in particular reported growth in October, with one ISM survey respondent stating that “weakness in commodity prices has been very positive”  for business.

All of this good news means that fabricators have a prime opportunity for growth and increased profitability. However, because many companies are already running lean, managers will need to get creative with how they meet increased demand, especially if they can’t afford huge capital expenditures.

Looking for ways to do more with less? Below are three key ways fabricators can increase manufacturing output without breaking the bank:

  1. Identify Trouble Spots. Take an assessment of the factory floor to find machinery that’s either close to failure or not producing as expected.
  2. Estimate your savings. Once you fully understand the impact of the old equipment on your floor, run some calculations.
  3. Find your MacGyvers. Seek out specialists who’ve been handling specific types of equipment for years and see what creative ideas they have to boost efficiency.
  4. Set bounties for difficult challenges. Track each efficiency experiment to get a sense of what may be possible. Then, set bigger targets and attach a bounty to encourage friendly competition among experts.
  5. Raise the stakes. Engage everyone by creating factory-wide incentives for when targets are met.

blade failure

Five Tips for Achieving the Perfect Cut in Machine Shops

August 20, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


In the busy production environment of a machine shop, achieving the perfect cut is key to maintaining quality and productivity. Premature blade failure and excess scrap caused by operator error or equipment misuse can create quality issues, bottlenecks, and increased costs. In other words, it pays to get it right.

The LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) knows what it takes to get the best cut out of your operators and the best “cost per cut” out of your blades. The following are few tips and tricks machine shops can use to optimize their band-saw cutting operations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more metal-cutting tips and tricks, you can download the complete white paper, Understanding the Cut: Factors that Affect the Cost of Cutting, here.

blade failure

Getting Machine Shop Operators Involved in Preventative Maintenance

July 20, 2014 / , , , , , , , , ,


Most machine shops understand the benefits of implementing a preventative maintenance (PM) program. They can improve efficiency, enhance safety, reduce costs, and save time. In fact, a recent benchmark study confirmed that preventative maintenance is a best practice among many of today’s leading industrial metal-cutting companies.

The problem is that maintenance departments are typically busy putting out fires, which pushes anything “preventative” to the side. Why take the time to stop a potential problem when there are enough real problems happening right now? So while a machine shop may have a PM program in place, it isn’t always followed, which completely eliminates most of the benefits preventative maintenance can offer.

This is where a team-centered approach can help. In today’s lean manufacturing world, most continuous improvement initiatives need to be a team effort if they are going to be sustainable, and PM programs are no exception. One way to do this is to get operators involved in the day-to-day maintenance of your equipment. This tactic not only empowers shop-floor employees and encourages communication, for many companies, it is the only way they can feasibly adhere to their PM schedule.

TPM: A Lean Team PM Tool
To create a more team-centric PM program, a growing number of companies are using a lean tool called Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). According to leanproduction.com, TPM “blurs the distinction between the roles of production and maintenance by placing a strong emphasis on empowering operators to help maintain their equipment.” The goal of a TPM program is to create a shared responsibility for equipment maintenance to maximize the operational efficiency of equipment. Many companies have found this approach to be very effective in increasing up time, reducing cycle times, and eliminating defects.

What does this look like on the shop floor? TPM uses a set of eight techniques or “pillars” for improving equipment reliability. The first pillar, for example, gives operators the responsibility of routine maintenance (i.e., cleaning, lubricating, and inspection). This not only keeps a machine running better on a daily basis, it helps operators have a better understanding of their operation. With a simple checklist, operators can enhance their knowledge base and positively affect performance on the shop floor. (You can read about the other seven pillars of TPM here.)

Put it in Writing: Daily Operator PM Checklist
Even if you don’t decide to implement a complete TPM program, daily operator checks are still a great option. These will vary based on your equipment needs, but the goal is to create a checklist that is simple and straight forward. Daily PM checks should take an operator less than 10 minutes and should be performed regularly (i.e., the start of each shift). Programs can be as detailed as a company feels is necessary, but the following are some key checkpoints outlined in a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology:

Again, this is just a starting point. Managers should work closely with their blade and equipment manufacturers to create their daily PM programs. No one knows your equipment needs better than the ones who made it. In addition, many suppliers also provide complimentary annual or bi-annual PM check-ups, which can provide more in-depth equipment diagnostics and take some responsibility of your stressed maintenance department.

Operator Input Pays
If you still aren’t sold on making PM a team effort, a recent article from IndustryWeek does a good job of reinforcing why it is worth the effort to involve all employees in continuous improvement activities. Using an all-to-familiar scenario, the article points out that the root cause of one shop’s productivity issues is a lack of equipment maintenance—something that could be solved with a strong PM program. The real nugget, however, is when the article points to an even deeper issue at far too many companies and that is management’s total disregard for operator input.

