Blog 2020

April 2020


Decide Who You Want To Pay


Periodically, my wife and I have had to review our health insurance needs. This always involves trying to find a balance between copay, deductible and premium. It is an essential part of our family's infrastructure, so we have always felt fortunate to have the services of our professional advisors, Pat and Brian.

Although Pat and Brian work for separate companies, they have both provided us with a great piece of advice to apply when selecting our health insurance plan. You have to decide who you want to pay. Essentially, through copays, premiums, cash discounts, HSA contributions, etc. you have to pay someone. The doctor, the health insurance company, or yourself. This simple bit of professional advice has helped us select health insurance plans on numerous occasions.

It recently occurred to me that the same sound logic could and should apply to selecting automation systems. When choosing an automation system, you need to decide who you want to pay.

You can either pay the operator, the automation system itself, or yourself.

Pay the operator: This subject tends to spark a response in people. There is a fear that automation will soon put us all out of work. This isn't true. Your employees are extremely valuable, and just like everything else in your business, they should make you more profitable and competitive.

You have to decide what you want to pay your operators to do. Why tie your valuable workforce to menial tasks like machine tool tending when they can be applying their skill set somewhere more valuable?

Pay the system: This involves selecting a system that requires continuous interaction on your part. Examples include having to re-teach robots, having to continually adjust workpiece grids or tooling, adjusting for insufficient workholding, etc. Are you prepared for that much additional labor?

When automation systems fail, it is usually due to one of two reasons: poor integration or poor workholding and tooling.

Poorly integrated systems usually have a very appealing introductory price. If you aren’t careful, these initial cost savings will hurt your long-term interests.

Instead of focusing on "sticker price," make sure you have a complete return on investment (ROI) report prepared for you. We offer them for free. It is very common for a higher-priced, higher-quality system to pay you back faster than a budget system.

My job takes me inside a lot of manufacturing facilities, and I often see inexpensive automation systems not running. If it isn’t running, you are paying it.

Just because your new robot can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week doesn’t mean that your workholding and tooling are up to the task.

Make sure you have a realistic budget for whichever system you invest in. You will always get what you pay for. If your tooling wears prematurely, your workholding doesn’t repeat or properly secure the part you will have an expensive and catastrophic failure when running lights out.

Pay yourself: Make sure your investment in machine tool automation pays you by taking these simple steps.

Insist that the company quoting the system gives you an actual date when you will have full ROI.

Please make sure the quote is detailed and outlines the automated process, step by step, to ensure you have a firm understanding of when and how your employees will need to interact with it.

Ensure that any employee interaction is limited and straightforward.

Unless you are considering mass production, systems that can offer capacity, covering a wide range of different sized and shaped parts, should always be considered over dedicated systems.

Once you have decided whom it is that you want to pay, selecting the right automation system is easy.

Eric Nekich
Lang Technovation Co
1020 James Dr. STE I
Hartland, WI 53029

  

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January 2020


Measure Your Workholding!

More than likely, you use a number of performance metrics throughout your facility. These metrics may measure sales, inventory, gross margin, spindle up time, quality, etc. etc. etc. Are you measuring the performance of your fixtures and workholding?

As mentioned in previous blogs, there are a number of methods that may suffice. Simple time studies that measure old set up time vs. new set up time. Rolled throughput yield will show you how many workpieces go in to a process vs. how many good finished parts come out. I believe you should be using Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) to measure your workholding.

Just looking at the loss factors involved with OEE should convince you. When taken in context, I believe they speak to the fundamental purposes as to why you would look to improve your workholding. The three loss factors used to calculate OEE are:

Availability: Availability deals with all events that have interrupted or stopped planned production. Examples could include but certainly are not limited to missing components or incomplete systems to catastrophic fixture failure or “throwing parts”. In addition, workholding that doesn’t repeat well will always cause a stoppage.

Performance: Performance takes into consideration anything that causes production to slow down or not run at full speed. A great example is adjusting manufacturing speeds and feeds or depth of cut because you lack confidence in your workholding.

Quality: Quality looks at any manufactured parts that don’t meet yours or your customers quality standards. Poor surface finish, out of tolerance, too much vibration, the list of quality related workholding failure is a long one.

Once you have identified your loss of productivity, you will simply need to formulate them;

Availability = Actual Run Time/Planned Production Time

Performance = (Ideal Production Time X Total Pieces)/Actual Run Time

Quality = Good Parts/Total Workpieces

Once you have these metrics, simply multiply them together;

Availability X Performance X Quality = OEE

Now that you know your OEE, you will not only be able to measure the performance of your fixtures and workholding, but also be able to determine where you are losing the most productivity or which area of concern you should look at first when improving your workholding.

Measuring the performance of your fixtures and workholding will ensure that these systems contribute to your overall efficiency and profitability. Remember the old saying, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Eric J. Nekich
Lang Technovation Co.
Operations, Technology & Inside Sales.
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