Category Archive: Uncategorized

Which Reverse Counterboring System to Use?

How to Determine the Most Cost Effective Way To Reverse Machine A Workpiece

There are 3 main reverse counterboring systems available to the marketplace at the moment. There is automatic back counterboring (often times referred to as a “flip-open” style tool), manual back counterboring tools and offset entry style back counterboring tools. Each system offers it’s own set of pros and cons which will help you, the end user of the tooling, determine which will work the best for your specific application.

When we spec out a specific tooling system for a potential customer, we focus on two different areas. These areas are Technical Feasibility and the Business Objectives trying to be met. Once we determine what is technically possible to design, manufacture and be reliable in the application while cutting, we can then be sure that we are meeting the required timelines, budget and safety requirements.

Technical Feasibility is typically going to be determined by your thru-bore to your machined feature diameter ratio, the length you have to reach through your workpiece, your workpiece material and the type of machine you will be running your workpiece on.

Business Objectives
are usually a little more complicated to figure out. This is where you’ll start trying to determine things like cycle time savings vs cost of the tooling, possible safety concerns for your machine operators vs cost of tooling and the possible elimination of a secondary operation all together.

Below, we will go through the 3 most common types of reverse machining tools and quickly outline where they rank up in terms of technical feasibility and typical business objectives.

Automatic Reverse Machining

The Autofacer® is an ideal option for higher production run jobs where reliability is of the utmost importance. The majority of Autofacers are custom made tools that can range from Ø.250″ pilot diameter to upwards of Ø7.00″ pilot diameter while cutting Ø11.00″ spotfaces. This is a U.S. manufactured product which offers a variety of clutch designs to mechanically open and close the tooling. A built in rotary pilot supports the tooling while in the cut. This allows the Autofacer to reach impressive length to diameter ratios due to the tooling being supported at the point of cut. Though the majority of Autofacers are custom made per application, a new stock standard line of Autofacers in .5mm (.020″) counterbore diameter increments has been introduced for quick turn-around deliveries when needed.

Manual Reverse Machining

Manual reverse counterboring tools are one of the oldest back counterboring systems around. This system requires that you feed an arbor through your workpiece, stop your machine spindle and then manually connect a HSS or brazed carbide back counterboring head on the backside of your part. The obvious downsides to this type of system is that it is inherently slower than an automatic system and there will always be more risk involved when a machine operator is reaching inside a machine and physically locking on the cutting head. The upsides to these type of tools is that they are generally a more price conscience option compared to the automatic tools and they are stocked in U.S. in 1mm increments from Ø10mm (.394″) to Ø76mm (2.992″) in HSS. Brazed carbide cutters are available in Germany and typically require no more than a week delivery. Because these tools are 4-flute and piloted you can also reach long length to diameter ratios.

Offset Entry Back Counterboring
The offset entry back boring bars are typically a good option when you do not need to reach very far through your part (as these tools are not supported while cutting) and when you are dealing with shorter lengths of cut. These specific tools are made from a heat treated tool steel and utilize indexable inserts or are manufactured from solid round carbide for smaller diameters. Multiple sizes of these tools from Ø6.5mm (.256″) to Ø50mm (1.969″) are being stocked here in the U.S. with multiple carbide grades available. Customs are available for quotation upon request.

I was once told by someone I trust, “There is no such thing as a bad tool… Some tools just fit a specific situation better than others”. I think that by adopting this mentality when trying to determine how best to approach a manufacturing process while putting thought towards your business objectives, setting up a successful process is a very logical step. Don’t forget to reach out to a trusted specialist when the time comes to determine which is the best direction to go. That’s what we’re here for!

Steiner Technologies Stocking Manual Back Counterbore Tools



Fairport, NY: Steiner Technologies partners with German manufacturer, Hermann Bilz to fill the void left by the discontinuation of the main provider of manual back counterbore tools in North America

Steiner Technologies is stocking HSS manual back counterboring heads from 10mm-76mm

⇒ Offset entry back counterboring tools are also being stocked in solid carbide and indexable insert options in a wide variety of metric sizes

⇒ Modular piloted front counterboring tools available in standard metric sizes in HSS, brazed carbide, and indexable insert options

⇒ Stock items can be shipped same day as ordered up until 3 PM (EST)

⇒ The Hermann Bilz line is being offered in conjunction with the fully automatic Autofacer which is designed and built per specific application in our Fairport, NY facility

Are Capital Expenditures on The Rise in Manufacturing?

A few months ago, a friend of mine in plastics manufacturing shared that his firm was experiencing a substantial uptick in production. He went on to mention that to handle the surge in productivity, his company was investing into a custom tool that would automate portions of the production process.

