Metalforming Electronics



When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Sensing

By: George Keremedjiev

Thursday, April 1, 2010
For 24 years I have advocated the implementation of electronic sensors for error-proofing as a central path, in parallel with strong employee technical training. Looking back, I am astonished at how many shops do not see error proofing as a means toward higher profitability.

Several metalforming companies, despite the current economic challenges, are aggressively pursuing error-proofing programs with electronic sensors and controls. Among these are companies that have reached the pinnacle of automatic part-quality measurement within their running dies and assembly machines. They have real-time data logging within their company-wide manufacturing supervisory software systems providing data to all who need it for manufacturing planning and execution. There also are companies who still debate the merits of a company-wide basic die-protection system. Why such a wide spectrum of commitment to technology?

I think it boils down to one set of companies understanding the bottom-line benefits of error-proofing and another set of companies misunderstanding the same issue. It is precisely when economic times are hard that one should carefully assess the unnecessary repairs, sorting and scrapping of badly made parts and the effects of these expenses on the company’s bottom line. Die crashes occur with equal frequency in good or bad times. Misfeeds, steel strip inclusions and laminations, poorly adjusted shut heights, bad strip alignment, occasional part ejection jam-ups, loss of lubrication—these and many more issues occur in good and bad economic times. The difference is that in bad economic times we operate in a very lean manner having fewer employees to deal with the consequences of little or no error proofing.

The best metalforming companies take advantage of these economic times to weed out antiquated practices and personnel unwilling to keep up with the progress of error-proof metalforming. These companies see tough times as a to strengthen core disciplines through employee technical training and electronic sensor-based error proofing. From dies to robotic cells to heat treating to finishing, these companies understand that technological stagnation in a stagnant economy is a sure path to extinction.

Evolution occurs when environmental factors change and force an existing system to adapt to the new environment. If that system fails to do so it becomes extinct and is supplanted by others more able to change themselves to the needs of the new environment. The best metalforming companies are evolving their internal best practices on an ongoing basis in a similar manner. As part volumes drop and demands for cost-downs seemingly drown out all other conversations, these companies are revisiting their stamping and value-added functions to error proof them with electronics and better trained skilled employees.

We need to not lose sight of the cycles in the economy, for surely, better times are ahead. It may be awhile before the economy returns to a healthy state of growth, but in the interim we need to evolve the shop floors.

When the going gets tough, the tough get sensing. MF


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