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root cause analysis

Implement an Obeya for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization

November 15, 2016 / , , , , , , , ,


The metals industry is constantly facing challenges—high inventory levels, fluctuating raw material costs, and declining shipments to name a few. To help offset the challenges and meet customer demands, industrial metal-cutting companies have long turned to continuous improvement practices to reduce downtime and boost productivity.

In fact, continuous improvement is an essential practice for today’s metal-cutting organizations. As stated in the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization, the difference between a metal-cutting company that survives versus one that thrives is continuous improvement.

One continuous improvement tool executives are incorporating into their operations is “obeya.” As defined here in a blog from visual solutions provider Graphics Products, obeya (also spelled oobeya) is a Japanese term for “big room” or “great room.” In lean manufacturing, it is a dedicated room that is reserved for employees to meet and make decisions about any production challenges.

According to the blog, the idea behind obeya is for employees to collaborate easier and solve problems faster by having a central location to meet, share, and discuss key information. Benefits of using obeya include:

Like other lean practices, obeya is part of the Toyota Production System (TPS), which also includes 5S, Kaizen, and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). According an article from IndustryWeek, obeya is also referred to as the “brain” of TPS and is often called the “Adrenaline Room” at Toyota.

“We call it the Adrenaline Room because we are trying to encourage our manager to address the day, every day, urgently, to improve the output to our customers, internal and external,” Scott Redelman, senior manager, production control and logistics at Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, told IndustryWeek. “So if we think about each process or each person—even within our four walls—as the customer, how do we aggressively have the adrenaline and the energy, the sense of urgency to quickly react and grow together to make that improvement for the customer? We have to have the adrenaline to do it.”

Industrial metal-cutting companies have also benefitted from obeya. As described in IndustryWeek, ball-bearing manufacturer Timken created an obeya at its Shiloh, N.C. plant four years ago to help meet sudden growth at the time. The company also added an obeya at its Honea Path, S.C. plant earlier this year. According to operations manager Robert Porter, the investment is paying off with productivity improvement year over year, even in down years.

Obeya, however, isn’t just placing your managers in a room and hanging charts on the wall. To ensure obeya is an effective tool, the Lean Enterprise Institute suggests managers focus on a few key issues:

While there are many continuous improvement tools available, obeya has proven itself valuable. In fact, Toyota considers it one of its lean pillars. Industrial metal-cutting companies that are looking to stay ahead of the competition in today’s challenging market can experience the benefits of obeya too.

What lean manufacturing tools are you using to improve your metal-cutting operation? Is obeya one of them?

root cause analysis

Using DMAIC Methodology in Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization

October 1, 2016 / , , , , , , , , ,


Being a leader in today’s industrial metal-cutting industry is tough. In addition to dealing with external challenges like high inventory levels, falling commodity prices, and a slowdown in China, managers still have to deal with operational pain points such as process and workflow bottlenecks, resource allocation, and delivery schedules.

As stated in the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Organization, thriving in today’s unstable market requires metal-cutting executives to focus on continuous improvement. “Whether implementing a lean manufacturing tool to improve processes or investing in training to develop people, proactive leaders are focused on making positive changes in their operations so they can quickly respond to today’s changing customer demands,” the eBook states.

One methodology many leaders are using as part of their continuous improvement initiatives is DMAIC. As explained here by American Society for Quality (ASQ), DMAIC is a data-driven quality strategy used to improve processes. Although it is typically used as part of a Six Sigma initiative, the methodology can also be implemented as a standalone quality improvement procedure or as part of other process improvement initiatives such as lean.

DMAIC is an acronym for the five phases that make up the process:

According to an archived article from Six Sigma Daily, the heart of DMAIC is making continuous improvements to an existing process through objective problem solving. “Process is the focal point of DMAIC,” the article explains. “The methodology seeks to improve the quality of a product or service by concentrating not on the output but on the process that created the output. The idea is that concentrating on processes leads to more effective and permanent solutions.”