Earlier in the year, I also remember a former colleague (who now owns a construction equipment resale business) saying that after several years of slumped sales, business was finally picking up. He said that prior to this year, corporations simply were not making long-term investments in equipment — but that all seemed to be turning around for 2017.

These personal observations had us wondering: are these scenarios a coincidence? Or indicative of a larger trend? Are capital expenditures truly on the rise? To answer that, we decided to do a little digging. Here’s a look at what we found.

Spending Lags in Some Countries But Global Averages Are On the Rise

According to research from international accounting and consultancy network UHY, it appears that capital spending is indeed on the rise – and not just in the United States. According to UHY, the U.S. has raised capital investments, on average, by 33 percent in five years.

In that same period, China has continued to lead the trend with an explosive capex increase of 73 percent. Additionally, though some European economies are still lagging in capital spending, UHY reports an overall increase in the world average by 21.1 percent.

So why this global rise in production and spending? UHY cites one reasons as, “higher capital investment levels are an indicator that businesses are positioning themselves to expand capacity, to improve productivity, or to move into new markets by opening new sites.”

Zooming In On The Homefront

Optimism in global markets may be contributing to steady growth in production and domestic spending as well. In the past 12 months, many sectors of manufacturing have taken a huge leap from where they were a year ago, citing that they’ve seen noticeable “increased business confidence.” This in turn results in a greater willingness to purchase new machinery and equipment that will support both current and forecasted production levels.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “business investment has risen, a sign companies are spending to increase productivity. In the first quarter, investment in plants climbed a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14.8%, the highest since early 2014. Investment in equipment climbed 8.8% in the second quarter, the highest in almost two years.”1

Lower Corporate Taxes May Spur Spending

Another factor that may be prompting more manufacturing companies to make capital investments is the recent proposal for corporate tax reform. This tax provision, which aims to reduce the corporate tax rate from the current rate of 35 percent down to 20 percent, would put money back into manufacturing business’s bottom lines, potentially freeing up funds for them to invest in the tools, equipment and automated processes that improve productivity and efficiency. (See how the Autofacer does this for a variety of applications.)

Whatever reasons were behind the recent successes of my friends — whether global optimism or the promise of domestic corporate tax cuts – it seems that their scenarios are not isolated. Research suggests that many more firms are, indeed, noticing a recent rise in capital spending. And while not every manufacturing sector may be feeling the impact of this change, the fact that more businesses are taking noticeable measures to invest in the future is welcome news for everyone.

4-ways-to-create-a-more-ergonomic-manufacturing-workplace

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are common in manufacturing – in fact, according to OSHA, they are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. MSDs, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, epicondylitis and several other types of muscle strains account for 33% of reported worker injury and illness cases. Is your workplace doing its part to ensure the prevention of such injuries? Here are four ways you can help ensure a more ergonomic manufacturing workplace.

1: Know The Risk Factors

The first step is having an awareness of the risk factors that lead to MSD injuries. Here’s a look at some processes that are among the most problematic:

  • Excessive force – lifting, moving or pulling heavy objects
  • Repetitive tasks – performing the same motion over and over again
  • Prolonged/awkward postures – working in positions that place stress on the body (kneeling, leaning, squatting, reaching inside a machine, etc.)
  • Cold temperatures – working in a chilled environment
  • Exposure to vibrations – either whole-body or hand-arm vibrations

2: Perform a Job Hazard Analysis

What are potential problems in your work environment that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders? A good first step is to perform a job site assessment, which evaluates the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment. Also be sure to review your firm’s accident history. Then observe and identify the above processes that are known to be problematic, starting with jobs that have the highest potential for injury. Check out this comprehensive guide from OSHA on more specific steps you can take.

3: Include Both Workers and Managers in Solution Development

Implementing ergonomic processes not only ensures good morale, but contributes to your manufacturing firm’s productivity. That means it’s in everyone’s best interest to develop solutions that reduce the chance of injuries and keep things running smoothly. These solutions should not come from the top-down – in fact, just the opposite. Employees are the ones who are likely to have the best insights on specific machines, tasks and the processes that surround them. Be sure to do the following in your approach:

  • Invite workers to participate in your worksite assessment, and encourage them to develop, implement and measure the effectiveness of solutions.
  • Discuss the risk factors for MSDs and welcome employees to voice their concerns and offer ideas for reducing risk factors.
  • Offer regular training on new ergonomic techniques, and be sure workers have resources in place for early reporting of injuries, so early symptoms don’t turn into lost-time claims.


4: Implement Ergonomics Solutions to Control Hazards

Of course, for every industry, every manufacturing floor, there comes a unique set of tasks and processes that may require custom solutions that help reduce MSD injuries. In some cases, this could mean modifying or upgrading existing equipment; while in others, it’s a matter of making changes in methods (such as more frequent staff rotations).

Another solution might be purchasing new tools or devices to assist in production. Reverse machining tools from Steiner Technologies, for example, minimize the need to break down and re-fixture a part, instead allowing machinists to reach through the part to machine the opposite side of it. Automating processes often reduces the risk of injuries as well: the Autofacer®, for instance, helps workers avoid awkward movements; it prevents the need for entering a machine to affix a cutter head that will perform a reverse counter bore. Watch the Autofacer in action right here.

Learn more now about ergonomic solutions and controls for MSD hazards, along with manufacturing success stories (segmented by industry) from the U.S. Department of Labor Or, for additional tips that will help your manufacturing firm adopt more ergonomic solutions, don’t miss our recent blog, Approaching Change Management in Manufacturing

The Evolving Role of Tool Coatings As a Performance Booster

By guest blogger Mark Romach, Engineering/R&D Manager at Advanced Coating Service (ACS)

For machinists and shop owners who rely on tool coatings to boost performance in the most demanding applications, using the best cutting tool coatings and coating processes are a significant factor. But like so many new manufacturing technologies, what’s considered “the best” continues to evolve, making it a moving target and often a source of confusion. Here we’ll break it down for you. We’ll offer expert insights to help you understand what’s happening in the world of tool coatings – whytool coatings are significant, how they’ve evolved, and what’s on the horizon.

Why The Need For Tool Coatings?

First, a quick history of PVD coatings for cutting tools. It started with some pioneering companies applying ultrathin TiN coatings to the cutting edges of a machine tool bit to extend the lifetime of a tool. From there, it wasn’t too long before process engineers were designing new and improved coatings as a premium product offering and machinists began to see the benefits of the new technology.

As TiN was put into use, manufacturers began looking to PVD coatings to solve other tooling issues, including the sticking of the material being machined to the flutes and cutting tip, heat build-up at the tip, and friction. TiCN, TiAlN, and AlTiN were all variations of the composition of TiN that helped solve these issues.
How Have Tool Coatings Evolved?

Over time, the focus shifted to modifying film structures from a single layer coating, to multilayers and gradient film structures, and then nanolayers, and finally nanocomposites, plus the modification of the compositional materials of the film to form new materials.

Most recently, we’ve seen a strong focus on the synergy and interaction that exists between the tool design (geometry), tool material and grade (substrate), pre- and post-treatment of the cutting edges, choice of coating, material being machined, and method of machining (application). While TiN is still the workhorse of the industry due to its relative low cost and familiarity to end users, there are many preferred coatings that can offer improved performance — especially when the synergistic effects are factored into the equation.

A Rising Demand For “State of the Art” Tool Coatings

A quick review of today’s patent applications and media releases confirms that the focus is, indeed, on synergy; a trend that is shaping the current tool coatings marketplace. In response to the demand for more synergized solutions, tool designers and manufacturers are embracing new processes and emerging technologies as they design custom solutions to differentiate themselves from the competition. This trend, along with some other recent developments, is playing out across the manufacturing industry in a few different ways:

  • “Synergy” is encouraged by asking a customer a range of questions: how is your tool being used? What material is being machined? Are coolants used during machining? What is the speed or horsepower limitations of older machines? Those are some basic questions that may be asked in addition to a variety of other pertinent (and less obvious) questions. The answers to those questions can be factored into final decisions of both tool design and coating choice; thus a synergy that optimizes the finished tool.
  • Pre- treatments like edge honing are being used to microscopically round the cutting edge, due to the fact that PVD coatings often don’t grow in “perfect” structure on a highly sharpened edge. The minutely de-sharpened edge gains a disproportionately longer lifetime because the edge can be better protected by the hard coating.
  • Coating specifications, like film structure, thickness, and composition are optimized for the tool type, design, and machining New coatings are introduced every year.
  • Post-treatments, often called honing or polishing, can be used to optimize the surface finish of the tool as a means to improve its performance.
  • The hardcoating industry is using a variety of PVD technologies to produce surfaces that provide reduced friction, improved cutting edge protection, plus chemical and thermal isolation. It is also using DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) and amorphous carbon coatings as available film options, incorporating nanocomposite layers into the film structures, and developing oxi-nitride and oxide top coatings.
  • In the composite machining niche market, for example, aerospace applications where the increased cost of the coating can be more easily justified, we are reading numerous reports that CVD diamond coatings produce chemically inert films that perform very well for those materials. It could certainly be argued that CVD-grown films in general have some superior benefits in adhesion and toughness; however, the high coating temperatures for CVD limit the application of those films to niche markets like the diamond films, giving us reason to pursue the PVD hardcoating film offerings in our applications.

Summing It All Up

At the end of the day, it’s important to understand that tool coatings are performance add-ons that, under the right circumstances, provide financially beneficial upgrades. The “right” coating will not correct the wrong tooling material, an incorrect grinding geometry, or low quality tool blanks; however, it can serve as a performance boost that reduces the cost of manufacturing for the end customer.

With the higher cost of some of the exotic tool coatings, the coating must be cost effective and process beneficial on multiple levels to be considered. Additionally, we’ve learned the benefits of a partnership between the coater and the end user. When both are committed to mutual success, a number of iterations can be tested to find the optimized combination of tool design and construction, coating and application where true synergy exists.

To offer customers a premier product, Steiner partners with ACS to provide a combined tool design/coating package that will boost tool performance. If you have any questions, or would like to inquire about our tool offerings that save you time and money, please don’t hesitate to ask
About the Author

Mark Romach is an Engineering and R&D Manager at Advanced Coating Service (ACS). With experience in the thin film vacuum coating industry beginning in 1981, Mark remains focused on the latest technological knowledge in tool coating. His expanded knowledge and expertise in the thin film coating world helps customers like Steiner boost performance and create most cost-efficient processes.

The Top 5 Manufacturing Events to Attend this Fall – And Why They’re So Critical

These days, there’s so much happening in manufacturing that it’s hard to keep up. For the Steiner team, one way we keep our finger on the pulse of all the goings-on in the industry is through trade shows, tool exhibits, conferences and other live events. These events serve as a key source of inspiration; they help us find the best ways to capitalize on opportunities and overcome our biggest challenges in the industry. Here we’ll touch on some of those challenges and opportunities – plus offer a quick round-up of the events that are on our radar for autumn.

Rising Trends & Challenges

Today’s technology lurches us forward faster than ever before. It presents new opportunities and innovations that improve our manufacturing processes, products and overall efficiency. Live events are an invaluable way to stay on top of the most cutting-edge tech trends. Last year, for example, I walked away from IMTS Chicago with several new ideas that Steiner could implement to drive our company forward. (Here’s a recap on the 3 biggest takeaways and inspirations.)

And then there are the challenges – most notably, the increasing shortage of incoming professionals in manufacturing. It’s a problem that I expect to plague us not only today, but throughout the next couple of decades.

So as in years past, a key focus for me at this year’s events will be finding the best ways to compensate for the shrinking resource pool while still staying relevant to new prospects. For example, how can we use automation to eliminate secondary operations and reduce the need for manpower? Which tools and machines will streamline our processes in the most cost-effective way in years to come? With these questions in mind, we carefully balance our line-up of events in hopes of gaining valuable takeaways that will ultimately cover the cost of admission (which has invariably been rising in the last few years).

Upcoming Events for Fall 2017

So which events are on our radar? Fortunately, there are a number to choose from in the coming weeks that will provide just the industry insights we’re looking for!

1 | SEPTEMBER 5-7, Indianapolis, IN

Modern Machine Shop Top Shops Conference

How do we make our business more efficient? In what ways can we optimize shop-floor practices? This conference offers a zoomed-out look at the best practices and processes that have helped leading manufacturers become top performers in their sectors. More Details

2 | SEPTEMBER 12-14, 2017; OCTOBER 24-26, Regional

WESTEC /SOUTH_TEC

Sponsored by the Association of Manufacturing Technology (AMT), these popular, well-attended events offer a great look at all the latest tools and technologies – and because they are regional, it makes it easier for more manufacturers to attend. Additional AMT regional events include EASTTEC and Houstex (focused on Oil & Gas), scheduled for 2019. More details: Westec | South-tec

3 | SEPTEMBER 18-23, Hannover, Germany

EMO (Machine Tool World Exposition)

This comprehensive trade fair designed for the metalworking sector offers a vast showcase of trends and innovations. Steiner will be exhibiting our tools along with industry partners H. Bilz and Mollart. More Details

4 | SEPTEMBER 25-28, Ontario, Canada

Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show (CMTS)

This extensive show is targeted toward manufacturers who are looking to automate and/or create efficiencies on the shop floor and improve upon existing processes. The Steiner team is looking forward to exhibiting at this show along with Expertech Distribution & Technologies, Inc.
More Details

5 | OCTOBER 11-13, Atlanta, GA

Global Forecasting and Marketing Conference

Similar in nature to Top Shops, this conference is packed with ideas that can inform and amplify your overarching business strategy. From this, our team hopes to gain insights on how to identify and penetrate new markets and capitalize on today’s most promising industry trends.
More Details

“Microshow” Demonstrations

In addition to the well-known, large-scale events, we’ve found great value in attending a handful of smaller, more informal “microshows.” These demonstrations give machine tool dealers and builders a chance to showcase their products in a much more intimate setting. One upcoming show this September is Gosigerfest, where Steiner will be demonstrating the Autofacer.

