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circular sawing

Industrial Metal-Cutting Companies Find New Technologies Can Be Worth the Investment

December 1, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , ,


Last month, executives from the metal forming, fabricating, and welding industries visited Chicago to walk the aisles of McCormick Place for Fabtech 2015. As to be expected, the trade show featured hundreds of new products and technologies. However, many are saying this year’s show was about more than just the latest gadget.

“A certain excitement permeated this year’s show, and it wasn’t just about this incredibly fast laser, that press brake that eliminates setup time, or that welding power source that connects to the cloud and simplifies welding parameter selection,” writes Tim Heston, senior editor, in a column appearing on thefabricator.com. “It was about how all these technologies and more can work together to make a shop better.”

Indeed, it seems the attitude of Fabtech attendees mirrors what several industrial metal-cutting leaders have found: Investing in new technology isn’t about simply cutting a little faster or reducing set-up time. It is about optimizing processes so that every area of the company can benefit—from shop floor operations and maintenance to quality and finance. As Heston writes: “…a fast laser alone won’t ship a product out the door any faster. Even the smallest shops now are tackling front-office planning, scheduling, and often investing in software to streamline information flow throughout an organization.”

In other words, managers should look at the big picture before adopting any new “groundbreaking” technologies. How will this new technology affect your entire operation? What other processes down the line will be impacted by the benefits of the new technology? Do these other processes need updating as well?

That’s not to say, however, that companies should shy away from investing in new technology. In fact, a recent article from manufacturing.net stresses that cutting-edge technology is critical in today’s marketplace.

“The manufacturing sector is a fast-changing, cut-throat industry,” Martin Hurworth, states in the manufacturing.net article. “Firms who make their living there should be constantly looking to invest in new technologies to make their operations smoother, smarter and swifter, not to mention more cost-effective. In a globalized world, staying at the sharp end has never been more important.”

According to Hurworth, strategic technology investment allows companies to improve in three key business activities:

Jet Cutting Service has found this to be the case. Last year, the industrial metal-cutting company reached a record-setting 1.1. million cut parts in just one month—310,000 more cut parts than it typically produces on a monthly basis. “I would like to believe that our increase in sales is due to investing in the latest cutting technology, which increases our capacity and production capabilities,”  Vice President Mike Baron says in a case study from the LENOX Institute of Technology. “The newer technology also allows us to offer competitive pricing, which has led to many new customers.”

Although Baron admits the financial commitment can be risky, he finds that many technologies are worth the investment. “We need to constantly keep on top of the latest technology out there,” Baron states. “We don’t want to spend extra money, but if it’s going to cut 20 percent quicker than I do now…then we’ll go after it.”

For example, a few years ago, Baron had eight different circular saw blade manufacturers come into his factory to see which blades performed the best. While the process was time-consuming, Baron said it was a huge learning experience for his team and ended up giving him a 20-percent cost savings in the long run.

Will the latest metal-cutting tool or gadget be the answer to all of your operational challenges? Of course not. However, when carefully considered from a strategic, long-term perspective, it could set your company on a growth trajectory you may not have achieved any other way.

What metal-cutting technology investments could positively impact your bottom line?

circular sawing

Preventative Maintenance of Circular Saws in Ball and Roller Bearing Production

September 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,


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:

circular sawing

Solving the Six Common Cutting Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face

August 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , ,


Like most high-production operations, ball and roller bearing manufacturers are running on tight schedules and can’t afford unexpected downtime or tooling issues. This means that every step of the manufacturing process must be optimized, starting with the first operation—circular sawing.

While precision circular sawing may seem like a simple operation, any metal-cutting expert can confirm that proper cutting depends on several variables. As this article from Canadian Metalworking points out, the overall performance of your cutting tool depends on speed, feed, depth of cut, and the material being cut. Knowing how to balance these variables is critical to cutting success.

For example, according to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal-Cutting, increasing the speed of a saw to get more cuts per minute without considering the feed setting or the demands of the material will result in premature blade failure and increased tooling costs. This, in turn, can lead to unplanned downtime for blade change-out, which directly impacts productivity.

Understanding how these different variables affect the cutting process can also help operators quickly and properly resolve any cutting challenges that arise. In many cases, this knowledge can make or break a production schedule.

To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers keep their circular sawing operations running at optimal levels, the LENOX Institute of Technology offers the followings tips for solving six of the most common problems operators may face:

Problem #1: Excessive vibration or noise
Potential solutions:

Problem #2: Crooked cutting
Potential Solutions:

Problem #3: Wavy cutting
Potential Solution:

Problem #4: Chips are too hot or glowing
Potential Solutions:

Problem #5: Poor finish/Excessive stripping
Potential Solutions:

Problem #6: Heavy burr
Potential Solutions:

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.

circular sawing

How Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Can Strategically Approach Cost Management

March 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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:

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.

circular sawing

Best Practices for High Production Circular Sawing Operations

March 15, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


In a mature manufacturing operation like circular sawing, it is easy for managers and lead operators to rely on trusted and proven techniques. Unfortunately, today’s competitive market has upped the ante, which is why so many operations have stopped depending solely on tribal knowledge and are now embracing continuous improvement and the changes that come along with it.

