Category Archive: Manufacturing

Another Successful Year for Manor Tool’s Internship Program

For students, spring break often represents a time to kick back and relax with friends and family before the end of the school year as the busy summer months approach. But not all seniors use their time to unwind; some students keep going full speed ahead.

At Manor Tool, we’re doing our part to decrease the manufacturing skills gap by supporting these motivated high school students and helping them to enhance their knowledge outside of the classroom.

Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce

Each year, Manor Tool offers an internship program over spring break to honor our commitment to the Chicago manufacturing industry. We work with local high schools and trade associations in an effort to increase interest and knowledge about our industry and the many career opportunities it offers.
Our internship program has two main goals. First, we aim to give interested students the chance to learn more about manufacturing by allowing them to be a part of our team for a week. Second, we intend to create an interest in manufacturing to help build and grow tomorrow’s workforce.

We received numerous impressive resumes of students interested in joining our internship program. This year, two students stood out among the highly qualified candidates: Salvatore (Sal) Labarbera and Noah Guadalupe. These students were chosen based on their history of mechanical and engineering based classes and extracurricular activities. From looking at their resumes, we could tell they would be a great fit with the Manor Tool team.

Their week consisted of learning every facet of what Manor Tool does, starting with a tour of our facilities to learn how to operate a punch press. Over the next few days, Sal and Noah learned about all the departments and how each one impacts Manor Tool, including: Engineering and Design, Sales, Customer Service, Accounts Payable, and Ownership. We gave them a glimpse into the many departments and team members it takes to offer high quality stamping, machining, designing, and engineering services.

Looking Forward

As the need for qualified engineering and machining employees greatly increases, our team at Manor Tool hopes to help decrease the manufacturing skills gap by expanding our role to include more education and opportunities to prospective engineering students.

We enjoyed our week getting to know Sal and Noah, and we look forward to welcoming more interested students to our internship program in the future.

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.

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.

President Preckwinkle Celebrates Manufacturing Day with Students

On October 2nd, more than 2,500 businesses across the nation took part in Manufacturing Day, a manufacturing-minded day in which industrial production companies open the doors of their facilities to the public.

Among some of this year’s many participants was Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, who attended our open house at Manor Tool & Manufacturing Company. There, President Preckwinkle toured our modernized industrial setting, noting the opportunities Manufacturing Day offers to people eager to learn more about industrial careers.

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Preckwinkle acknowledged a valuable truth about National Manufacturing Day — while it’s undoubtedly beneficial for corporations to interact and receive feedback from the general public, Manufacturing Day also provides an incredible outlet for burgeoning students to familiarize themselves with a field they are passionate about.

The opportunity presented by Manufacturing Day for students can, in turn, result in a positive future for corporations, as well.

“Manufacturers face a growing need for educated and skilled workers,” Preckwinkle said, “and events like this are designed to build interest in these careers among the next generation that will soon enter the workforce.”

Thus, Manufacturing Day proves a catalyst for a cyclical process in which manufacturers give to students, and in which students will, hopefully, give back to manufacturers.

President Preckwinkle, who has been committed to the support and growth of manufacturing careers for some time, used the platform to discuss the industrial field and its benefits.

Manor Tool was founded in 1959 as a tool and die shop and since that time has grown to be a recognized leader in manufacturing, providing customers with modern and technology driven metal stamping.

Manor specializes in punching, bending, forming, and deep drawn stampings in more than 44,000 square feet of manufacturing space and state-of-the art equipment and machinery.

Internal Machining Centers for Tool & Die Production and Maintenance

Manor Tool & Manufacturing believes customers deserve the finest in tool and die manufacturing. We believe it is an integral part of the manufacturing process. Our eight machining centers create the tooling required for production, supporting one of the largest tool rooms in the greater Chicago area.

These internal machining centers provide the control required to meet the demands of production cycles in today’s just-in-time work environment.

Reasons that Internal Machining Centers Help Meet Production Cycles

Consider the following:

  • Lead times and production scheduling. Our in-house machining centers allow us to set and follow your timetable to complete the tooling. Using a secondary source for machining exposes the tool & die company (and the customer) to unplanned delays.
  • Better accuracy. Specific tooling requirements for tooling features such as hole size or if the hole is tapped, countersunk, or reamed are programmed by us right off the geometry and done in a single set up. Conveying the same information to an outsourced supplier of machining requires more communication, increasing the potential for error, added scrap, and more re-working to fix mistakes.
  • Improved productivity. Keeping all machining in-house prevents issues encountered using a secondary source. There is no downtime because of delays caused by transportation time or supply chain bottlenecks. Employees maintain focus on the customer’s deadline because there is no downtime caused by sending the tool out for machining.
  • Maintaining control of the die/tool. There used to be a public service announcement (PSA) that appeared around 10:00 in the evening: “Parents, do you know where your children are?” The PSA implied that children left without supervision might get into trouble. The same implication fits when having your product shipped to a secondary supplier for machining. You may know the tool & die shop, but how well do you know their machining source? Our in-house machining centers eliminate this worry. The bottom line result is the on-time delivery of an accurately made product without the excessive waste associated with outsourced machining.

Manor Tool Machining Centers

Our eight machining centers are housed in two locations:

Manor Tool & Manufacturing headquarters (three machining centers that work primarily on maintaining dies)

  • Okuma 3-axis CNC machining center
  • Feeler
  • VMC Haas VF5

CLL Engineering (five machining centers focus on die production)

  • Quantum CNC machining center
  • 2 – Okuma 3-axis machining centers
  • Haas CNC machining center
  • Haas TL-2 CNC lathe
  • Versatility in the Machining Center

These machines provide the versatility to accommodate large capacity dies, offer high-speed milling and perform standard CNC machining. Each location emphasizes either production or maintenance support.

