Get lean, get automation, get help

Get educated, get help, get lean, and apply automation where it makes sense to do so. These were among recommendations shared with attendees to a June 1, 2008, best practices and ideas session at “A Passion for Manufacturing, 2008 SME Annual Meeting & Interactive Unconference,” in Detroit.

07/01/2008


Get educated, get help, get lean, and apply automation where it makes sense to do so. These were among recommendations shared with attendees to a June 1, 2008, best practices and ideas session at “A Passion for Manufacturing, 2008 SME Annual Meeting & Interactive Unconference,” in Detroit.

Advice to engineers presented at the meeting and in follow-up interviews with Control Engineering , includes the following.

  • After lean initiatives, manufacturers should reapply the latest in automation and robotics. Automated Manufacturing & Assembly technical community leader, Raul Fernandez, Ph.D., said he often finds it helpful to explain to those who doubt the value of automation how mean time between failure (MTBF) can be better with robotics than with certain machine tools and pieced-together systems. Generally, if integration of more than two axes is involved, a robot usually is a better value, in total cost of ownership terms, because of software, simplicity, maintainability, MTBF, wiring, and system integration of controller and feedback of devices, Fernandez said.

  • Use controls as the key differentiator in making operations more effective, especially in converting from part information to process information more effectively, said Dennis S. Bray, president and CEO of Cincinnati Inc., a builder of machine tools for the metal fabrication industry ( www.e-ci.com ).

Bray’s company is involved in one of the additive manufacturing technologies known as metal powder compacting. Precision movement of more than a dozen axes of motion compacts the part then releases pressure so as not to crack the part. “We’re producing highly complex parts at speeds of 10 to 30 parts per minute, which would be very costly to do by traditional machining techniques. Automation helps makes the pressure of faster lead times and lower batch sizes possible,” he said.

  • Work with your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership ( www.mep.nist.gov ). MEPs offer help, said Bonnie Knopf, owner of Intrepid Plastics, an injection molding business. She said MEPs saved manufacturers an estimated $1.3 billion in costs over the past year, added to top line growth, and improved processes, supply chain growth, and business operations.

  • Meet locally with SME technical communities ( www.sme.org ). These communities are organized by topic and include: automated manufacturing and assembly, forming and fabricating, industrial laser, machining and material removal, manufacturing education and research, plastics, composites and coating, product and process design and management, rapid technologies and additive manufacturing.





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