DMAIC can be used by any project team that is attempting to improve an existing process. For example, SeaDek, a manufacturer of non-skid marine flooring, used DMAIC methods to reduce major inventory stockouts in 2015. The company went from 14 major stockouts in 2014 to one stockout in 2015, resulting in a materials cost savings of more than $250,000 and improving on-time delivery from 44 percent the previous year to 95 percent in 2015. (You can download the entire case study here.)

Paul Bryant, senior OPEX manager of LENOX Tools, says there are two key ways companies can identify when and where to apply the DMAIC method:

  1. Target highest scrap cost by machine and/or cost center
  2. Areas with low production yield or poor quality (i.e., high defective parts per million)

In his experience, Bryant says that DMAIC can be especially helpful in lowering scrap costs. Last year, LENOX made the strategic decision to start making wire internally; however, the blade manufacturer was working 10-15 hours overtime to keep up with weekly demand. “Using the DMAIC process, we reduced scrap and improved production speeds by 19.2%, resulting in $75K plus an additional $30K in overtime reduction,” Bryant says. “In 2017, we expect to pick up an additional 15% in production using the DMAIC methodology.”

Of course, the real payoff is what DMAIC can bring to the customer. “The ultimate expected benefit is that customers receive products of the best quality, on-time, and at lowest possible costs,” Bryant says.

Could DMAIC help your industrial metal-cutting organization? To learn more about this Six Sigma continuous improvement tool, click here for a detailed DMAIC roadmap or here for an overview and short video tutorial.

root cause analysis

Tips for Improving Circular Saw Blade Life in Ball and Roller Bearing Production

May 30, 2016 / , , , , , , , , , ,


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.
chart 3

For more downloadable information on optimizing your company’s precision circular sawing operation, you can visit LIT’s resource page here.

root cause analysis

Building Effective Continuous Improvement Teams within Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Operation

May 15, 2016 / , , , , , , ,


There’s a well-known saying that a business is only as good as its people, and industrial metal-cutting operations are no exception. Effective teams are an essential component to the overall success of a business, especially one that aims for continuous improvement.

According to the eBook, Five Performance-Boosting Best Practices for Your Industrial Metal-Cutting Company, “continuous improvement initiatives need to be a team effort to be sustainable.” In other words, to improve your industrial metal-cutting operations to its fullest potential, you need to have the right people with the right skills to keep your plan on course. Without a team backing the process, the very notion of any continuous improvement program is impossible.

Of course, the real challenge is building a strong continuous improvement team. As a recent article from IndustryWeek points out, just because a company works in teams doesn’t mean it is good at teamwork. Management’s goal has to be more than simply building a team; the goal needs to be building an effective team.

What does a successful continuous improvement team look like? An article from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers provides nine best practices used by highly effective continuous improvement teams:

  1. Look at more than just numbers. Continuous improvement is very metric-driven, but don’t forget about inefficiencies that might show low numbers or those that aren’t easily quantified such as infrastructure, sanitation and preventative maintenance.
  2. Develop cross-functional teams. Expand your team to include more than just members from operations, engineering and quality. Cross-functional teams discuss and agree to solutions minimizing negative impacts before they happen.
  3. Define goals. Know what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. More importantly, make those goals focused and achievable. Focusing on one set of challenges will allow you to see improvements quickly.
  4. Use automated KPIs. Collecting the right information at the right time will enable you to improve performance and eliminate inefficiencies.
  5. Utilize operators selectively. Operators are there to operate the line, not report data. While they can provide focused information when needed, don’t abuse their knowledge.
  6. Determine root causes. Whenever an issue arises, conduct a root cause analysis to find the real reason why it occurred.
  7. Focus on impactful, measurable change. You’ve analyzed the root causes, utilized cross-functional teams to prioritize issues and established a consensus for your process change. Now is the time to implement it and make sure it has the impact you thought by checking in with your team, tracking metrics and making adjustments as needed.
  8. Implement incentives that motivate. Reward hard work with an incentive program. Improve your operations by investing in your people.
  9. Benchmark. Competition is healthy. Know what others in the metal-cutting industry are tracking and their results. Use the comparison to further improve your operation.

