Category Archive: eBook

3 Key Characteristics of a Successful Metal Stamping Partnership

An important decision for any business to make is choosing the right partners. When it comes to the metal stamping industry and its many applications, factors such as company history, scope of capabilities, and a focus on innovation are vital elements to consider in any potential partner.

Here are a few essential characteristics to look for when deciding on the right partner for your next metal stamping project.

Company History

The company you choose for your metal stamping partner should possess a strong portfolio and established history of working with challenging yet successfully completed projects. It’s also important for the values of a potential partner to be aligned with yours, providing transparency in their processes and methods of operation.

Scope of Capabilities

Metal Stamping Design Review

While a potential partner should have expertise in the techniques of metal stamping, they should also offer value added services that extend beyond their core practices. For example, Manor Tool began strictly as a tool and die shop, but now we also specialize in forming, bending, punching, and deep-drawn metal stampings. We provide a wide range of capabilities, which means we never outsource projects to a third party. This increases efficiency and saves costs in the long run.

Focus on Innovation

The manufacturing industry is rapidly changing, and a strong partner will be ready and prepared for whatever the future brings. Modern equipment and processes such as automation can greatly increase efficiency and reduce long term production costs. With a metal stamping partner that employs the latest manufacturing techniques, you’ll continue to receive high quality components that can help you to stay ahead of the competition.

Manor Tool: History, Scope, & Focus

Manor Tool and Manufacturing has a long and proven history of delivering successful, quality metal stamped parts, a broad scope of services, and a deep commitment to staying at the forefront of innovations in the manufacturing industry.

Our full range of services includes metal stamping, deep drawn stamping, progressive die stamping, custom tooling and fabrication, machining, manufacturing design and engineering, and finite element analysis.

To learn more about the qualities of an ideal business partner, download our eBook, “Choosing the Right Partner for a Successful Metal Stamping Project” today.

Download your copy of Choosing the Right Partner for a Successful Metal Stamping Project

Kaizen Events for Process Improvement in Manufacturing

The global business environment for manufacturers has never been more competitive. As the axiom goes, a company’s performance relative to its rivals is either getting better or its getting worse — it never stays the same. However, while manufacturing executives are aware that they need to constantly improve their firm’s processes, actually quantifying that improvement is difficult, and figuring out a way to systematically improve company performance on a continuous basis is even more so.

how to use kaizen

In the late 1980s, several multi-national manufacturing corporations trying to identify a method to continuously improve company processes came up with the “Kaizen Event.” A regularly scheduled gathering of employees from all areas of a firm, Kaizen Events are designed to focus that collective experience on any number of individual challenges.

At Manor, Kaizen events are cohesively linked with our safety program, and we’ve learned how to use them to target improvements in safety and efficiency in a wide variety of company environments. With a focused application, we believe Kaizen Events have the potential to benefit not only manufacturing firms, but also firms in banking, government, healthcare and many other industries.

Kaizen Events can be powerful tools to make improvement a continuous and structured effort. What follows is a brief introduction to Kaizen Events and how Manor has incorporated the concept into our ongoing operations. We hope you’ll find it a helpful introduction to implementing Kaizen Events that can be easily tailored to your business.

How to Use Kaizen Events to Optimize Manufacturing

What is a “Kaizen Event” Exactly?

“Kaizen” is a Japanese term meaning “improvement” or “improving one’s self for the benefit of the whole.” The concept grew out of a wider movement to tackle the critical but elusive task of continuously improving manufacturing processes — this as opposed to just doing things as they’ve always been done and only introducing occasional improvements piecemeal without an overarching plan. But how do you create a set of protocols that allow you to apply an actionable framework to that improvement? How do you make it not only efficient, but enforce a schedule on it and make it reproducible?

Motorola spearheaded the effort to systematically address these challenges with the so-called “Six Sigma” approach. The term is borrowed from manufacturing — a “sigma rating” indicates the percentage of products produced that are free from defects. A “six sigma” process is one in which more than 99.99% of products are defect free.

