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blade selection

Metal Cutting Experts Discuss What it Takes to Stay Competitive

August 28, 2014 / , , , , , , , , , ,


With this year’s International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) just wrapping up, investment decisions about production equipment and technology are at the forefront of just about every manager’s mind. While unstable market conditions make it tempting for companies to keep their dollars close, demands for faster delivery and a shortage of skilled workers are making it hard for most metal-cutting companies to keep up without some capital investments.

For many companies, those investments will be in equipment and tooling. According to the 2014 Metalworking Capital Spending Survey by Gardner Research, U.S. metalworking facilities will spend $7.442 billion, an increase of almost 19%, on new metal-cutting equipment in 2015. The same report forecasts that tool sales will be at their highest level in more than a decade.

Another report from market researcher IBIS states that “private investment in metalworking machinery has been improving and demand has been steady.” IBIS also predicts continued growth over the next few years due to renewed demand from machine shops and an upturn in automobile sales.

Meanwhile, experts are saying that managers need to start spending more time and money on their human capital. As this white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) discusses, today’s metalworking executives need to optimize every aspect of their operation. While it is easy to rely heavily on equipment and tooling to improve efficiency, more and more companies are finding that it is just as important to account for—and correct—the human variables that can contribute to productivity. This could include everything from working with colleges to secure new talent to instituting ongoing training and incentive programs.

To help companies get a bigger picture perspective on where they should put their money, LIT asked two industry experts to share their thoughts on industry trends, the benefits of technology, and what they think it will take for metal-cutting companies to stay competitive. Read as Don Armstrong, national accounts manager at Marvel Manufacturing Company, Inc., and Rick Arcaro, vice president of Sales & Marketing at Hydmech, weigh in.

What technology advancements have helped metal-cutting companies address the challenges they face in today’s marketplace?

Armstrong: I think the problem of how to increase productivity without adding personnel has been greatly helped by the amount of automation that is available in today’s machine tools. In addition, the advances in cutting tools have given our customers the ability to process more product with fewer machines. The concern over the availability of skilled workers has been offset to some extent by user-friendly controls, preprogrammed settings, and the ability to network machines.

Arcaro: New machines and blades have improved productivity and lowered cost per cut, and simple controllers have allowed companies to hire a lower skill level of operator to run them. Machines that are simple to maintain with the availability of parts off-the-shelf when needed have also helped customers get parts out the door faster with lower processing costs.

How have these advancements contributed to the bottom line?

Armstrong: The highest cost for any business is generally people, i.e. salaries and benefits, so whenever you can increase productivity without increasing your workforce, the bottom line will benefit.

Arcaro: Companies that have adopted continuous improvement management have reduced processing bottlenecks, kept their operations and workers as efficient as possible, while lowering operation costs and increasing the bottom line.

What is one up-and-coming advancement that industrial metal-cutting companies should know about or should consider as today’s market evolves?

Armstrong: I think a trend that metal-cutting companies should keep an eye on is the increasing use of composites and other materials in areas where metal was once used.  This trend has been most noticeable in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Arcaro: Service centers need to continue to invest in value-added processing. Several factors are fueling investment in new equipment today: automation and computerized controls that make the latest machinery much more efficient, productive, easy to service, and user friendly. Companies should also look for machines and technologies that will extend tool life and reduce tool-change downtime.

What practical tip would you give an industrial metal-cutting company trying to compete in today’s marketplace?

Armstrong: I would advise them to build on their most valuable asset, their employees, by emphasizing training and ongoing education. I would encourage employees at all levels to get to know their customers in order to better understand their needs and help provide solutions for them. And, finally, I would remind them to look beyond traditional manufacturing processes for new ways to apply the knowledge that they have gained in metal cutting.

Arcaro: Knowing your place and position in the market is key. Trying to be good at everything is impossible—be great and profitable at something.

blade selection

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 selection

Metal Cutting Tips and Tricks for Fabricators

July 10, 2014 / , , , , , , , ,


At first glance, achieving the perfect cut may feel like a minor detail to a high-production fabricator. With a host of other operations taking place, a simple process like band-saw cutting may seem like a small fish in a sea of looming operational challenges.

However, as the industry continues to adopt the principles of lean manufacturing more and more managers are realizing that even the smallest details can have a huge impact on an operation. From shop organization to preventative maintenance checks, every improvement—and managing every bottleneck—has a bottom-line implication.

This requires today’s fabricators to focus on improving individual processes like metal-cutting, not only for the small productivity gains they can achieve, but also for the benefits it could offer down the line. Case in point: Straight cuts are necessary for a proper weld. When cuts aren’t straight, welders have to fill gaps with filler or welding wire, both of which can affect the overall quality of the part. Or, in a worse-case scenario, the metal might have to be completely scrapped—a huge waste of time, material, and, of course, money.

On the other hand, if the right equipment and metal-cutting procedures were used, the cutting and welding aspects of the operation would be optimized, costs would be controlled, and time would be saved. 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 fabricators 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 selection

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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