However, both locations have the flexibility to do the other’s work in order to meet production needs. A complete list of our tool room equipment is available here:

Access Our Resource Library

For more information on our manufacturing processes, or to learn more about Manor’s in-house machining centers, contact your Manor representative today.

Options for Secondary Services from Manor Tool

We’re proud to offer metal stamping, progressive die stamping, custom tooling and fabricating services for our clients. Alongside these services, one of the things that has long helped Manor stand out from other companies in the industry is our commitment to providing a complete solution – helping customers to reduce lead times, improve quality, and eliminate many of the headaches that can develop in the manufacturing process with other providers.

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That’s why it’s important for a metal stamping company to offer a full range of secondary services designed to help you get the best components for your project. Our facilities are designed with these needs in mind. Here are just a few of the secondary services we offer:

  • Deburring

  • Drilling

  • Powder Coating

  • Machining

  • Painting

  • MIG, TIG, SPOT, and Project Welding

  • Plating

  • Assembly

While some other companies offer these secondary services, few work carefully with their customers to ensure the right combination of services is available for every project. It’s part of what sets us apart and allows us to provide the best possible solutions in so many situations.

A Commitment to Meeting Customer Needs

This is best illustrated in our ability to customize project specifications based on customer needs. For example, short run fabrication is an ideal solution for those with lower volume products in need of short lead time for production runs. Short run fabrication gives you the opportunity to pinpoint and fix issues in a product’s design or production process before you go through development of hard tools that can cost quite a bit more. Manor offers this service, allowing you to get into full production faster and with fewer issues.

Supplemental Machining Services

Another valuable secondary service is machining. Whether for shafts, forgings, castings, or fasteners, a full service machine department will allow you greater flexibility in what you develop in plastic and metal parts. Manor has such a department, which you can read more about here.

The bottom line is that the major components of a project are incredibly important, but so too are the secondary services that can speed up production, reduce lead times, and ensure optimal quality for your parts. That’s where Manor comes in, offering comprehensive secondary and machining services for companies like yours.

Contact us today to learn more about these services and what we can do for you. 

Get an Engineering Review of My Part

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

Forecasting for Manufacturing 101

Forecasting for manufacturing production is a combination of past experience, overall skill, and a good dose of financial judgment.  Depending on the size of a manufacturing operation, statistical techniques and tools are useful for the creation of more accurate forecasts.

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In the end, however, forecasting is the mix of subjective judgments of past experience with objective calculations via past and present data (e.g., production, inventory, personnel, schedule, facilities, equipment, etc.) in order to make informed business decisions. In other words, it is an attempt to predict the future via historical data points.

Some of the subjective and objective information and data include:

  • Method of Manufacture

  • Source of Data

  • Timeframes

Method of Manufacture

Method of Manufacture is one way that a company can utilize forecasting.  If the production is typically “Made to Order,” they likely use a Model Option Logic method of forecasting.  This method involves evaluating the production of a specific number of each production model and its options, and then forecasting the number of similar items that will likely be manufactured in the forecasted time period.

The other method of manufacture is “Made to Stock.”  This methodology of forecasting relies on historical trends to determine the number of models and options to produce.  These two manufacturing methods for forecasting are best used in an OEM’s production of uniform products that may have variable options (e.g., appliances, automobiles, etc.).  However, the forecasts can have some utility for a second or third tier supplier to those OEMs, since they may have some data to use from previous production years for various components supplied to the OEMs.

Source of Data

Manufacturers often use both quantitative data and qualitative data to assist in production forecasting.  Solid quantitative data that has a basis in detailed, accurate statistics can yield more definitive forecasts.  However, many of the statistical models can be complex for smaller businesses.  For this reason, it is often easier and more appropriate for small to medium sized companies to work with qualitative data such as sales figures, past demand, customer opinions, and market research.

Timeframes

The timeline for production, sales cycles, and other data are also useful in creating a production forecast.  Past trends, seasonality, sales cycles, and even random orders are all time-related indicators that can be useful in forecasting for manufacturers.

However, as Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing techniques have taken hold in businesses of all sizes, the need to forecast is quickly becoming a smaller part of overall business operations.  In JIT manufacturing organizations, the focus is on production and how to respond to demand rather than a forecast. A company operating within JIT techniques requires a very tight and agile supply chain, in addition to highly responsive production capabilities.

Reduce Cost of Metal Stampings
 

Robots and Manufacturing: A Partnership in Innovation

The use of robots in manufacturing has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. They are now recognized as an effective way of increasing efficiency and cost-savings, while eliminating reliance on an unskilled labor force and creating a need for new, higher skilled employees.

freddyFor companies in various industries throughout the country, automation is proving to be the key to the competitive edge. For example, Boeing has recently made the decision to utilize more automation in order to stay ahead of its competitors. In a recent article on the subject, it was stated that this decision—largely based on the fact that automation is the key to greater production efficiency—means the aircraft manufacturer could potentially “increase production from 8 jets per month to 10 or even 12.”

Automation in metal stamping has proven to reduce cycle times and increase productivity. When looking to remain competitive, greater efficiency, higher production and lower costs are the keys to success. At Manor Tool & Manufacturing Company, our robotic work cell—affectionately known as Freddy—has proven to drastically reduce cycle times for a number of clients. Freddy automates the movement of pieces between machines,  placing and separating final parts that have been formed from scrap web.  This has created a truly innovative use of automation for metal stamping at Manor. When Michael Wenzel, a well-known German robotics expert, visited Freddy recently, he was certainly impressed.

True innovation is what has always set American manufacturing apart, and is what will continue to do so. Robots are one of the brightest spots in innovation right now, and it’s exciting to think of what they will continue to do for the industry in the future.

(Want to see Freddy in action? Check out this video)

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