August 25, 2016 / benchmarking, best practices, blade failure, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, LIT, operator training, Output, performance metrics, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality
Any manufacturing executive tracking industry trends will no doubt run across terms like “big data,” “cloud computing,” and the “Internet of Things.” In fact, according to the results of a survey from Deloitte and the Council on Competitiveness, these types of advanced technologies have the power to put the U.S. back on the map as the most competitive manufacturing nation.
“CEOs say advanced manufacturing technologies are key to unlocking future competitiveness,” the report summary states. “As the digital and physical worlds converge within manufacturing, executives indicate the path to manufacturing competitiveness is through advanced technologies, ranking predictive analytics, Internet-of-Things (IoT), both smart products and smart factories via Industry 4.0, as well as advanced materials as critical to future competitiveness.”
As a forging executive, however, the question becomes: How does this technology apply to my operation? Or to put it another way: How do these “buzz words” play out on the shop floor?
One technology application, featured here in Forging magazine, gives a good indication of what cloud-computing and connectivity could look like in a metal-cutting operation. Specifically, the article features a cloud-based bandsaw monitoring system that offers three key features:
- Blade Life Assessment. Monitoring and alert notification of a saw blade’s remaining useful life. The technology will provide advance notice of required saw blade replacement.
- Increased Machine Efficiency & Machine Life. The technology provides real-time analysis of individual components and overall machine health status. It can send notifications of abnormal conditions from motors and bearings. It also alerts on frequent consumable items like hydraulic and cutting fluid.
- Increased Operational Efficiency. The technology can provide production reports to aid in identifying best practices and training needs. An advanced monitoring and notification system alerts the operation when machine maintenance is needed which aids efficiency in the scheduling of planned events.
These are no small benefits. In fact, they fall right in line with two of the strategies listed in the Benchmark Study of Industrial Metal-Cutting Organizations from the LENOX Institute of Technology. According to findings from the study, forges and other industrial metal-cutting organizations can gain additional productivity on the shop floor by investing in smarter, more predictive operations management approaches and by taking a more proactive approach to equipment and blade maintenance. By using cloud-based monitoring to track blade life and machine health status, managers can do just that by anticipating downtime, which, as the study states, “translates into more jobs completed on time.”
Of course, bandsaw monitoring is just one possible application. As we reported here in our annual forging industry forecast, controls and sensors are also being developed and implemented to monitor the forging process in a bid to automatically sense and compensate for any variation in the process. This type of consistency not only boosts efficiency, but could have some major quality benefits as well.
An article from IndustryWeek provides a few more application examples. The article describes how three leading companies are using advanced technologies to connect just about everything and anything—video cameras to monitor workflow process, safety helmets to track employees, and end products to predict reliability—all of which shows that the potential applications are only as limited as a manufacturer’s creativity.
What possible applications could cloud-based monitoring and other advanced technologies have in your forging operation?
August 15, 2016 / benchmarking, best practices, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, KPI, lean manufacturing, performance metrics, productivity, quality, supplier relationships, value-added services, workflow process
As part of the push toward continuous improvement, more and more industrial metal-cutting companies are measuring overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). This is definitely a good trend, as measurement is the first step in making quantifiable change. However, some companies have jumped on the OEE bandwagon without being fully informed, which can cause a lot of misunderstanding and misuse of this important metric.
Knowing what OEE is—and what it isn’t—is the only way to make sure you are using it effectively. The following is a quick primer.
What is OEE?
According to leanproduction.com, OEE is a best practices metric that measures the percentage of production time that is truly productive. It takes into account all six types of loss, resulting in a measure of productive manufacturing time.
In simple terms, OEE can be described as the ratio of fully productive time to planned production time. According to leanproduction.com, it can be measured in one of two ways:
(Good Pieces x Ideal Cycle Time) / Planned Production Time
Availability x Performance x Quality
(You can find a more detailed description of the calculation here, as well as a sample calculation.)
A plant with an OEE score of 100 percent has achieved perfect production—high quality parts as fast as possible, with zero down time. While that’s ideal, it’s not quite possible in the real world. According to oee.com, studies show that the average OEE rate among manufacturing plants is 60 percent, which leaves substantial room for improvement. Most experts agree that an OEE rate of 85 percent or better is considered “world class,” and many companies use that number as a long-term goal for their operations.