Today’s leading operations managers know that being successful requires both innovation and re-evaluation. In other words, they understand that their way may not always be the best way, and that, instead, their aim should be to stay open to a better way. As a recent leadership article from Forbes notes, “Top performers are top performers because they consistently search for ways to make their best even better.”

In a circular sawing operation, this may mean testing a new blade on the shop floor, while other times, it may mean adopting a new management technique. Or, as this article from manufacturing.net suggests, it may mean basing your decisions on “real-time data versus institutional memory.”

The point is that bar is always moving, and it would serve most operations well to be open to new ideas and, more importantly, to learn from others. What are other circular sawing operations doing to stay competitive? The LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) interviewed two high production metal-cutting companies and asked them for some of the best practices they are using to stay competitive. Read below to discover a few of the strategies they are using to become industry leaders.

Jet Cutting Service, Inc.
Based out of  a 69,000-sq-ft facility in Bedford Park, IL, the metal processor currently runs 10 circular cold saws and eight band saws and primarily serves steel service centers, machine shops, and some producing mills. When it comes to strategy, vice president Mike Baron focuses on three key strategies:

A.M. Castle & Co.
In addition to distributing a wide range of metal and plastic materials, the leading metal service center also performs simple sawing operations at several of its locations, including its main distribution center in Franklin Park, IL. Glen Sliwa, who is responsible for keeping saw operations up and running, describes three ways the shop stays productive:

To download the full case study, Best Practices of High Production Metal-Cutting Companies, visit LIT’s circular saw resource page.

circular sawing

Tips to Optimize Your Service Center’s Precision Circular Sawing Operation

March 5, 2015 / , , , , , , , , ,


In today’s fast-paced paced and competitive market, the main objective for most service centers is optimization. While getting orders out the door is always a priority, leading companies know that speed isn’t everything. In fact, running a circular saw too fast can lead to shorter blade life, unexpected downtime, and even poor quality and rework, all of which decrease a cutting operation’s overall productivity.

Optimization requires managers to weigh short-term factors such as cutting speed against longer-term factors such as blade life, maintenance, and cost. Of course, this challenge is easier said than done. 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.

To help service centers optimize their precision circular sawing operations, the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) compiled a series of charts that describe some of the common cutting challenges operators face and possible solutions.

The following are LIT’s tips and tricks for keeping your circular sawing operation running at peak efficiency:

charts 1 and 2
chart 3

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.

circular sawing

How Should Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Allocate Resources for their Metal Cutting Operations?

February 28, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Today’s cost-sensitive market makes it difficult for managers to gauge how they should strategically allocate resources within their industrial metal-cutting operations. Is it wise to make high-tech capital investments in an uncertain economy, or would manufacturers be better served to invest in their human capital to close the growing skills gap?

These types of questions can be especially challenging in a mature market like ball and roller bearing manufacturing, where seasoned employees may be resistant to change, both in terms of company culture and technology. However, leaders need to be sure they are making strategic decisions that benefit both the company and their employees, and avoiding the trap of making allocation decisions because “that’s the way they’ve always been done.”

To help ball and roller bearing manufacturers discern how to best allocate resources within their operations, below are some resources that discuss some of the trends and strategies today’s manufacturing leaders are using to get ahead in today’s market:

circular sawing

Optimizing Your Machine Shop’s Precision Circular Sawing Operation

February 20, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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:

Insufficient blade life

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.

circular sawing

Why Industrial Metal Cutting Companies Should Line Up Day-to-Day Operations with Business Strategy

February 1, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , ,


When it comes to industrial metal cutting, there are a host of functional strategies companies can use to get the most out of their equipment and tooling. Day-to-day activities such as constant coolant checks, proper speed and feed rates, and strategic blade choice are well-known best practices among industrial metal-cutting companies looking to prolong blade life and reduce downtime.

However, operations managers need to be sure they don’t stop there. In today’s competitive marketplace, managers need to make higher level business decisions that strategically position their operations to address changing market demands. As this article from Chron explains, the goal is to line up long-term strategic goals with day-to-day operational decisions. Unfortunately, the Chron author says, many companies fail to do both:

“In some instances, companies are very good at articulating or designing a strategic plan but fail to execute a short-term operational plan, which comprises the toolkit required to achieve the strategic plan. Likewise, having short-term plans without a long-term strategy results in a lack of direction or focus as to the corporate vision and values of the company. By combining these two planning components, a company is able to set a general path based on company values, goals and objectives, while having the ability to adapt to changing environments.”

As the article explains, it is critical for today’s managers to coordinate 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. Here are two examples of what that looks like:

Of course, these are just two examples. If the goal is to decrease costs, operational strategies such as quarterly preventative maintenance checks can play a huge role in reducing maintenance expenses and costly breakdowns. If the goal is to increase productivity, perhaps regular brainstorming meetings with operators would be useful. Or if the goal is to keep quality high, ongoing training can help reduce instances of rework, according to LIT’s benchmark study.

The point is that instead of simply implanting a series of best practices, managers need to be strategic, especially in the way they run the day-to-day operations. As the Chron article stresses, every operational decision should be made with the larger company goal in mind.

circular sawing

Strategies for Ensuring Metal Cutting Quality in Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturing

January 30, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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: