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Exploring Low-Cost Die Protection at the 2009 METALFORM Exhibition

By: George Keremedjiev

Thursday, October 01, 2009
 
“There is no money.” How many of you have heard this sentence whenever you request funding for sensors and controls for die protection? It is a reality in most metalforming shops as we continue to grind our through the this economic malaise. But perhaps there is a silver lining to it all. Maybe, this is a good time for all of us to revisit the topic of die protection, put on our learning hats and attend the 2009 METALFORM Exhibition, November 15-18, at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, with a new set of purchasing glasses.

“Find low-cost die protection,” rolls out of the mouths of much of our metalforming management as it tries to justify new investments to prevent die crashes and minimize scrapped parts. With this in mind, I suggest that the visitors to the show explore, as never before, all equipment options available from the various vendors of sensors and controls at the show. They, like you, have been hit very hard by the economic slump and are revisiting their offerings in this new economic light. Ask as many questions of the vendors as your patience permits regarding the various pricing options available.

Volume purchases of sensors are generally well discounted as are volume acquisitions of die-protection controls. Furthermore, ask about all of the various sensor types and see if any particular ones are over-stocked and available for further discounts. You may have to be flexible in your die designs to accommodate a sensor that may be a little larger than you planned yet just as effective, but heavily discounted. Used sensors are not my cup of tea as you never know just what use (or abuse) the sensor and cabling may have experienced, and testing them for robustness is very difficult under true die-protection conditions. Perhaps the used sensor’s cable has a tiny pinhole in it that will aspirate (suck-in) fluid, including oil into itself and shortly thereafter short circuit the sensor as the insulation is compromised. I als advocate that sensors be purchased new whenever possible to avoid any unpleasant surprises. The Internet is full of used equipment, so keeping the above in mind one needs to be careful when it comes to used sensors—bought singly or in large lots.

Die-protection controls should likewise be explored carefully from the perspective of price. As with sensors, I advocate the purchase of new equipment for the same reasons. However, as there are numerous auctions going on of presses and die-protection controls, I urge the visitors to also explore what factory reconditioning options may be available for those who cannot afford new equipment. For example, you purchased a used press at auction and it has what appears to be a good die-protection control system on it. Is the original manufacturer of the controller available to go through this used unit and certify its good health?

Likewise, are there any used die-protection controllers available directly from the manufacturer with a factory certification? It all boils down to peace of mind in having a reconditioned unit with a blessing from the original manufacturer. If the manufacturers do not currently offer such services, ask them if they would consider it.

“We have no money for training,” is the other challenge those of us who specialize in die protection and mistake-proof manufacturing have to face. Whether we are individual private consultants or teachers on this topic, we all have to be flexible with our fees to better reflect the new economic realities of our clients. Make sure that during your visit to the show you ask for discounts from those who individually and independently consult and teach to the metalforming industry. Do not be shy about this. Not only should you ask for discounted fees from the die-protection advisors, but also seek out discounts from those who similarly consult and teach on the various aspects of metalforming including topics such as lubricants, die design, tool and press maintenance, lean practices and worldclass manufacturing.

Being frugal is not the same as being cheap. We all know individuals who at the height of their financial status maintained an attitude of buying everything on the cheap, and then regretted it as their processes collapsed or were greatly compromised by the poorly built technologies they purchased. What I advocate is very different. I am not proposing a flea market, bargain-till-you-drop mentality. Rather, I ask that you do not give up on your die-protection and mistake-proofing dreams because of the initial price being asked for by the vendors of equipment.

Keeping your project alive while scouting for cost-downs is a healthy practice in this economy. The dream of lean, efficient and mistake-proofed factory operations cannot be compromised; rather it should be sustained realistically by seeking financial concessions from vendors, consultants and teachers. MF

 


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