Managers can use OEE as both a benchmark and baseline. Specifically, leanproduction.com says it can be used to “compare the performance of a given production asset to industry standards, to similar in-house assets, or to results for different shifts working on the same asset.” It can also be used as a baseline “to track progress over time in eliminating waste from a given production asset.”
How to Use—and not Use—OEE
It’s important to note that OEE is not necessarily a useful metric for every manufacturing operation. “Measuring OEE only makes sense if you are trying to meet a certain demand on a daily basis,” explains Paul Bryant, senior OPEX manager, LENOX Tools. “If you have a problem with yield, then I would definitely suggest OEE.
“If you have a problem with inconsistent production output and/or downtime on a piece of manufacturing equipment, OEE is a great way to measure and identify how to where to improve your operations,” Bryant continues. However, for smaller metal-cutting operations that are more custom and low volume, Bryant says OEE probably isn’t worth measuring.
Bryant also says that a lot of shops use OEE incorrectly. Specifically, he says there are two common ways metal-cutting operations misuse the metric:
- Too Focused on the Benchmark. “Everyone knows that world-class OEE is 85%, but too many people get hung up on that number and how their shop compares to it. When I look at OEE, the number doesn’t mean much to me. I look at three components—availability, performance, and quality—and then break them apart and look for opportunities. That is the true essence of OEE: To find opportunities that help keep your machine and production system optimal.”
- Too Focused on the Operator. “Another misuse is that people use OEE to measure the operator. OEE is used to measure equipment. If you run into an issue with the metric, look at the machine first. There are so many variables, don’t always assume it is the operator. Once you’ve evaluated the machine, look at the material and then the operator last.”
An article from IndustryWeek (IW) adds that OEE should be used as an improvement measure, not a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). It also states that it is best used on a single piece of equipment or synchronized line.
Finally, if your shop is ready to start measuring OEE but doesn’t know where to start, enlist the help of some key suppliers. As stated in the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Company, many companies don’t possess all of the knowledge, resources, or infrastructure necessary to do in-depth measurement. This is where a willing supply partner can help. In today’s competitive market, there are plenty of equipment and tooling suppliers that are willing to share their knowledge and experience as a free, value-added service.
A Helpful Tool
There is no question that OEE can be misused and misunderstood, but as the IW article reiterates, it is not a “bad metric.” When calculated and applied correctly, OEE can be a very useful tool to help industrial metal-cutting companies quantify and uncover new improvement opportunities.
June 5, 2016 / benchmarking, best practices, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, Cost Management, lean manufacturing, LIT, operations metrics, Output, performance metrics, predictive management, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality, strategic planning, workflow process
Manufacturers know that downtime results in lost productivity and profits. However, thanks to technological advancements in predictive maintenance, service centers and other industrial metal-cutting companies can nearly eliminate downtime altogether.
Unlike preventative maintenance, which uses anticipated and planned downtime to prevent unplanned breakdowns and minimize cost impacts, predictive maintenance aims to predict breakdowns before they even occur. Software and sensors collect data, and algorithms identify not only the anticipated failure, but also calculate the probable time that failure will occur. This enables companies to repair or replace parts before failure and helps eliminate both planned and unplanned downtime.
Several industries are adopting predictive maintenance as part of their operations. An article from the Harvard Business Review provides a few examples:
- Airlines can now predict mechanical failures in advance and can reduce flight delays or cancellations based on data sources such as maintenance history and flight route information.
- The oil and gas industry can use real-time data to predict the failure of electric submersible pumps used to extract crude oil.
- Banks can use sensor data to predict the failure of an ATM cash withdrawal transaction.
The manufacturing industry is also adopting predictive maintenance, but research shows it is doing so at a slower rate compared to others. For example, a recent survey by the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association and LNS Research concluded that manufacturers have some work to do to catch up to current capabilities—only 14 percent of survey respondents said they used manufacturing data in their analytic program.
Of course, building a predictive maintenance program requires both time and money, but many manufacturers are finding that the benefits outweigh the cost. An article from American Metals Market lists just a few of the many potential benefits of using predictive maintenance:
- Reassurance of safe, continued plant operation
- Improved operating efficiencies
- Reduced lost production
- Reduced cost of maintenance
- Less likelihood of secondary damage to equipment
- Reduced inventory of spare parts
- Extension of the life of plant and mill equipment
- Improved product quality
According to the AMM article, several metals leaders are reaping the rewards of predictive maintenance, including:
- U.S. Steel Corp. uses machinery diagnostic services for oil analysis, vibration analysis, electrical thermographic analysis and more to keep its operations up and running.
