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Monday, November 28, 2016

Quantifying Lubricant Thickness Accurately

Guest Blog: Mike Justice
President, UPA Technology

Forming good parts is a demanding and difficult task, mainly because of the many variables that can interrupt the process. Stamping problems can be due to several areas including problems with dies, substrates, press issues as well as incorrect amounts of lubricant. Quickly evaluating and eliminating the possible causes of stamping problems speeds up correction at the press where downtime often is measured by minutes/month.

Quantifying lubricant thickness quickly and accurately can determine or eliminate whether lubricant issues are the cause of forming issues. But, measuring lubricant thickness has not been easy and has been the cause of much discussion and dissension.  

Stampers, processors and mills are routinely tasked with accurately measuring oil-films ranging between 7-120 Milligrams per square foot (mg/ft2) in order to meet specification for making good parts.  As a thickness instead of a weight, this equates to only 2 - 40 millionths of an inch! Making things even more challenging is that measurements have to be made instantly, portably, on a number of different substrates, and the inspection equipment must be easy to operate with virtually no training. In reality, this is but one of the many difficult challenges facing the stamping industry, metals mills and coil processors.    
Lubricant thickness has been determined for many years from weighing a sample, cleaning off the lubricant and then re-weighing (weigh/strip /weigh). The average thickness of lubricant can then be calculated from those numbers. Mills and automotive plants have used this method because of the availability of extremely accurate scales/balances, but the weigh/strip/weigh method is not without issues. The weight difference between coated and uncoated samples can be less than .008 grams. Adding all of the uncertainties resulting from imperfect sample size, scale error, uneven lube distribution and improper handling normally reduces the accuracy to below acceptable limits. Plus, the weigh/strip/weigh method is destructive, slow and untraceable to any national standard.

Fortunately, advancements in electronics technology are occurring rapidly and many promising new technologies have been introduced. This is good news and just in time for measuring at the tightened lubricant-thickness specification requirements that have increasingly become difficult to confirm and control.

New measurement devices are primarily using infra-red, beta backscatter or ultra-violet principles for oil-film measurement. Each of these new technologies have their strengths and weaknesses, so choosing the best one will depend on any number of factors, depending on the specific conditions.  Choosing the wrong method can be an expensive mistake, so doing some homework beforehand is worth the effort. Gone are the days when companies can say “I will use this method—because my customer uses it.”  Having both companies using an incorrect method

doesn’t help anyone, so the best choice of instrumentation should be based on facts and careful evaluation.

Hear more from Mike at PMA's Metal Stamping Technology and Tool & Die Conference, December 6-7, 2016 in Chicago, IL.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Automotive Tooling Industry: Where To From Here?

Guest Blog: Laurie Harbour
President and CEO, Harbour Results, Inc. 

In 2016 the U.S. manufacturing industry was relatively stable with overall production slightly up from previous years. Specifically, the automotive tool and die industry was predicted to be busy with forecasted tooling spend on the rise. However, taking a closer look, the year proved to be a bit more challenging. Data collected through the Harbour Results’ Harbour IQ pulse survey (a business intelligence tool for performance, financial, operational, trend and market data), which was completed by more than 100 tool shops globally in the second quarter of 2016, has shown that capacity reached a low of 81 percent among die shops in late 2015 and early 2016, but was expected to rebound to 78 and 86 percent respectively by year end.

So what caused the slow down?
  1. Program delays—on average, just over 20 percent of vehicle launches were delayed in 2015 and 2016. 
  2. Work on hold—in early 2016, 18 percent of all work that had been awarded was on hold for reasons outside the tooling shops.
Looking forward, the U.S. automotive industry is predicted to maintain vehicle sales at or near 17.4 million units in 2017. However, for the tool and die industry it is important to note the industry is expected to source tooling to support 70 new vehicle launches, which is more than any other year between 2014-2022. Tooling spend for 2017 is expected to be $13.7 billion while 2018 is expected to be $10.7 billion.

Delivering Operational Excellence
Today, tool and die making is no longer an art, but a manufacturing process. Yes, it is true that each die is unique, but the process to build it should be standard and repeatable. A shop owner’s goal should be to reduce all unnecessary activity and the key to that is collecting and analyzing the right data. Easier said than done, we know.

The best die shops are investing in technology to help them better understand what is happening on the shop floor. Tools such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and machine monitoring systems can assist in gathering data points and tracking key trends over time (utilization and efficiency) to help better make informed decisions impacting the shop.

Harbour Results has coined the phrase—Operational Holy Grail—which has three key functions that are critical for effectively aligning a business:
  1. Resource Monitoring
  2. Capacity and Demand Planning
  3. Production Scheduling
Staying focused on these three areas, and collecting and analyzing the data and information throughout the shop, owners will be better equipped to make decisions and constantly adjust to drive improved efficiency and reduce lead time.