Kaizen Events are part of this approach to reduce inefficiencies and increase the quality not only of products, but also the processes that create them. In theory, the concept behind Kaizen Events is simple:

  • During a period of 3-5 days, employees from a cross section of departments meet in one place to discuss the process at hand. The participants are all stakeholders in that process, and are usually derived from all areas of the company, from management to administration. The idea is to bring the greatest breadth and depth of knowledge and experience into the discussion.
  • The group observes the process. This can either be in the form of a demonstration or, if it’s more practical, the creation of flowchart of the steps involved.
  • Once the participants understand the process, they make suggestions to improve it.
  • Finally, the group discusses options, during which suggestions are either implemented or discarded, until all participants can get behind the new approach.

The primary attributes of Kaizen Events are their efficiency and their focus. They gather the decision-makers and the people actually involved in the process in one place at one time. A particular strength of Kaizen Events is that they get everyone’s buy-in so that thoughtful, effective solutions can be implemented quickly. Companies can make rapid improvements, particularly with a process that isn’t running particularly efficiently.

How Manor Implements Kaizen Events

Typically, a Manor general manager will spearhead a Kaizen Event, along with a team leader. Also included will be 4-5 employees from virtually any department (punch press, tool room, sales, administration, etc.) to provide a diverse and unbiased observation group. The team assembles in the area where the process to be evaluated takes place, such as a machine operation or particular manufacturing process. However, these events don’t just consider manufacturing or machine processes. They can extend to all aspects of the company, including shipping and receiving, inventory management, engineering, and sales.

The team observes the full process. On the manufacturing side, Kaizen events are most often concentrated on safety and efficiency. Some things that team members might consider:

  • Do they notice something unusual that the operator who works in that area every day might have long since gotten used to?
  • Is the operator performing tasks that appear to be unsafe, and could they be done in a safer way?
  • Is the movement of the operator efficient and ergonomic, i.e., is there too much bending and lifting involved?
  • Are the parts or tools needed for the process inefficiently located?

After observing the process, the team meets to discuss each group member’s observations and decide on any action items that could be implemented. The current process is documented, issues or problems are defined, and possible changes are discussed. Suggestions may encompass changes in a work area to improve ergonomics, safety, efficiency, work flow, etc. Any approved changes are implemented, and a follow up of the process is scheduled to evaluate the results.

Examples of Kaizen Event Success Stories at Manor

Kaizen Events sound good in theory, but the proof of their effectiveness is in the improvements Manor has enjoyed since implementing them. Here are just a few examples:

Increasing Productivity:

A customer part required a soft edge around their product. After the part was made, the operator would deburr the edge using a wire wheel. The process was done by hand, always pushing the part upward on the wheel, and it was noted that productivity dropped off at end of day due to operator fatigue. This same part also required countersinking, which was being done by another operator, and again, productivity decreased as the day wore on. After the Kaizen Event took place, the cell on the production floor was redesigned to accommodate several changes to the process:

  • After the part came off the punch press, the parts were placed on a flat steel skid, two on each skid.
  • The skid then was slid (not picked up and carried) over to a drill press in same cell where the part was fanned with a fanning magnet, and both parts were countersunk at the same time.
  • Following countersinking, the edges of the parts were deburred using a wire wheel.
  • Parts would then be boxed and packaged within the cell and ready for shipping.

As a result of the Kaizen Event, this process now utilized one operator instead of two, provided a break between the wire wheel process to reduce fatigue, all resulting in heightened productivity and a safer process.

Enhancing Ergonomics:

  • It was observed that operators were often bending over and down to retrieve parts from boxes in their cells. A Kaizen Event suggested elevating boxes to a height that did not require repeated bending and lifting.
  • Wheels were added to an aluminum riser that carried parts from process to process or machine to machine, eliminating the bending, lifting, and carrying of items to different stations.
  • Machine presses or work cells requiring similar processes or parts/tooling were rearranged to be adjacent rather than constantly moving items from place to place.

Workspace Organizational Improvements:

In some work areas, Kaizen Events led to the application of a “5S” approach — another work area organizing system with Japanese origins. Loosely translated, the 5S methodology involves Sorting, Systemization, Shining (maintaining a clean, streamlined work area), Standardizing and Sustainability. These principles provided a blueprint for getting all work areas operating as efficiently and distraction-free as possible.

In our experience, Kaizen Events have led to changes that not only improved safety, but also enhanced productivity and even increased revenue.

Barriers to Implementing Kaizen Events

Although Kaizen Events have proven their ability to increase efficiency, boost productivity and provide a program that enables continuous improvement of production processes, many companies are still reluctant to implement them. One primary reason is the perception that such events take employees away from their “main jobs” for up to five days at a time. While this concern is understandable, we’ve found it to be a short-sighted view. In fact, in our experience, proper application of Kaizen Events has led to better performance in employees “main jobs” allowing them to place more focus on quality rather then process. The events help employees identify ways to spend the majority of time in their primary roles more efficiently, rather than having to frequently “put out fires” and attempt to manage systemic problems with quick fixes over and over again.

Another potential drawback is that companies don’t fully embrace the concept. Rather than committing a meaningful number of people for a meaningful period of time, some firms will instead commit a couple of people for an insufficient amount of time. The result is fewer suggestions for improvement, and a perception on the part of employees that decision makers view the effort as unimportant.

And of course, Kaizen Events are not a cure all. There are some instances when another approach is preferable. For instance, if a resolving a problem requires evaluating sets of data over an extended period of time — statistical analysis or variations in long-term experimental results, for example — a carefully selected team of experts that meets regularly will likely be a better choice than a one-time meeting of disparate individuals. Kaizen Events are much better suited to regularly reevaluating existing methods and processes. After all, continuous improvement is the point.

Creating an Effective Kaizen Event

To be effective, Kaizen Events must be championed by management and enjoy the full participation of a variety of employees. During the course of the event, employees on Kaizen Event teams must:

  1. Undergo a brief training period that will allow them to grasp the process more fully
  2. Go into the event with precisely defined goals, outlined in steps 3-5
  3. Acquire a full understanding of the current approach to the process
  4. Be encouraged to think “outside the box”
  5. Develop a plan to follow up on improvements and assess their effectiveness

Of all the steps listed above, #4 is perhaps the most critical and the toughest to establish. Employees must believe that any ideas they may come up with to address problems — even if those ideas may seem unconventional — are important and valued. They must also be assured that any improvements they suggest won’t put them or other employees out of a job. Any successes should be highlighted and shared within the company so that everyone can appreciate and understand the value of Kaizen Events — not only those that have been held, but those in which employees may be asked to participate in the future.

Most importantly, effective Kaizen Events require and foster respect. They show that each area of a company has something important to contribute, that each person in the company is an important part of the team, and that each individual is willing and able to improve the experience of everyone else who works there.

The Real Power of Kaizen Events: Your People

Kaizen Events offer companies several benefits, not the least of which is a time-tested, proven method to address a difficult problem: how to continuously improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a company’s ongoing operation. But we don’t regard that as their chief benefit. At Manor, we’ve always believed the real strength of our company is the people who work here. Most have been with us for more than a decade, and in that time they’ve accrued vast amounts of knowledge, experience and problem-solving skill — qualities that go far beyond the limited concept of “value.” The real power of Kaizen Events is their ability to help us tap into that knowledge and experience in ways that benefit the company as a whole.

It’s a power that we believe any company, using the power of Kaizen Events, can tap into.

How to Use Kaizen Events to Optimize Manufacturing

The Effect of Continuous Improvements on Manufacturing and Business Processes

Improving a business is an easy idea to agree with but a much harder one to implement. Finding areas that need improvement and making changes accordingly is one of the most difficult ideas to quantify. Systematically improving performance on a continuous basis is very difficult for most industries to do on their own.

We were also looking for ways to make improvement a continuous and structured effort when we learned about Kaizen Events. This approach engages the employees in determining where improvements can be made and how to successfully implement solutions.  By improving the process, we reduced inefficiencies and increased the quality of the final products.

Because we have been extremely successful with the Kaizen approach, we produced a new eBook to outline how this can be used to improve manufacturing operations as well as any other business structure. How to Use Kaizen Events to Optimize Manufacturing offers a glimpse inside Manor Tool and our drive to improve company performance.

describe the imageWhen you download this eBook, you will explore

  • What a Kaizen event is
  • How Manor implements Kaizen events
  • Examples of Kaizen success stories at Manor 
  • Barriers to implementing Kaizen events
  • Creating an effective Kaizen event
  • The real power of Kaizen events

Sometimes, the greatest obstacle to modifying or changing a process is the idea that “that’s the way it has always been done.” With Kaizen events, the issue isn’t to tear processes down but to build them up through improvements that have been carefully evaluated through knowledgeable discussions.

