December 2017: Reflecting on 2017
Dear valued customers, future customers and vendors,
2017 was a hectic, but good year with a lot of new uncharted territories for us, but we accomplished what we set out to do thanks to all of you. We want to thank our customers and all who have given us the opportunity to show our products this year together with our vendors for the partnership.
Success only happens when all work together, which also brings me to thank our employees for their hard work to get things done. Here are just a few examples of what we did this year. Lang Technovation installed multiple Eco-Compact Automations and exhibited in 2 additional tradeshows this year: Eastec and PMTS. It was great to see all of you in our booth showing interest in the new products we rolled out in 2017.
We are looking forward to the next year and want to wish you a relaxing and joyful holiday time and a good end of this year to move forward to the new year.
2018, here we come with enthusiasm and energy for providing innovative, high-quality work holding solutions. Our commitment to providing products that help you increase efficiency, productivity and profitability will continue!
July 2017: Building In Process Reliability
Generally speaking, process reliability is a method used to identify problems or bottlenecks that could offer significant cost reductions. When speaking about a manufactured product, a reliable process could also improve efficiency, quality and peace of mind. This text will focus on process reliability as it pertains to the quality of the finished piece, whether that refers to achieving a tolerance, surface finish, cycle time, etc.
It is extremely advantageous for any production facility to analyze their processes continuously. This can be done easily. Start by asking yourself three questions; How reliable is my manufacturing process? Can I accurately predict the outcome of any given manufacturing process within my facility? What extra pre or post operation tasks are undergone to achieve this level of process reliability?
Lets look a little deeper at those three questions.
Can I accurately predict the outcome of any given manufacturing process within my facility? Peace of mind? Do you have confidence in the process? Processes that rely on a specific employee with a certain level of “know how” are good examples. If Bob is sick, are you as confident in the work with Steve doing it?
What extra pre or post operation tasks are undergone to achieve this level of process reliability? Are there special tasks that need to happen prior to or after this process to ensure a good part? Complex workpiece preparation, long set up times or heavy cleaning operations could be examples.
More and more facilities will look to implement different degrees of automation and/or “lights out manufacturing”. If you are one of these facilities, the very first step is building a reliable process. One of the simplest places to start is under the machine tool spindle.
It is common for CNC workholding and fixture companies to tote about quick exchange, repeat accuracy, holding power, etc. but I rarely hear them speak about process reliability.
The right workholding can ensure the work will be located precisely and with enough accessibility for utilizing multi-axis machining. Quality fixtures will secure the workpiece against unwanted movement and help reduce vibration. Most importantly, the correct system will also provide longevity and consistency, guaranteeing peace of mind and a reliable process for years to come.
March 2017: Your Workholding Isn’t Mutually Exclusive
Fixtures and workholding can be intimidating. There are many different styles and types and there is an equally daunting amount of manufacturers and brands. It can feel like the sky is the limit.
Variety is a good thing; however, if you aren’t careful prices can spiral out of control quickly. Set up times can increase, quality can suffer, tool rooms can overflow with obsolete workholding or worse, you could paint yourself into the dreaded “fixture corner”.
For most, modular fixtures are the answer they have been waiting for. Modular fixtures and workholding systems are versatile and usually utilize interchangeable components that can be easily reconfigured to achieve a number of different workholding applications. These systems are often associated with being quick change and/or having high repeat accuracies.
Modular systems are great, but do your homework. A poor modular system can create more issues within your process than it actually solves. Modular systems that are too complex, have too many parts and pieces, have expensive key components or are incompatible with the majority of your other processes, fixtures or workholding should be approached with extreme caution.
This isn’t mutually exclusive. I don’t know of any system that is a “one-stop-shop”. A company may offer solutions for turning but not milling, a handful of production tasks may still require a dedicated or different style fixture, etc. This is really common.
Instead of spending your valuable time looking for a system with a solution for every process, look for a system that allows you to easily adapt your existing processes, make simple modifications to ensure compatibility or even redeploy existing fixtures and workholding.
Look for systems that not only match your corporate requirements now but also provide long term value. Look for systems that help simplify and standardize set up. Look for systems that allow you to seamlessly move from concept to production. Look for variety and systems that complement other fixture types and brands.
Finding the correct workholding system is one of the guaranteed fastest and easiest ways to increase profits, quality and capacity.
January 2017: Grab That Low Hanging Fruit!
Misconceptions about continuous improvement initiatives can cause manufacturers and machine shops to miss out on valuable opportunities. Oftentimes we envision big, sweeping, scary change. Some predict a complex system that will be difficult to sustain. Other fears include heavy front end costs and a lack of management or employee buy-in.
When I say “low hanging fruit” I mean simple, low cost process improvements that can be overlooked or underestimated. Implementing a simple Kaizen 5S plan can make a big impact with a very small investment. This is especially true of the first three principles: “Sort”, “Set In Order” and “Shine”.
Properly outfitted workstations, clean workstations and work areas and shadow boards are examples of easy, inexpensive ways to increase efficiency. Imagine how much time is wasted walking to borrow calipers, digging for tools or having to move or rearrange materials just to gain access to what is needed for a job.
Crawl before you walk and walk before you run. It’s always a good idea to establish a system of metrics to help prioritize, measure return and determine root causes of bottlenecks. Proper metrics ensure we are allocating the resources properly.
Keep metrics simple and don’t be afraid to ask the people who sell the systems for help. My colleagues and I are happy to offer this service whenever needed.
Once you start picking “low hanging fruit” two things will happen. First, as processes become more efficient, they will shine light on other problem areas. Second, you will get hungry for more results! So go ahead and Grab that Low Hanging Fruit!