Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ten Steps to Peak Performance and Productivity

To remain competitive and profitable, you continually seek the most economical and productive ways to accomplish your work. Unfortunately, unless you’re a global industrial giant, you may feel that productivity improvements are out of reach. But quite the opposite is true.  There are many ways to take control of operational improvements and optimize your shop practices without breaking the bank, and ten of them are listed here.

1. Intelligent budget control
A common approach to budgeting in metalworking operations is to acquire every element of the process at the lowest price possible. However, it is best not to base your shop’s tool selection on price alone. Before discussing prices, consider the desired end results. If a tight-tolerance, top-quality part is the goal, more-expensive precision tooling will be required to machine it. On the other hand, when quality demands are less stringent, a portion of the capabilities of high-precision tools will be wasted. Recognizing the ultimate goal of the process is the first step in cost-effective purchasing decisions.

2. Intelligent handling of constraints
Real-world metalworking operations are bound by practical constraints that include machine power and stability and customer demands in terms of dimensions and surface finish quality. Simply reducing your cutting parameters overall is not an intelligent way to deal with process constraints. The combination of decreasing depths of cut and increasing feedrate, for instance, can improve your shop’s productivity within the constraint of limited machine power.

3. Tool application rationalization
Typically, shops make tool application choices one operation at a time, choosing a specific tool to create a certain feature on a part then picking another tool to machine another different feature. Each tool is programmed and optimized separately, representing separate programming and administrative costs. An alternative is a specialized custom tool that cuts multiple features, but these tools can be expensive.

Between these two extremes, shops could opt for a standard tool engineered to perform more than one operation. Even if such multi-purpose tools do not operate at the optimized cutting parameters of the separate tools they replace, the standard multi-purpose tool provides savings in tooling, programming, tool change time and inventory costs.

4. Complex workpiece approach (group technology)
To expedite the machining of complex parts, view similar features as a group and choose a tool optimized for a certain operation, such as holemaking, that is repeated on different parts. The optimized tool will maximize productivity and also reduce cost when considering the engineering time that goes into repetitively programming tools for each separate part. This approach also helps reduce your tool inventory.

5. Achieving minimal functional workpiece quality
Although initially the concept may seem strange, it is necessary to achieve only the lowest possible workpiece quality that meets your customer specifications and functional requirements. There is no need to exceed those requirements. If a part tolerance is 5 microns, achieving 3 microns is a waste of time and money. Higher quality tooling and more precise operating processes will be required to achieve the tighter tolerance.  But customers will refuse to pay for such unrequested higher quality, and the job will be a money-losing proposition for your shop.

6. Predictive tool maintenance
Traditional tool maintenance is reactive. When a tool wears out or breaks, it is replaced. That approach, however, generates costs beyond those of the tool itself, including manufacturing process downtime and possible damage to the workpiece. Preventive tool maintenance is a step beyond reactive maintenance and is based on replacing the tool before it reaches its shortest expected working life to be sure that the change is made before the tool wears out too much or breaks.

7. Tool inventory control
Tool inventory control is different than tool management. Tool inventory control is an effort to rationalize and consolidate the number of tools your shop possesses to focus on what is really needed. If tools are not rationalized before being loaded into an automated tool dispenser, the result is simply automated disarray.

8. Practical work analysis
Many shop activities needed for the production of a finished workpiece do not directly add value. These include fixturing the workpiece on the machine and writing the machining program. Such non-value-added tasks should be completed as fast as possible and in a way that minimizes their effect on your total cost of production. Automation can accomplish tasks such as part loading and fixturing and save time and money. When analysing work activities and costs, it is essential to consider all the contributors to part production time.

9. Practical application of optimization
Rarely does a process work exactly as planned, and it is at this point where optimization of the operations in terms of speed, reliability and other factors is necessary. Most shops also seek to improve ongoing processes. Practical optimization enables your shop to find technical and economic benefits in a combination of feed, speed and depth of cut that produces the desired results.

10. Intelligent introduction of new technology
Today’s manufacturers face a range of relatively new challenges including mandates for sustainability and environmental protection. Intelligent introduction of new technologies and processes enables your shop to fulfil these challenges. Dry machining, for example, permits your facility to reduce the use of coolants, which in turn reduces the potential effects of the fluids on the environment, as well as the cost of safely disposing of them. Improving process parameters and production tooling performance will result in measureable savings in energy expenditures.

About the Author
Don is the manager of education and technical services for Seco, responsible for all educational activities for the NAFTA market, new product testing and various other technical functions. Outside of work, he enjoys making maple syrup, restoring antique tractors and farming.

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