- ArcelorMittal is using thermal imaging cameras to ensure proper operation of its production plants, saying it improves efficiency, safety, and helps avoid breakdowns and minimizes downtime.
The trend is also starting to gain traction in industrial metal cutting. The LENOX Institute of Technology’s benchmark study of more than 100 metal service centers and other industrial metal-cutting organizations found that companies are gaining additional productivity and efficiency on the shop floor by “investing in smarter, more predictive and more agile operations management approaches.”
While there is no question that predictive maintenance is proving beneficial in the metals industry and beyond, some companies may be hesitant to adopt the technology due to the investment and the training required for implementation. However, if your goal is to reduce downtime and increase the chances of future success, this may be one technology worth considering.
For more information on predictive maintenance, check out this overview article, which lists common tools and techniques, as well as a video.
May 30, 2016 / best practices, blade failure, blade life, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, Cost Management, cost per cut, LIT, operator training, preventative maintenance, root cause analysis
For any metal-cutting operation, bottlenecks are the enemy. Whether caused by machine error, tooling failure, user error, or some other maintenance issue, the end result is typically the same—increased downtime, rework, and scrap, all of which eat into the bottom line. And for a high-production operation like ball and roller bearing manufacturing, a hiccup in early sawing operations can quickly wreak havoc on the entire production process and schedule.
Although circular sawing may seem like a simple operation, there are number of variables that play a role in achieving consistent, quality cuts while also getting the most out of each saw blade. As an archived article from Fabricating & Metalworking explains, “Saws are very much like the people who use them: they don’t react well to heat, shock, abrasion, stress, and tension.” Far too often, managers and operators ignore these critical factors and, as a result, experience premature blade failure and end up going through far more blades than necessary.
Proper cutting speeds, feed rates, blade tension, and lubrication all tie into blade life—a factor any blade buyer knows is critical when it comes to cost.
“Precision circular saw blades can be upwards of $200 a piece, so you don’t want to just go through those,” Mike Baron, vice president of Jett Cutting, says in a case study published by the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT). “If I am getting 100 pieces an hour at this setting, but push it up to get 150, I may be going through twice as many blades. It just isn’t cost effective.”
Glen Sliwa, maintenance manager at metal service center A.M. Castle & Co, also focuses on blade life to better manage costs. In addition to following a strict preventative maintenance program to save on tooling and equipment costs, Sliwa says it is just as critical to ensure operators know how to optimize blade life. This includes training operators to follow manufacturer suggested cutting parameters, as well as closely tracking tolerance requirements so blades can be reused whenever possible.
“We’re looking at how many pieces that we can get off that blade and then stand perpendicular to the part,” Sliwa explains. “If you have to stay within ten-thousandths or five-thousandths on the cut, and that blade is no good, I can take it off that machine and put it on another one and I can cut an eighth of an inch, 125 thousandths. So I’m still getting more blade life out of it, but it’s not interfering with that customer’s specifications.”
To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers extend the life of their circular saw blades, the below chart offers a few troubleshooting tips from LIT’s reference guide, “Tips and Tricks to Optimize Your Precision Circular Sawing Operation.” By understanding some common blade issues and their root causes, operators can reduce premature blade failure and, in turn, improve your operation’s overall productivity and save on tooling costs.
For more downloadable information on optimizing your company’s precision circular sawing operation, you can visit LIT’s resource page here.
February 10, 2016 / benchmark study, bottlenecks, KPIs, LIT, operations metrics, performance metrics, preventative maintenance, quality, workflow process
Manufacturing leaders know that measurement is the only way to truly gauge how their operations are performing and, more importantly, identify areas that need improvement. However, many companies fail to realize that metrics can be applied to every area of an organization, not just production.
One area that can greatly benefit from measurement is maintenance. A strong maintenance department keeps equipment up and running, which directly impacts production schedules and costs. As an article from Reliable Plant points out, maintenance should be treated just like any other business area.
