Metalworking Groups

Health and Manufacturing | MetalWorking Group

This blog is not about the health of manufacturing.  It is about the health of our employees at the Metalworking Group.  Skilled people are hard to find.  Once you are lucky enough to have a great work force at your company, the challenge is to keep them and to have them contribute for as long as possible.

Employee Wellness is an important part of any company, but even more so for companies which depend on highly trained personnel.   MWG needs trained and healthy sheet metal fabricators, production welders, laser cutting operators, CNC machinists, and skilled assemblers to be effective.  Our Wellness program is designed to keep our people healthy and to help them stay on the job for the long term.

We do this for a number of reasons.  First of all, our highest company value is Employee Safety.  A Wellness program continues to reinforce the importance of this value.  Secondly, we truly care about our employees and their quality of life.  Both as individuals and as contributors to MWG.

Our Wellness program has nearly 100% participation.  We partnered with Humana to introduce their Vitality program.  Through this program, everyone at MWG, and their spouses, can monitor their biometrics, learn about healthy diet and exercise, and earn points that can be redeemed for specific items or gift cards.

At MWG, we produce custom metal fabrications, CNC machined parts, sheet metal enclosures, and assemblies.  The most important activity we can do to help our customers, our company, and our employees is keeping our highly skilled craftsmen at work.   Some of our employees have significantly changed their lives for the positive with this program.

The Cincinnati Business Courier recently held a competition for the Healthiest Company in Greater Cincinnati.  We are proud to say that MWG was a finalist in that competition.

healthiest employers award Metalworking Group

Finn Power Shear Genius | MetalWorking Group

The Metalworking Group is currently investing in a Finn Power Shear Genius CNC Punching and Shearing system to process light gage sheet metal.  Custom sheet metal fabricators need to utilize the most advanced sheet metal production equipment and Finn Power equipment fits this need for MWG.  In addition to our three laser cutting systems, this machine will add to our array of current Finn Power equipment to give MWG tremendous capacity to process sheet metal.

The Finn Power system has new technology to increase our productivity.  In addition to a CNC turret punch press, the system has an integrated right angle shear with programmable blade clearances.  Without getting too technical, this allows MWG to process a variety of sheet metal thicknesses with reduced set-up times and improved edge quality.  Another new feature is upform punching which enables MWG to form dimples and other shapes without marking the base material  This removes finishing costs and  improves product quality.  The system is powered by a Siemens CNC controller.

MWG will utilize the CNC turrets for high speed production of light gage parts.  The laser cutting systems focus on thicker sheet metal and complicated edge shapes.  Regardless of the sheet metal processing used, the quality of the parts allows our production welding and robotic welding to easily fixture and complete the parts.

MWG is commited to investing in current technology to help our customers with better prodcutivity and repeatable quality.  We will have more news soon on other investments coming.  Pictured below is a Finn Power Shear Genius with automated sheet loader that runs at MWG.

Finn Power Shear Genius CNC

New York City | MetalWorking Group

Last week MWG participated in a Trade Show for custom metal fabricators, CNC machining companies,

laser cutting, and other industrial contract manufacturing.  We decided to see what the market was like in the mid-Atlantic region, so we opted to attend this show.  But, to be completely accurate, the show was held just outside New York City at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in New Jersey.  There were many similarities,  but also a few interesting and distinct differences.

 

The metal fabrication business is influenced by a few different industries in this region.  The customer base includes ship building and repair, computer/telecom chassis, and building infrastructure (such as bridges).  As a side note, one of the bridge builders emphasized that the quality of the work on the San Francisco Golden Gate bridge may not be at the level you suspect.  Maybe I will take the ferry to Sausalito if I am in the area.

 

The region still has demands for good sheet metal fabrication suppliers including production welding and robotic welding.  A common thread for customers is a need for suppliers to offer a wide range of services under one roof.  That is something MWG excels at doing.  I also learned some new sales jargon.  When you land a new customer, refer to them as a "new logo".  All in all, we had about 25 "new logos" visit our booth, and we hope to land some of these accounts through solid follow up and sales work.

 

In operating the Trade Show Booth, we made sure that MWG was represented in a professional and effective manner.  No eating, texting, phone calls and other diversions were permitted.  We wanted to offer our possible clients an inviting and professional experience.  We hope we did so.

 

Below is a picture of our booth at the show:

MWG NYC Trade Show Booth

Laser Cutting | MetalWorking Group

A common and value-added operation performed by many custom sheet metal fabricators is laser cutting of metals.  It is such a common operation that it is hard to believe that very few shops did this 20 years ago.