Having experienced this process first hand, we believe that Kaizen events are well worth the time and effort. We have used Kaizen events to target improvements in safety and efficiency throughout the company and continue to improve our processes for our employees and our clients.

Download How to Use Kaizen Events to Optimize Manufacturing for free from our website today to begin the process of optimizing your operation.

How to Use Kaizen Events to Optimize Manufacturing

Top Reasons for Reshoring in Manufacturing

Reshoring: A Reversing — and Growing — Trend

Reshoring—the trend of bringing manufacturing jobs from overseas back to the United States—has become increasingly common in the past few years.

It marks the beginning of a reversal of jobs leaving the U.S. for cheaper labor and enterprise costs in developing Asian countries like China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, which in turn translated into cheaper prices for consumer goods like cell phones and flat-screen TVs.

reshoring manufacturing jobs

Many companies now, however, including such massive manufacturers as Ford, General Electric, Whirlpool, Apple, and Wal-Mart, are heavily investing in reshoring. The Boston Consulting Group recently conducted a study that found that executives at over half—54%—of companies based in the U.S. with more than $1 million in sales are either planning on or actively considering bringing back production from China to the U.S. A similar survey in 2012 found that only 37% of executives were planning to reshore.

According to these executives, economic conditions seem to favor reshoring. Although specific circumstances and the benefits are unique to every company, there generally are three main reasons to reshore.

Top Reasons for Reshoring in Manufacturing Download Now >>

1. Narrowing Gap in Pay

A significant factor behind offshoring to countries like China has been lower costs of labor which led to lower manufacturing costs overall. This pay gap, however, has been recently shrinking. The International Labor Organization found that real wages in Asia were up by 7.1%-7.8% every year between 2000 and 2008.

In addition, according to the Boston Consulting Group, the average Chinese worker received 10% higher pay and benefits every year between 200 and 2005, which jumped to 19% every year between 2005 and 2010. The Chinese government has even set a target to increase the minimum wage by 15% every year until 2015.

The Economist reports that, following a 2010 strike, Honda gave its workers a 47% raise in pay, while the Foxconn Technology Group, manufacturer for big tech firms such as Apple, doubled the wages for their workers.

By contrast, the McKinsey group reports that pay in advanced countries grew by only 0.5%-0.9% from 2000 to 2008. Real wages in America—declining annually 2.2% since 2005—are comparatively more favorable to manufacturing firms.

2. Lower Energy Costs in the U.S.

Energy costs are critical to any company considering reshoring. Since 2005, wholesale prices for natural gases have fallen by 50% thanks to a rise in large-scale deposits from underground shale deposits yielded through hydraulic fracturing. In contrast, natural gas is three times more expensive in France, China, and Germany, and prices are expected to remain that way for several decades.

It is expected to take between five to ten years before the infrastructure can be put in place for large-scale export of American natural gas. This means that domestic energy prices will remain more cost-effective over other countries.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, natural gas is estimated to account for only 2% of average American manufacturing costs, while electricity is expected to account for 1%. Natural gas and electricity in China, by contrast, is expected to account for 6%. The energy advantage is also expected to create 1 million more jobs as more factories are built.

3. Shorter Lead Times

Due to the 2008 financial crisis, order sizes for U.S. manufacturing companies have decreased, while those for companies overseas have increased. However, this leads to longer lead times, especially as supply chains can become complicated depending on the method of shipment, such as by cargo ship.

Manufacturing here in the U.S. can be far faster than offshoring. Products can travel quickly and reach customers sooner. It can also lead to more collaboration between marketing and engineering teams, helping improve time-to-market as well as resulting in a better product.

The Reshoring Forecast

According to Forbes, reshoring will continue in 2015-2016, but mostly for manufacturing companies that have access to cheap natural gas and global markets, such as chemicals and metals. Reshoring will also grow for industries that see rapid change, such as technology and fashion apparel, where the value of the product compared to weight ratios make it difficult to justify the cost of air freight.

Products that require little labor are also expected to reshore. Chemical plants, for example, will bring jobs back, although most of these jobs never left the U.S.