2017 and Beyond
To be successful in the automotive industry, tool and die shops must look for opportunities to create a competitive advantage. With that in mind, the following are three key areas of focus (beyond operational excellence) that should be a priority for shop owners.
  1. Understand your customer—Who are they? What’s going on in their industry? What is their product plan? What is available to my shop in the market? Gathering customer and market data gives you a leg up on the competition. It will help you develop a solid sales strategy and pursue profitable business for your company. 
  2. Focus on your niche—What is your why? If you can focus in on why customers should do business with you and what makes you unique, it will create a barrier so that other shops can’t infringe on your business. 
  3. Invest smartly—Invest with a purpose; to improve your agility, grow in other regions, create a sales process or strengthen your aging workforce. Understand what your company’s pain points are and look to invest to make improvements. 
Hear more from Laurie at PMA’s Metal Stamping Technology and Tool & Die Conference, December 6-7, 2016 in Chicago, IL. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Quick Look at Dry-Film Lubricant

A Metal Processor's Best Friend

Guest Blogger: Mike Tieri
Director of Sales & Marketing, Chemcoaters

Scrap…What a problem! Are you having trouble with higher scrap loss than you can understand or more importantly tolerate? It could be the metal but perhaps it’s a problem in the processing itself. Have you looked at dry-film lubricants (DFLs)? If it’s been a while, you should look again. Largely used by the automotive and appliance industries, you surely know that if it didn’t provide a tremendous benefit, they would never add that cost into the process. When I asked why, I was shown all of the benefits it provided.

CASE: One company monitored costs of using oil against DFL. One item evaluated was worker gloves. They said that bringing material in with oil showed that workers wore 5.6 pairs of gloves per week. By going to DFL, the workers’ gloves didn’t get saturated and usage was dropped to 2.4 pairs of gloves per week. It might not seem to matter much but on 1800 workers the cost savings paid for the DFL! WOW!

It provides much better coefficient-of-friction numbers usually between 0.04 and 0.09, much better than any wet lube or oil. So, regardless of how the metal is drawn or shaped, there is a barrier between the metal and the tooling. This reduces the metal shavings mixing with tool shavings and oil. In the end, there is less sludge build-up in the die. This creates a greater amount of time and parts between die cleanings, less scrap due to galling and/or cracking and less down-time on the machine.

CASE: One company used so much oil, they applied it with a mop so much in fact that the robots used to move the sheets were unable to pick up the metal. Production dropped off drastically because they had to use four men instead of two robots. Oil was being splashed all over the area and then tracked through the plant by foot or forklift traffic. Build-up in the die was so quick that they could not meet the demand for the parts. By going to DFL, the robots were put back in place, production time greatly increased and they had a much cleaner, safer work environment.

Dry-film lubricants provide more warehouse protection against corrosion and will not oxidize on the surface of the metal. If you were welding, the DFL reduces the spatter from sticking to the metal. It’s a non-hazardous product that can be left on or removed with an alkaline cleaner; it can even be tinted for visual detection.

CASE: One company used so much oil to make its parts that they had to use a very hot wash system to clean the parts. The time it took created a bottleneck in the production process that created tremendous delivery issues. The other problem was that the water solvent was so hot that it burned the oil and created a sort of tar on some of the parts. By going to DFL, they could process easier and faster, increased throughput, eliminated the bottleneck and reduced scrap. They are now moving to convert all jobs in the plant to DFL and remove the wash system.

In closing, if you were going to open a hamburger restaurant, you might want to open right next to McDonalds. They have done all the work to evaluate whether they should be there or not. No one will eat at the same place every day. Take advantage of the R&D that they have done, the same way you can be assured that the process-improvement teams at auto and appliance companies have done their homework. You can benefit from that. Give it a look and see where dry-film lubricants can work for you. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

IIoT’s Cloud Computing in Manufacturing

With all the talk in the last year of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how to best prepare your company for these new innovative technologies, the major question on most manufacturers’ minds is, “But does it work and will it work for me?”

Plex’s 2016 State of Manufacturing Technology Report aimed to explain just that, with a focus on cloud computing and its effectiveness on the shopfloor.  Here are some of the most significant results from their survey of nearly 200 manufacturers who are using IIoT in some capacity.

Cloud computing increases the ability to manage fluctuating business needs.  With cloud computing, manufacturers are able to connect the plant floor with the C-Suite, giving everyone access to either identical versions or tailored versions of real-time data.

Of the respondents who use cloud technology,

  • 98% reported that connectivity of machines, systems, suppliers, and clients delivers value to their business today
  • 64% found they were better equipped to handle changing customer needs
  • 55% reported overall increase in the strength of global supply chain management
When a whopping 98% of a survey pool of manufacturers report that their business has improved on several levels since incorporating cloud technology, you can’t deny that these new systems are truly revolutionizing our industry.

For more information on how you can get started with or expand your journey into the world of smart manufacturing, check out our blog’s series from earlier in the year titled The Future of Manufacturing and How to Be Ready (I, II, III).

Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Elections: Congress Counts

Election Day 2016 is not just about the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There are also races are happening across the country for seats in the House and Senate.  So what is at stake for the 115th Congress?

Control of the House and Senate is particularly valuable in this election year.  The next Congress may tackle tax reform, and many other issues critical to the manufacturing industry.

Here is the breakdown of our current Congress.  Going into Election Day 2016, Republicans have a majority in both the Senate and the House.

Here is the latest data on how races are faring for these seats:

Current data seem to suggest that it is unlikely that the Democratic party will take back the House.  Still, there are about forty races that remain incredibly close. For the Senate, who takes control is still too close to call, but Democrats are within four or five seats of retaking control. In any event, a newfound Democratic majority would by no means be commanding since Democrats would under no plausible circumstance reach the 60 votes needed for a supermajority.

Before you vote, you can learn more about Congressional races in your state.  One Voice for Manufacturing – the combined advocacy effort of PMA and the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) – has a Members of Congress Scorecard which can help you track how your Member of Congress small and medium-sized manufacturers.  To enhance accuracy, the scorecard includes not only relevant votes but co-sponsorships on bills which many not have received a full vote.  To view the U.S. Senate Scorecard click here.  To view the U.S. House of Representatives Scorecard click here.

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