In the end, the benefits of getting operators involved in preventative maintenance are pretty hard to argue. Managers get the typical benefits of a solid PM program (i.e., reduced costs, increased blade and tooling life, and improved productivity), as well as the additional benefits of fewer errors, better cross communication, a more knowledgeable team, and valuable, shop floor insight.

blade failure

Benchmark Survey Helps Industrial Metal Cutting Companies Hit the Mark

July 15, 2014 / , , , , , , , ,


In today’s challenging operating environment, it is critical that managers stay on top of industry trends. Benchmarking what your peers are doing, the latest strategies they are using, and even the pain points they are facing can help you gauge your company’s competitive edge. In fact, management consultancy McGladery, which has strong experience in the manufacturing and industrial arena, says the use of benchmarking is on the rise as companies look to offset the effects of the uncertain economy by reducing costs and improving effectiveness.

In Fall 2013, the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) conducted a Benchmark Survey of Industrial Metal-Cutting Organizations to identify key trends happening in industrial metal-cutting – especially among Fabricators, Forges, Machine Shops, and Metal Service Centers. The study surveyed more than 100 companies within this group and collected information on productivity, scrap rates, training programs, safety, and other operational issues.

The survey revealed that there are three pain points today’s industrial metal-cutting companies continue to face, despite industry efforts to improve operational effectiveness. These challenges included machine downtime (35%), blade failure (27%), and operator errors (15%).

The key findings, however, identified how leading industrial metal-cutting companies are addressing these challenges. Based on LIT’s survey results, there are three strategies industry leaders are using to not only tackle their top pain points but, even more so, to optimize their operations. These include the following:

For more information about the results found in LIT’s Benchmark Survey and to download a complete copy of the report, visit the LENOX Industrial Metal Cutting Resource Center.

blade failure

Long Term Solutions for Improving Cut Quality in Metal Fabrication

June 10, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


When quality hiccups or bottlenecks occur, the first instinct is to blame the machine. A quick blade replacement or tooling adjustment is the go-to response, and in the short-term, the problem is addressed. Production continues, and the order is eventually filled.

However, industrial metal-cutting leaders know that quick fixes are not doing anyone any favors, especially when quality is involved. Fabricators with high quality standards need to be sure that all areas of their cutting operation are optimized; otherwise, their costs are going to go through the roof. For instance, an operator that doesn’t understand the proper speed setting for a specific type of metal might end up going through a half a dozen blades to maintain a square cut, when the job should have only required two blades.

The harsh reality is that today’s customers are demanding tighter tolerances and higher quality without the added cost. While it is tempting to make knee-jerk responses to meet tight timetables, fabricators that want to remain competitive need to focus on long-term solutions to improve cut quality. Really, you can’t afford to do it any other way.

With the right strategies in place, maintaining premium cut quality doesn’t have to cost a premium. Here are a few to consider:

blade failure

Metal Cutting Tips and Tricks for Forges

May 25, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , , , ,


As any industrial metal-cutting leader knows, optimization is not only about high-level thinking and strategy. In a manufacturing environment, it often starts with having the right tools for the job.

In band saw cutting, for example, proper blade selection is key to optimizing cut times, cut quality, and blade life. This is especially true when cutting tougher metals like super alloys, and it is even more critical when cutting forged materials, which require aggressive blades that can get underneath any scale buildup. While a low-cost blade may get the job done, the “right” blade should be efficient, effective, and reliable. It should help keep tooling and maintenance costs under control, quality high, and production flowing.

In some cases, optimization may mean upgrading tooling and equipment. For example, one metal-cutting company featured in a white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) found that switching from a bi-metal to a carbide-tipped band saw blade provided a substantial improvement in productivity. With the bi-metal blades, the company was having difficulties cutting stainless steel and was missing productivity goals. However, after switching to the carbide-tipped blade, the company reduced cut times by one half and doubled blade life. While the short-term cost of the newer blades was higher, the long-term productivity benefits made it a worthwhile investment.

However, new tooling isn’t always the answer. As this IndustryWeek article explains, a common misconception among managers is that getting “leaner” requires investment. “Lean is not about spending money,” the article states. In fact, the IW author says that “proper lean mindset first looks to avoid spending the capital in the first place.”

While it is fundamentally important to have the right tool for the job, proper utilization of the tool is just as important. In fact, it could help save you money. If you are a forge that cuts and processes metal, here are a few tips and tricks we gathered to help you optimize your cutting operations:

For more cutting tips and tricks, you can download the complete white paper, Understanding the Cut: Factors that Affect the Cost of Cutting, here.

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