Advances in Reshoring

reshoring initiative websiteFurther enhancing reshoring efforts in the U.S. is the Reshoring Initiative. Founded in 2010, the organization is a collection of manufacturers dedicated to bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.

According to the Reshoring Initiative, the forecast looks even better for the return of jobs.

  • Since January 2010, there have been 25 known cases of fabricated metal products reshored, involving 1,749 U.S. jobs.
  • Thanks to reshoring and foreign direct investment, there are now more jobs coming back each year than are being lost to offshoring. In 2003, there an estimated 150,000 jobs offshored and only 2,000 reshored. In 2013, there were an estimated 30,000 jobs offshored while a calculated 40,000 jobs reshored. The projections for 2016 predict 20,000 offshored jobs compared to over 50,000 reshored jobs.

Reshoring is ultimately beneficial to the U.S. economy. The IEEE states that the key to successful reshoring is to perform comprehensive Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculations, which reveal the true cost of offshoring.

The TCO calculates the cost of products sold, “hard” costs such as prototyping and shipping, risk-related costs such as quality, opportunity cost, and branding, as well as strategic and environmental costs. Using these calculations reveals that through reshoring, an estimated 2 million jobs can be created in the U.S. in 2015 alone.

TCO analyses help manufacturers clearly see the benefits of bringing these jobs back to the U.S., especially when compared to rising costs shipping costs and wages overseas, and the resurgence in popularity of American made goods.

The Reshoring Initiative offers a free TCO calculator so you can aggregate of cost and risk factors into one cost.

The organization also has various tools and resources such as the Reshoring Library, the Economic Development Plan, and the Skilled Workforce Development Plan to help companies see how reshoring can be beneficial across the enterprise.

Sensible Domestic Manufacturing

The message seems to be clear. Based on narrowing pay gaps, rising energy costs, and complicated supply chains, manufacturing domestically seems to make the most sense as jobs return to the U.S.

Manor Tool has been located in Illinois since our founding. In many ways, our capabilities illustrate the very real benefits of reshoring. Due to our domestic headquarters, we can fully partner with our customers, ensuring constant transparency, meticulous attention to quality, and most importantly, rapid turnaround times.

Our stamping, tooling, and design capabilites are all subject to the highest quality standards. These services were instrumental in quickly providing clients across a range of industries with solutions such as an aluminum alloy drawn basin for the medical industry, and a steel dimpled annular for the automotive industry.

Access Our Resource Library

At Manor Tool, we have seen—and are proud to be a part of—the rapid and continuing growth in the manufacturing, fabrication, and time-to-market capabilities of companies right here in the U.S.

Download this Article as a PDF

Would You Like to Cut Down on Metal Stamping Costs?

There are many facets of your company to consider when you want to cut costs. One way to go is to schedule a meeting with one of our skilled design and manufacturing engineers here at Manor Tool to review your drawings and production plan, and help your company meet low or high volume production requirements. Whether this is your first component or your 1,000,000th, Manor Tool can help you cut costs and save money with a “second set of eyes.”  

Offline Time?

CostSavingseBook

For example, how often are your current dies taken offline for repair and re-tooling? If your current design requires frequent offline time for die repair, have you been able to determine the features that are causing this down time and the lead time extension? Review your design to determine the possibility of altering these features to simplify the component and eliminate unnecessary wear on your die and tooling. Manor’s engineering staff can aid your team with this issue.   

Tooling?

As far as tooling goes, review your current requirements for your components and determine if there are alterations that can be made to reduce complexity and maintain functionality. Just changing square holes to circular holes drastically simplifies machining and tooling requirements. This will reduce your production time and your overall component cost. What about your design and the number of machines and processes that are required? Can changes be made to utilize the same machinery or process?

Automation Possibilities?

Are there portions of your design that currently require manual intervention? You should probably go over these areas to identify possible automation or elimination. Manual machining operations are costly and time consuming. Anything you can do to reduce this will have an immediate impact on your component cost. Our engineering team can help identify opportunities to automate feature creation for your parts.

Having an expert third party review your design and provide feedback is just one of the tips we at Manor Tool can offer you. If you’re interested in a few more tips, Manor Tool has put together The Cost Saving Guide to Metal Stamped Parts which gives you 23 tips that will help save on your next metal stamping project.