Do you have a continuous improvement team? What habits do you feel make it an effective team?

root cause analysis

Tips for Preventing Premature Band Saw Blade Failure in Your Forging Operation

January 25, 2016 / , , , , , , , , , , ,


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.

Probable Cause:

Issue #2: Wear On Both Sides Of Teeth
The side of teeth on both sides of band have heavy wear markings.

Probable Cause:

Issue #3: Wear On One Side Of Teeth
Only one side of teeth has heavy wear markings.

Probable Cause:

Issue #4: Chipped Or Broken Teeth
A scattered type of tooth breakage on tips and corners of the teeth.

Probable Cause:

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.

Probable Cause:

For more information on extending blade life, download the full reference guide, “User Error or Machine Error?” here, or check out The LENOX Guide to Band Sawing.

root cause analysis

Implementing Hoshin Kanri in Your Metal Service Center

November 5, 2015 / , , , , , , ,


In today’s lean manufacturing world, you don’t have to be an expert to know some of the lingo. Most manufacturing executives could easily rattle off terms like continuous improvement, kanban, just-in-time, and root cause analysis without even fully understanding what each entails, and many could probably provide a basic definition.
However, one lean manufacturing term that is not as well known—and even harder to say—is Hoshin Kanri. Although not as popular as some of the other lean strategies, Hoshin Kanri (also called Policy Deployment) can be a valuable planning tool for manufacturers. In fact, according to an article from IndustryWeek, the methodology is starting to gain traction among industry leaders.

“Hoshin Kanri is fast becoming an integral part of the strategic planning process at many organizations,” William Waldo, COO of consulting firm BMGI, writes in IndustryWeek. “From decades of refinement, this methodology has emerged as extremely effective in creating strategic alignment and galvanizing an organization toward achieving its vision.”

What is Hoshin Kanri?
Although difficult to pronounce, Hoshin Kanri is fairly simple in concept. The Japanese strategic planning process is designed to ensure that a company’s mission, vision, goals, and annual objectives are communicated and implemented throughout the entire organization, from top management to the shop floor level. According to leanproduction.com, this alignment eliminates the waste that comes from inconsistent direction and poor communication. In essence, it aims to “get every employee pulling in the same direction at the same time,” the website explains.

Although experts often vary on the specific steps involved in Hoshin Kanri planning, Waldo of BMGI believes there are seven key steps to successful implementation. Below is a brief summary of each step:

Key Benefits
Like any lean manufacturing initiative, Hoshin Kanri can seem a bit daunting. However, many manufacturing leaders have had success with the methodology, including Bridgestone, Boeing, Motorola and Toyota, to name a few. Accuride, a manufacturer of forged aluminum wheels and other commercial vehicle components, was recently honored by The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) for its continuous improvement efforts, including implementation of Hoshin Kanri at its Rockford corporate facility and factory, reports The Fabricator.

There are two main reasons why your service center should consider joining many others in adopting Hoshin Kanri strategic planning. First, it creates a shared vision across the entire organization, which fosters good communication and can be good for employee morale. In addition, it can have a positive impact on performance. “Implementing Hoshin allows an organization to build a high performance culture and measure the progress of culture change toward a high performance,” according to an article from iSixSigma. “Following this process on a set schedule for each of the fundamental plans and annual plans throughout the organization ensures achievement of the business mission and progress towards the business vision.”

Even if Hoshin Kanri is not for your service center, adopting some form of strategic planning is critical if you want to be successful in today’s market. As Confucius once said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.”

To learn more about Hoshin Kanri planning, read the full iSixSigma article here or check out a video tutorial here.

root cause analysis

A Look at Inbound Quality Inspection in Your Forging Operation

September 25, 2015 / , , , , , , ,


When most managers think about quality, they tend to think about their internal operations and the competency of their employees. Quality control is largely based on the processes that managers have put in place to ensure that tolerances are met, cosmetic expectations are achieved, and errors are kept to a minimum.