Technology had to advance in order to make the machines capable of cutting thicker metals, more reliably, and within a reasonable budget compared to other options.  “Laser” is actually an acronym for “light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation”.  This is quite a mouthful and it just starts to touch on the technological advances needed to bring laser processes to metal fabrication companies.

In simple terms, the laser machine acts like a giant magnifying glass to concentrate the light energy into a powerful and narrow beam.  A good visual is using a magnifying glass concentrating sunlight to burn paper.  In an industrial laser, a sophisticated receives electrical power to create a laser beam.  Most lasers use a series of advanced optical lenses that bend the bend throughout the machine tool to deliver the concentrated beam to the cutting surface.  Newer lasers actually use fiber optics to deliver the energy beam.

Once the beam is concentrated, it can reach tremendous energy levels.  Common laser cutting wattages range from 4,000 to 6,000 watts with the capability to cut over an inch thick of steel plate.  Some reflective material, such as copper and aluminum, are not conducive to laser cutting as the material tends to reflect some of the power and not absorb it into the cutting function.

The Metalworking Group utilizes a number of lasers to process custom sheet metal fabrications.  The laser cut pieces have advantages over traditional punching since there is not a burr with laser cutting.  MWG utilizes the lasers to produce large fabrications and parts for production welding.

Below is a picture of a laser operation:

laser cutting

CNC Press Brake Forming | MetalWorking Group

 

One of the truly skilled operations performed by a producer of custom sheet metal fabrications is CNC Press Brake Forming.  The Metalworking Group recently invested in top of the line press brakes from Cincinnati Incorporated, a world class manufacturer of precision CNC press brakes, laser cutters, and other sheet metal fabrication equipment.

 

Modern press brakes are controlled by powerful CNC computer systems and require computer skills in addition to in-depth knowledge of the physics of how metal bends.  To program these machines, the operator must control ram speed , tonnage, CNC back gage controls over multiple axis, dynamic forming, and safety.  Just to name some of the major variables!  The operator must be able to program the proper bend sequence in order to deliver a quality sheet metal fabrication.

 

In addition to the machine itself, tooling quality and tool selection is paramount in producing high quality work.  When MWG made the CNC press brake investment, we also dedicated resources to precision tooling specified for individual machines.  Bottom die width and nose radius are just examples of tooling selection parameters.  Things can get really fun when special tooling like gooseneck tools are utilized.

 

The ability to produce precision sheet metal formed parts affects every operation downstream.  For example, our certified welders need tight weld seams and crisp bend radii to weld parts efficiently.  The less weld that is required, the less grinding time is needed to complete the fabrication.

 

Robotic welding puts an even higher requirement on formed part quality.  For a robotic welder to be effective, every formed part must fit into a rigid fixture and present the weld seam to the robot in a precise and consistent manner.

 

Pictured below is an MWG operator in action on a CI press brake:

CI Press Brake Operation

Custom Fabricator | MetalWorking Group

How many times have you ended a month with the hopes of great results, only to find that your supply budget had a bit of stress on it and knocked the margin down?  It is unlikely to have a month where everything just seems to go right.  However, there are proven techniques that will control the supply budget, and lower the percentage of supplies used versus  sales.

The Metalworking Group entered into a supply agreement with Airgas, one of our valued  partners.  Airgas is known for their work with industrial gases and welding supplies for the custom metal fabrication industry.  They also manage and control a wide range of supplies including expensive cutting inserts used in CNC Machining, consumable weld supplies, and all sorts of grinding, safety, and general shop supplies.

A contract manufacturer of sheet metal fabrications requires a vast amount of different supplies.  Without stringent oversight, the cost of supplies gets out of control and contributes to wasteful spending.  This is where the automated tool crib comes into play.  The Airgas unit is a bar code system that places each specific item into the automated crib.  The dispensing mechanism is computer controlled and is programmed to allow authorized associates to withdraw supplies under their names after their bar code is scanned.

The system is effective for a number of reasons.  First, it requires all the welding, sheet metal, and cnc machining supplies to be categorized and inventoried.  Similar types of items were consolidated and reduced the overall number of items needed.  Secondly, there is specific control over the supply items so they are not misplaced.  In addition, Airgas is able to pull their purchasing power over a wider array of products to yield favorable quantity pricing.

Below is a picture of the unit at MWG:

 

Airgas Unit System

ISO Certification | MetalWorking Group

The Metalworking Group recently passed our one year renewal audit for our ISO Certification.  For those who aren’t familiar with ISO certification, it is an accreditation that confirms the establishment, implementation, and ongoing updating of effective quality assurance systems for manufacturers and service providers.  ISO (International Services Organization) is a globally recognized agency.  With an ISO accreditation, customers can be assured that suppliers meet stringent quality requirements.