“You must make good decisions that add value,” the article states. “This means you need input and lots of it. Making decisions based on gut feelings just doesn’t cut it these days. Key performance indicators (KPIs) can provide the input you need to help meet this lofty objective.”
Where Do You Start?
As we covered in a previously published blog, the challenge for many metal fabricators is knowing which metrics to measure, especially in niche areas like maintenance. Not all KPIs are created equally, and the goal should be quality—not quantity—when it comes to metrics of any kind.
According to Lifetime Reliability Solutions (LRS) Consultants, maintenance KPIs should reflect achievement and progress in meeting an agreed maintenance benchmark. “In measuring maintenance performance we are concerned not only with doing good maintenance work, we are also concerned that the maintenance work we do successfully removes risk of failure from our plant and equipment,” LRS advises on its website.
The consulting firm suggests that maintenance managers use a mix of lagging indicators and leading indicators so they have an understanding of what is happening to the risk and performance of their operational assets through maintenance efforts. “Lagging indicators use historic data to build a performance trend line,” LRS writes, while leading indicators use historic data to monitor if an operation is doing those activities that are known to produce good results. A good example of a lagging indicator related to machine health is Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), whereas a leading indicator in maintenance might be the percentage of condition inspection work orders performed when they fall due.
In general, LRS suggests maintenance managers consider using KPIs within the following six categories:
- Maintenance Delivery (e.g., Proportion of Work Orders Performed when First Scheduled)
- Maintenance Work Quality (e.g., Number of Rework Work Orders)
- Equipment Reliability (e.g., Asset mean time between failures)
- Operational Risk Reduction (e.g., Number of Equipment Improvement Work Orders Completed)
- Maintenance Resource Usage (e.g., Proportion of Work Orders Started at the Time Scheduled to Start)
- Maintenance Costs (e.g., Maintenance Cost Component of Unit Cost of Production)
Why Do Maintenance KPIs Matter?
Like any other business area, maintenance performance can directly impact the bottom line. For example, if maintenance personnel fail to follow a shop’s preventative maintenance (PM) schedule, a host of problems can arise, ranging from lower quality cuts to unplanned machine downtime. As confirmed by a recent benchmarking study of fabricators and other industrial metal-cutting companies, maintenance tasks like PM can impact job completion rates, blade life, and material costs.
With the right KPIs in place, maintenance managers can make sure that maintenance performance is up to par, as well as play a key role in ensuring that the shop as a whole operates as optimally as possible.
How are you measuring maintenance performance at your fabrication shop?
February 5, 2016 / best practices, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, Cost Management, LIT, productivity, resource allocation, ROI, strategic planning, workflow process
Many technologies have helped advance the manufacturing industry to where it stands today. From the Industrial Revolution in the late 17th Century and Ford’s assembly line for its Model T to robotic automation and the Industrial Internet of Things, new applications and advanced software solutions enable the manufacturing industry to adapt. One such technology—the industrial vending machine—is currently helping the industrial metal cutting industry adapt as well.
Industrial vending machines are based on the traditional machines you know and love, but instead of providing a quick snack, they distribute metal cutting parts, tools, and other consumable supplies (e.g., safety gloves, goggles, metal-cutting blades). The key benefit is streamlined inventory control—the machines keep track of the person or department requesting the part and the time and frequency of requests, in addition to monitoring inventory levels. This can eliminate the need for storage rooms or tool “cribs,” as well as the necessary staff needed to manage them.
With metal cutting companies facing diverse economic conditions and shifting shipment levels, industrial vending machines can help service centers increase operational efficiency and productivity. As reported in this white paper by the LENOX Institute of Technology, resource allocation and efficiency are top operating challenges for metal service centers. Industrial vending machines can help resolve both, while also saving costs.
Below are a few benefits of industrial vending:
- Automate ordering, receiving, stocking, and maintaining inventory
- High inventory visibility (i.e., reduce stock-outs and obsolete inventory)
- Reduce consumption, hoarding, and theft
- Control employee and department spending
- Improve job costing, inventory forecasting, and demand planning
- Reduce operator travel time and other non-value added activities
- Access control by item, department, employee, job, machine, etc.
