Tag Archives: manufacturing

Introducing the Servo Torsion Spring Machine

spring machine 1Proper manufacturing of torsion springs to specific tolerances can present unique problems for spring makers who are supplying furniture manufacturers. Our solution for one spring maker was to design and manufacture an exceptional machine that can form ASTM A401 chrome silicon wire in diameters from 0.250″ to 0.438″, into torsion springs with inner diameters ranging from 1.25″ to 3.00″. This Servo Torsion Spring Machine was manufactured entirely in-house and designed in 3-D with Solid Works. All programming development was also done in-house. A totally custom solution! The Spring Machine, with a footprint of 12 feet by 20 feet, was supplied with a powered wire uncoiler, a 2-axis wire straightener, pneumatic wire feeder, and a 2,000 PSI hydraulic power unit. Full operator and maintenance training was also provided to the customer. spring machine 2

Used for the manufacture of chair mechanism springs, the Spring Machine was supplied with a 1 year warranty up to 3,000 hours of running time as well as installation, training, and digital & print manuals. Our testing included the processing of multiple spring and endform designs to ensure that we were delivering a state-of-the-art, flexible system. By taking our customer’s unique specifications and utilizing 3-D design and simulations, we were able to produce a Spring Machine that optimizes their spring making operations.

Bringing Electronics Manufacturing Back to the U.S.

Motorola is manufacturing its Moto X smartphone in Fort Worth, Texas. Apple announced that assembly and some manufacturing of the MacBook Pro will be done in the U.S., as well as adding 2,000 jobs at a new component manufacturing plant in Mesa, Arizona.  Why are electronics manufacturers starting to bring their business back to North America? Many technology giants sent jobs and operations overseas to take advantage of cheap labor and large factories. The reasons for manufacturing and assembling in Asia are now starting to dwindle and the reasons to bring these operations back to North America are skyrocketing. Labor is getting more expensive and working conditions are improving in countries like China, India, and Thailand so companies can no longer take advantage of the low wages and long hours. Shipping costs are increasing as well so companies are spending more and more to ship these products back here. But perhaps the most legitimate reason to bring electronics manufacturing back to North American soil is the design/production disconnect.

North American companies typically retained design functions here even when they sent manufacturing offshore. This separation led to very inefficient production of a variety of products. Designs done here evolved into things that were not easy to manufacture, prompting workers overseas to change the designs or charge more for labor and time. Bringing back product manufacturing reunites the design function with the people who make the components, streamlining the entire process for a higher quality, lower cost item. GE is a great example of a company that has reshored manufacturing of multiple products and ended up simplifying their entire process, fully expecting that the improved communication and innovation will translate directly into improved profitability.

Check out the recent articles below for more information on the Made in America movement:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-28/more-companies-see-advantage-to-manufacturing-in-the-u-dot-s

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-04/apple-to-build-plant-in-arizona-with-2-000-workers-to-make-parts.html

INDUSTRIAL EQUIPMENT and our (not so) grand obsession with PRICE

We are obsessed with price.  Whether it is for products or services, price seems to have become the single most important determinant in most purchases.  Retailers offer to match each others’ price in a rush to the bottom, with one preaching that a lower price results in a better life; but, is it true?

In the business-to-business marketplace too, price has assumed an all-important position.  Given the realities of global competition, an emphasis on price at all levels of the business cycle is not only understandable, it is essential.  However, have we followed the historic human tendency and ‘carried it too far’?  How important is price; really?

Let’s admit right up front that price is important.  It is a vital element of consideration when we compare the value of competing proposals.  However, it certainly does not stand alone.  In fact, when price becomes detached from the overall value proposition, when it becomes the overwhelmingly predominant or even singular focus, it is a dangerously incomplete and unreliable measure.  Price is an honest measurement only when balanced against other factors.  A ‘price only’ or ‘price-above-all’ approach to purchasing excuses us from learning the essentials, from actually thinking about what we are doing.  However, we use the excuse at substantial risk.

What are these other factors that we must take into account during the purchasing decision?  At a minimum they include providing answers to three basic questions:

  1. What Are we Buying?  Do we thoroughly understand what we are purchasing and how it fits into our business?  In the final analysis, we are buying goods or services that will allow us to provide recognizable value to our customer (and to the ultimate consumer if they are not the same entity) and do it in a manner that allows us to receive value from the transaction too.
  2. Who Are we Buying For?  This question has a number of sub-questions but two are particularly important: 1) do I understand how they will use what I am purchasing, and 2) do I understand what will be their challenges in its use?  For example, perhaps our purchase is custom automated machinery to be used by the production division of our organization, a pressure cooker of dates, budgets and stringent quality controls.  Will minimizing the initial capital expenditure adversely affect subsequent expenditures on maintenance, labour requirements, our ability to sustain production requirements, quality of our products or services, our ability to respond quickly to changing market requirements (in other words, lifetime costs and capabilities)?  In the end, we are all dependent on our corporate ability to do our part in providing sustained satisfaction to the ultimate consumer.
  3. Who Are we Buying From?  Continuing with our production machinery example, we will need to ask ourselves: Do they truly understand our operating environment and where their product or service fits into our ability to provide value to our customer?  Will they not only support their product but support our production personnel; or, are they responding to our price-only purchasing approach by being a price-only supplier and providing minimal support?  Are they an ethical company; do they have a transparent approach to doing business; do their employees, suppliers and customers speak highly of them?

We all know that there are substantial benefits to price competition.  Price competition drives efficiency.  Price competition drives innovation.  But does price justify our obsession with it?  A less than thoughtful response will cost us in the long run.

How Automation is Aiding North American Manufacturing

The manufacturing renaissance is a hot topic these days within our industry, and automation is playing a hand in the process. The use of automated systems and robotics are allowing companies to bring production back to North America for a lower cost than the already inexpensive overseas labor. New advancements in three-dimensional vision, offline programming, and force-sensing technology are making newer robotic animation systems capable of performing more complex tasks according to Design World.

PIC013It’s not just a matter of cost when it comes to automation in the manufacturing industry. Robotics could be the answer to issues manufacturers were previously having with quality of the products they were putting out. Senior applications engineer at Bastian Solutions, Steve Kruse spoke to Design World about new automation quality. “Some of the quality issues have left a sour taste,” Kruse said. “Manufacturers are looking towards automation to bring products back, get the quality up, and still maintain a competitive price in the global market.” But what about the jobs of the North American workers that used to perform those tasks?  This is where the debate heats up.

At first glance it is easy to assume that automation could kill off many manufacturing jobs, but that simply is not the case. The business that automation would be taking is from other countries that are offering cheap labor, so automation may actually be able to bring more manufacturing back to North America that had migrated overseas. While this may not create large numbers of traditional manufacturing jobs, the machines will need skilled personnel for repair, upkeep, and operational overseers, as well as company administrative employees, and many other opportunities for good positions.PIC040