For a company performing sheet metal fabrication and CNC machining, it sure seems like ISO accreditation is a worthy accomplishment.  It is a painstaking and expensive process to detail the entire realm of business procedures and develop quality audits around everything we do.  That is the real benefit of the ISO system.  It is a comprehensive assessment of your complete business practices, not just the Quality Department.

As with anything worthwhile, the benefits received from something is in direct correlation with the effort and diligent work put into it.  Despite having an ISO system, many companies simply do not improve their quality performance measurably.  The hard work of improving your system only starts to occur after the accreditation is received.  Root cause analysis, continuous improvement activities, and other rigorous techniques comprise the hard work that must happen after the ISO audit is complete.  Companies that view the ISO certification as the end goal simply miss the opportunity to improve their company.

Manufacturing large fabrications, utilizing robotic welding, laser cutting, and CNC machining operations requires a stringent business and quality process.  At MWG, we are pleased to be ISO certified, but we are proud that we utilize the system to achieve measureable results in defects and quality costs while seeing improved performance with customers.

Below is our ISO certification on display at MWG.

 

Metalworking Group ISO Certification

Large Sheet Metal Fabrication | MetalWorking Group

The Metalworking Group has increased our capabilities to handle large sheet metal fabrication projects.  We recently opened an additional facility that gives MWG 80,000 square feet of fabrication space under heavy cranes!

Our production process allows for laser cutting from 22 gage sheet up to 1.5 inch thick plate.  MWG can also process sheet metal through CNC punching machinery at high speeds.  Once our fabricated parts are cut, we have a bank of CNC forming presses that bend our products into enclosures, brackets, cabinets, lids, wall frames, and other types of shapes.

From this point, our expertise in production welding is utilized to develop a highly efficient system to fabricate your parts.  MWG has robotic welding capability along with manual welding of specialized work.  Our employees are highly skilled and perform certified welding for many different industries.  Our products end up in the medical, energy, defense, electric, and other general commercial industries.

For large fabricated parts, MWG analyzes the work to determine the most efficient production cell.  On low volume work, we may simply establish standard work procedures and organized work cells.  For production volumes that are higher, MWG may engineer a process which develops one piece flow based on takt time analysis.  We have many examples where MWG has driven production costs down utilizing these lean manufacturing concepts on large sheet metal fabrication orders.

In full production quantities, MWG will combine lean work cells and one piece flow with the technology of robotic welding.  We have a number of Panasonic and Motoman robotic welding units.  These processes are analyzed and timed so they can be properly incorporated into our lean manufacturing cells.

For quality control, we have Certified Weld Inspector capabilities and are able to perform NDT testing such as FPI.

Below is a photo of some of the large work being performed at this new facility.

large sheet metal fabrication

6S for Success | MetalWorking Group

Everyone can agree that the details involved in efficiently operating a custom metal fabrication shop can be maddening.  The Lean Manufacturing technique of 6S is a proven and rigorous discipline that provides world-class organization and continuous improvement.


The Metalworking Group has implemented a thorough 6S system that encompasses our entire operation including laser cutting, production welding, robotic welding and cnc machining.

What are the principles of 6S?  Quite simply, each “S” stands for a part of the process.

    Sort:  Separate what is needed from clutter.
    Stabilize:  Make sure there is a place for everything – and everything in its place.
    Shine:  Clean!  Rinse and repeat.
    Standardize:  Create measurements and monitoring for the first three “Ss”.
    Sustain:  Follow and enforce the rules.  Discipline every day!
    Safety:  Eliminate hazards and prevent accidents.  (Our most important value also)

The benefits of a vibrant 6S program include a cultural shift to the positive.  After making the process and habits ingrained, the entire company is now part of a team committed to a clean, safe, and organized workplace. 

It is easy to just say that this is our objective.  But there is a lot more to the 6S process than just saying or wishing.  The discipline to implement, and most importantly, maintain a 6S system is challenging and requires participation from every level of The Metalworking Group. 

Employee involvement is required.  Once the program is in effect, the cultural shift to participate is amazing.  Employees become motivated and energized after seeing the long-term benefits of a 6S program.  Who wouldn’t want to work in a sheet metal fabrication shop that implemented this type of program? 

In the picture below, one of our certified welders is making a custom rack to hold and organize weld fixtures.

 

custom welding