To download the eBook Guide, click the button below, or contact Manor today and let us assist you.

  Looking to cut down on cost?Download our Metal Stamping Cost Savings Guide

Manor is Punching Up Production with Acquisition of Turret Press

Manor’s metal stamping and deep draw services encompass a wide range of metals. And since we offer custom tooling and fabricating services for such a diverse array of customers, all in need of specific requirements, we are always on the lookout for the latest machinery to help us serve customers’ needs the best way possible.  In modern, flexible manufacturing, jobs vary, and so should machine tools.

November’s blog mentioned “Freddy” – our robotic work cell that has proven to drastically reduce cycle times for a number of clients. It’s certainly been an innovative use of automation for metal stamping at Manor. Now we’ve added a high-tech press to our arsenal of equipment: a new turret press from Finn-Power, the twenty-year pioneer in hydraulic turret punch presses.

Our new C5 Express Press is a unique combination of reliability, versatility and high performance, as well as ease of operation and maintenance. As a lower cost option for initial low-volume, development volume, or prototyping, the new press offers customers the ability to develop parts before investing in hard tooling for large volume runs.

Manor’s new Finn-Power C5 Express features an auto loader, robotic pick up sheets and loads, and remote programming, all designed to increase production time. Fully networked, the machine allows engineers to develop processes from drawings, using sophisticated NC Express Cam software that generates the G-code for tool paths that are sent to the machine for manufacturing.

The new press adds full networking capabilities, faster processes, lower noise levels, more energy efficiency, and a safer operation. The Finn-Power C5 Express features 20 main tool stations and three multi-tool stations, utilizing one station with 24 tools up to ½” in diameter, and two 6-tool stations with up to ¾” diameter. The result is 53 total tool stations, and a maximum punch diameter of 3.5”.

Additional features include multiple tool-holder sizes that can be switched from station to station, the option for additional index stations, multiple shaping capabilities, multiple job runs from one setup, and an automatic built-in scrap conveyor for fast scrap removal. The machine also offers fast loading and unloading with a smaller footprint.

Manor notes that this new press will allow for immediate tool availability in a short amount of time. The new press, along with Manor’s relationship with suppliers, allows them to have tools delivered to clients within two days.

Two days:  That’s good news for company and clients alike. 

Learn how tools like our new Turret Press allow us to help customers reduce the cost of Metal Stamped parts in our eBook:

Looking to cut down on cost?Download our Metal Stamping Cost Savings Guide

Deep Drawn Stamping: How to Select an Edge Type

 

Often in the industrial world, customers can have a hard time deciding the proper edge to use for their deep drawn stamping. There are six types of edges when performing this process; blank and draw with un-trimmed flange; blank and draw with trimmed flange diameter; pinch trim cut; shimmy die cut; flush trim cut; and blank and draw with no flange.

describe the imageWhen dealing with the blank and draw with untrimmed edge and trimmed flange edge; the choice all depends on whether the flange is important or not.

  • Blank and draw with untrimmed flange:  Used when the flange diameter is not important because the edge causes the diameter to become irregular.
  • Trimmed flange edge:  More expensive, produces ready to assemble pieces.
  • Blank and draw edge with no flange:  Used when side wall edges are not important. The burr side is to the inside of the draw and no secondary tooling required. In addition, it is also used when side wall edges are not important.

When dealing with the pinch trim cut edge or shimmy die cut edge, the difference is that one is used when no flange is needed and the other is used when there is need for a clean bottom cut.

  • Pinch trim cut edge: Leaves a slight flare edge around the draw diameter and secondary equipment might not be required depending on diameter, depth, and burr direction.
  • Shimmy die cut edge: Ideal if notches or shapes are required on the open end of the draw and when secondary tooling is required because the burr side is to the inside of the draw.
  • Alternate is the flush trim cut:  A cost effective edge to the shimmy cut, secondary tooling will be required in order to obtain a small set radius. In addition, the burr side is to the cup side of the draw.

The edge types can also play a major role in the cost effectiveness of the company as well as the time to assemble the part. To learn more and to get a copy of our eBook on the subject, click the button below.

Get an Engineering Review of My Part