Several metal-cutting companies are already reaping the rewards of what industrial vending can bring first-hand. The following are just two examples:
- CNC Manufacturing increased productivity and decreased tool inventory by installing industry vending machines at its shop in Coatesville, PA, according to a case study. The precision part maker not only reduced tool inventory by 80 percent but also eliminated costly manufacturing redundancies, which ultimately improved efficiency.Before CNC installed vending units, the company was working in a disorganized shop, had challenges meeting rigid delivery dates, and was fighting a constant battle to keep parts in stock and on hand. After installing vending units, CNC’s tool usage was completely controlled, which helped free-up money to invest in new machine technology and additional operators.
- Transfer Tool Products experienced a 15-percent decrease in overall tooling inventory after installing industrial vending machines at its shop in Grand Haven, Mich. According to Modern Machine Shop, the Grand Haven, MI-based company, which makes metal precision parts, needed a way to organize and manage its tools and supplies to ensure efficient production.Previous to installing the industrial vending machines, Transfer Tool had no way to track what employee took what part and why they did so. Now, however, the company can track tools but also, and more importantly, track patterns that can identify employee training issues or efficiency bottlenecks with the vending machines. For instance, the vending system saw one worker continually ordered gloves. When asked why, the company realized the worker thought he needed to replace his gloves daily and were able to provide additional training.
As service centers and other manufacturing operations look to save money and improve efficiency, industrial vending machines are quickly gaining popularity. While they have been more common in larger manufacturing operations over the last few years, smaller shops and service centers are starting to realize that automated inventory control is a fairly simple way to eliminate paperwork, save floor space, streamline purchasing, improve workflow, and, ultimately, save costs.
Could industrial vending machines be an option for your metal service center?
January 25, 2016 / best practices, blade failure, blade life, blade selection, bottlenecks, cost per cut, operator training, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality, root cause analysis, workflow process
For any metal-cutting operation, blade life is critical. Premature blade failure not only results in increased tooling costs, it can also increase downtime, rework, and scrap—all of which eat into the bottom line.
For forges that cut and process metal, however, blade life is even more crucial. The scale that forms on forged metal pieces can quickly deteriorate blade life, which makes blade selection extremely important. In most cases, forges require aggressive bandsaw blades with varied tooth geometries that can get underneath any scale buildup (i.e., carbide-tipped blades).
While choosing the right blade is a good start, blade life also relies on a variety of other variables, including proper cutting speeds, feed rates, blade tension, lubrication, and break-in procedures. As an article form Fabricating & Metalworking explains, “Saws are very much like the people who use them: they don’t react well to heat, shock, abrasion, stress, and tension.” Far too often, managers and operators ignore these critical factors and, as a result, experience premature blade failure and end up going through far more blades than necessary.
To help forges extend the life of their band saw blades, below are a few troubleshooting tips from the reference guide, “User Error or Machine Error?”, from the LENOX Institute of Technology. By understanding some common blade issues and their root causes, operators can reduce and, hopefully, eliminate premature blade failure.
Issue #1: Heavy Even Wear On Tips and Corners Of Teeth
The wear on teeth is smooth across the tips and the corners of set teeth have become rounded.
- Improper break-in procedure
- Excessive band speed for the type of material being cut. This generates a high tooth tip temperature resulting in accelerated tooth wear.
- Low feed rate causes teeth to rub instead of penetrate. This is most common on work hardened materials such as stainless and tool steels.
- Hard materials being cut such as “Flame Cut Edge” or abrasive materials such as ” Fiber Reinforced Composites”
- Insufficient sawing fluid due to inadequate supply, improper ratio, and/or improper application
Issue #2: Wear On Both Sides Of Teeth
The side of teeth on both sides of band have heavy wear markings.
- Broken, worn or missing back-up guides allowing teeth to contact side guides
- Improper side guides for band width
- Backing the band out of an incomplete cut
Issue #3: Wear On One Side Of Teeth
Only one side of teeth has heavy wear markings.
- Worn wheel flange, allowing side of teeth to contact wheel surface or improper tracking on flangeless wheel
- Loose or improperly positioned side guides
- Blade not perpendicular to cut
- Blade rubbing against cut surface on return stroke of machine head
- The teeth rubbing against a part of the machine such as chip brush assembly, guards, etc.
Issue #4: Chipped Or Broken Teeth
A scattered type of tooth breakage on tips and corners of the teeth.