However, it is important for managers to remember that quality begins with the supply chain. According to the white paper, Top 5 Operating Challenges for Forges That Cut and Process Metal, operations managers need to be sure they are tracking the quality and accuracy of the material coming from the supplier. Product liability and traceability continue to be huge concerns for forges and other metal-cutting companies, and raw material mix-ups can be both expensive and dangerous. Even major organizations like Boeing and NASA have learned this lesson the hard way.

Put simply: thorough inbound inspection processes are just as critical as outbound quality processes. By taking the time to confirm what is coming in the door, forges can confidently supply products that are both accurate and fail-safe.

The most successful way to ensure inbound quality is to devise a standard operating procedure (SOP). If you don’t already have one in place, an archived article on alloy verification from thefabricator.com provides a good starting point. According to the article, a good SOP should include the following six components:

(For a detailed explanation of these six components, check out the full article here.)

If you already have a standardized inbound quality process in place, another article from Quality Magazine suggests ten ways manufacturers can optimize this critical procedure. Below are a few best practices that will likely apply to your forging operation:

In the end, quality starts well before a piece of material even makes its way to the shop floor. Don’t underestimate the value of verification—or the cost of assumption. By implementing, enforcing, and optimizing inbound quality inspection processes, managers can stand behind every product that comes in—and goes out—their doors.

root cause analysis

Reducing Metal Scrap and Rework in Your Machine Shop

September 20, 2015 / , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


In any manufacturing operation, a small amount of scrap is inevitable. However, reducing material waste should still be a top goal for machine shops that cut and process metal. Like all other forms of waste, scrap can negatively affect profitability, especially if it is generated as a result of an error.

The truth is that any amount of scrap or rework you’re experiencing in your operations provides an opportunity for improvement. Taking the time to reduce scrap often leads to better productivity and higher quality cuts. As this manufacturing.net article points out, eliminating scrap and waste also contributes to your company’s environmental efforts, which may be important to some customers.

How can you keep your scrap and rework costs low? While there are several ways to accomplish scrap reduction, below are a few simple strategies any machine shop can implement:

 

root cause analysis

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.

root cause analysis

Taking a Closer Look at Inventory in Your Forging Operation

June 25, 2015 / , , , , , , , ,


As most manufacturing executives know, inventory is one of the eight deadly wastes of lean manufacturing. Unfortunately, many metal-cutting companies tend to either ignore inventory or intentionally stock up on material “just in case.”

But there is a reason lean experts consider inventory as deadly. Excess inventory is costly in more ways than one: it requires space, equipment, measurement, and management, not to mention the initial cash expenditure.

Perhaps the greatest danger of surplus inventory, however, is that it often hides other forms of waste and inefficiencies existing within your forging and metal-cutting operations. As an archived article from Modern Machine Shop explains, inventory provides the perfect mask for a host of workflow problems. “With enough inventory, we do not need to be concerned with problems; in fact, we probably will not even know they exist,” the article says. “After all, with lots of inventory, who needs to worry about long vendor delivery times, critical machine breakdowns, long equipment setup times, production schedules not being met, absenteeism or even quality problems that lead to low production yields?”

Of course, that is exactly why managers need to take a closer look at their inventory. According to an editorial from IndustryWeek, inventory optimization can “unearth huge process improvement opportunities that will impact both the balance sheet and the income statement in a positive way.” Below are just a few of the process improvement opportunities the author says may be hiding underneath your raw material and work-in-process inventory:

In most cases, digging deeper into your inventory will reveal a list of process areas in need of improvement. The question then becomes: What can managers do to keep their inventory low? While there are several ways to accomplish inventory optimization, below are three simple strategies to consider:

 

 

 

Regardless of the strategies you adopt, the bottom line is that inventory management should be a priority. Even if you are consistently filling customer orders, that doesn’t mean you doing it efficiently. By taking a closer look at what lies underneath piles of inventory, forging operations can save costs, improve productivity, and finally get to the root of some operational issues that may have been there all along.

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