- Improper break-in procedure
- Improper blade selection for application
- Handling damage due to improper opening of folded band
- Improper positioning or clamping of material
- Excessive feed rate or feed pressure
- Hitting hard spots or hard scale in material
Issue #5: Body Breakage Or Cracks From Back Edge
The fracture originates from the back edge of band. The origin of the fracture is indicated by a flat area on the fracture surface.
- Excessive back-up guide “preload” will cause back edge to work harden which results in cracking
- Excessive feed rate
- Improper band tracking – back edge rubbing heavy on wheel flange
- Worn or defective back-up guides
- Improper band tension
- Notches in back edge from handling damage
January 15, 2016 / benchmarking, best practices, blade failure, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, LIT, predictive management, preventative maintenance, productivity, strategic planning
The U.S. manufacturing landscape is changing, and industrial metal-cutting companies are no exception. Technology has created an increasingly connected industry, and manufacturers are realizing that while traditional lean practices have proved successful in the past, when it comes to operational efficiency, data and other advanced “smart” technologies are the wave of the future.
One area that is quickly gaining popularity is the use of predictive technologies. As reported in a recent Manufacturing.net article, nearly three dozen manufacturing company executives and national research facility directors identified predictive data analytics as the number one advanced manufacturing technology critical to growth, as part of a study conducted by Deloitte Global and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness.
Predictive analytics utilizes a variety of statistical and analytical techniques to develop mathematical models that “predict” future events or behaviors based on past data. As the study explains, this allows companies to uncover hidden patterns, relationships, and greater insights by analyzing both structured and unstructured data.
Several industries are already benefiting from the use of predictive technologies. Healthcare, for example, is using predictive analytics to improve the effectiveness of new procedures, medical tests, and medications. Manufacturing companies are using the technology to identify quality and production issues, as well as optimize delivery and distribution. Other industries, such as aerospace, automotive, and consumer products, are also finding interesting applications.
Thyssen Krupp, for example, recently used predictive analysis to improve the reliability of more than 1.1. million elevators it maintains worldwide. With the help of Microsoft cloud technology, the company gathered data from thousands of sensors and systems in its elevators to measure motor temperature, shaft alignment, cab speed and door functioning. After being sent to the cloud, the data is then displayed on a single dashboard in real-time. The data is also used in predictive model formulas, helping technicians know when and where a failure may occur.
The trend is also finding its way into industrial metal cutting. Data from the LENOX Institute of Technology’s Benchmark Survey of Industrial Metal-Cutting Organizations suggests that investing in smarter, more predictive operations strategies can help companies gain additional productivity and efficiency on the shop floor.
Although not through the use of analytics, the benchmark survey found that industry leaders are using strategies such as planned maintenance and blade care to prevent downtime and predict blade failure. Specifically, the benchmark study found that:
- 67% 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.
- 51% of organizations that “always” follow scheduled and preventative maintenance plans say that blade failure is predicted “always” or “mostly.”
While there is no question that predictive analytics is still an emerging area, it is clear that proactive strategies are key in today’s uncertain market. Whether you invest in advanced predictive analytics software or simply stick to your preventative maintenance program, finding ways to anticipate future events and reduce unplanned downtime can help your operation gain efficiency and, more importantly, stay competitive.
What predictive operational strategies are you using to make your operation more efficient?
January 10, 2016 / best practices, blade life, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, Cost Management, customer delivery, customer satisfaction metrics, customer service, LIT, predictive management, preventative maintenance, productivity, strategic planning
It’s no secret that downtime is the enemy of any fabrication shop and, really, any manufacturer. Huge volumes, continuous sawing, and extremely tight tolerances are characteristic of many fabrication environments, so any process or workflow bottlenecks that slow production can cause quality issues, slow delivery schedules, increased maintenance costs, and hurt overall business performance.
In the white paper, The Top 5 Operating Challenges Facing Fabricators’ Metal-Cutting Operations, Jim Davis, corporate operations services manager at O’Neal Steel, explains why today’s shops can’t afford any unplanned downtime. “Downtime affects us heavily,” Davis states. “When you’re cutting five- to six-thousand pieces for a customer or you’re doing ‘just-in-time’ production where you’re taking orders on the previous day and guaranteeing delivery the next day, downtime will affect us heavily.”
However, instead of finding new ways to react to unplanned downtime events, several leading manufacturers are attacking the issue head on by using proactive strategies. In fact, according to a recent blog published by ARC Advisory Group, Inc., four industrial manufacturing leaders are aiming for “zero downtime”—a goal that may seem a bit lofty and unrealistic. However, with the help of technology, these big name companies seem to believe it is within reach.
For example, late last year, Cisco and Fanuc America announced a 12-month Zero Downtime (ZDT) pilot project with a major automotive manufacturer. The goal was to achieve zero downtime by proactively detecting equipment issues that could cause downtime.
According to a press release, the pilot was a success. Using cloud-based technology, Fanuc and Cisco’s solution detected and informed the automotive manufacturer of potential equipment or process problems before unexpected downtime occurred, allowing the maintenance issue to be addressed in a planned outage window. The end result was a significant decrease in related production downtime and increased overall equipment effectiveness. (To learn more about Fanuc’s technology solution, check out this video).
There are other types of proactive strategies metal-cutting leaders are using to turn “interruptive downtime,” which can hurt performance and impact on-time customer delivery, into “predictive downtime,” which can actually improve cutting performance and extend equipment life. Research shows that simple strategies such as breaking in band saw blades and other preventative maintenance are helping fabricators and other metal-cutting companies predict blade failure and, as a result, better plan for downtime.
In a benchmark survey of industrial metal-cutting organizations, 67 percent of operations that claimed to follow all scheduled and planned maintenance on their machines also reported 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,” the study states. “Slightly more than half (51 percent) of organizations that ‘always’ follow scheduled and preventative maintenance plans say that blade failure is predicted ‘always’ or ‘mostly.’”
What could be the business impact of near-zero unplanned downtime? According to the ARC blog, there are at least four key benefits, including:
- lower maintenance costs
- increased capacity and revenue
- lower inventory (less safety stock for unplanned events)
- improved customer satisfaction (with more on-time shipments)
Even if the concept of zero downtime still seems impossible, the above examples show that proactive—not reactive—strategies can help eliminate unplanned downtime. Whether using high-tech solutions like Cisco and Fanuc’s cloud-based application or simple preventative strategies like breaking in blades, today’s fabrication shops have the opportunity to reduce unplanned downtime and achieve real, bottom-line benefits.
What strategies does your fabrication shop use to reduce or predict downtime?
September 30, 2015 / bottlenecks, circular sawing, Cost Management, LIT, operator training, preventative maintenance, productivity, quality, supplier relationships
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:
- Get Everyone Involved. Most continuous improvement initiatives need to be a team effort if they are going to be sustainable, and PM programs are no exception. 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.
- Schedule Daily and Quarterly Preventative Maintenance (PM) Checks. Although many managers avoid PM checks because of the time they take away from production, adhering to a PM schedule helps to reduce downtime in the long run. As described in LIT’s white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal-Cutting, PM programs should include daily operator checks as well as in-depth inspections performed by maintenance personnel. For daily PM, operators should follow a simple checklist that includes basic tasks such as refilling both coolant and hydraulic reservoirs, as well as blowing off chips and keeping blades clean. The maintenance staff should also perform quarterly PM checks. These typically include greasing, oil and filter changes, and replacement of any wearable parts. Many companies conduct these checks during the third shift so they don’t disrupt the overall production schedule.
- Designate a Planner. While most manufacturers have some form of PM program in place, many aren’t following through with them because no one is in charge of enforcing the schedule. One manufacturer, featured here in Reliable Plant magazine, decided to address this issue by assigning a maintenance planner at each of its factories. Candidates for the planner position were selected from the maintenance workforce based on seniority and skill set, and each planner received specialized training and aptitude testing. Although it took a while for the planner and employees to perfect its maintenance planning/scheduling processes, the company eventually saw positive results: Over a period of three years, the percentage of planned work improved from 83 to 85 percent, schedule compliance jumped from 29 to 63 percent, and downtime decreased from 4 to 3.3 percent. The company also ended up designating two or three planners per factory, depending on the size of the factory and maintenance workforce.
- Lean on Suppliers. Managers should also consider working closely with their circular saw equipment and blade manufacturers when creating their PM programs. No one knows your metal-cutting equipment better than the companies who made it. In fact, many suppliers provide complimentary annual or bi-annual PM check-ups, which can provide more in-depth equipment diagnostics and some much-needed support to maintenance personnel. This is a cost-effective way to ensure that machines and tools are truly running at their optimal levels.