Microshow” Demonstrations

Keep in mind, while the events mentioned here are the ones on Steiner’s radar, every business is different, and should choose the events where they will find the most value. Many of the large manufacturing events require a significant investment — in time, resources and budget — and It’s up to business owners to prioritize which ones will make the biggest impact on their business.
Would you like to connect with the Steiner team? Or discuss any of these upcoming events? We’ve love to hear from you — just contact us at any time!

Manufacturing Memo: OSHA Ruling Aims to Improve Safety in the Workplace

The more we shine the spotlight on the topic of safety and accident-prevention, the more it raises awareness on workplace safety for manufacturers. (In fact, this topic fueled our most popular blog to date, CNC Machine Safety: 3 Operator Risks Every Manufacturing Company Should Know About.

Creating awareness around workplace safety is also the intention behind recent developments from The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here’s a quick look at OSHA’s proposed provision, why it affects employers — and how it aims to make safety a greater priority among work environments nationwide.

What is OSHA’s provision?

In May, 2016, OSHA issued a final rule on recordkeeping requirements, requiring certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness records directly to OSHA. Employers are already required to keep such records under existing regulations.

Why is this provision significant to workplace safety on a large scale?

With injury and accident reports made publicly available through electronic records, more employers will likely be compelled to evaluate and/or improve upon their existing safety policies and procedures. On the manufacturing floor, for example, this could encompass anything from stricter enforcement of lockout/tagout procedures to requiring machinists to wear ear protection.

Also, according to a recent article from the United States Department of Labor1, “This regulation will improve the accuracy of this data by ensuring that workers will not fear retaliation for reporting injuries or illnesses.” And finally, the Department of Labor cites, “As we have seen in many examples, more attention to safety will save the lives and limbs of many workers, and will ultimately help the employer’s bottom line as well.”

When do the changes take place?

The requirement became effective on January 1, 2017 with a two-year phase-in period. For required employers, the first deadline for phasing in electronic submissions was originally drafted for July 1, 2017 but has now been extended to December 1, 2017. The functionality for electronic submissions is said to become available through OSHA on August 1, 2017. More information and updates on submission rules will be posted on OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) webpage

Waiting Out Uncertainties

OSHA’s rule, which applies to roughly 441,000 workplaces2, has met a few challenges from the current administration that have caused the original July phase-in deadline to slide. While that has left some employers feeling uncertain about what is required from them in the future, it seems that most companies (like our team here at Steiner) are simply keeping an ear out for updates, and waiting for the electronic reporting functionality to become available so they can follow protocol.

At the very least, OSHA’s proceedings have given manufacturers like us yet another reason to take a second look at workplace safety – both in our own facilities and on a large scale. While the past few years have seen a noticeable decline in the number of reported workplace injuries and illnesses, there are still about 2.9 million private industry injury and illness cases reported each year (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). While this has improved from previous years, it is still too many in our view. Of course, there is no guarantee that the OSHA ruling will dramatically impact that statistic — but again, it’s yet another reason to keep the safety conversation at the forefront.

Sources:

¹Final Rule Issued to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses by United States Department of Labor, OSHA, accessed July 17, 2017
²Eilperin, Juliet, OSHA Suspends Rule Requiring Firms Report Injury and Illness Data Electronically, published by Washingtonpost.com, accessed July 17, 2017

3 Ways DriveWorks Software Helps Automate the Quoting Process

A few months ago, a friend of mine in plastics manufacturing shared that his firm was experiencing a substantial uptick in production. He went on to mention that to handle the surge in productivity, his company was investing into a custom tool that would automate portions of the production process.

Earlier in the year, I also remember a former colleague (who now owns a construction equipment resale business) saying that after several years of slumped sales, business was finally picking up. He said that prior to this year, corporations simply were not making long-term investments in equipment — but that all seemed to be turning around for 2017.

These personal observations had us wondering: are these scenarios a coincidence? Or indicative of a larger trend? Generating quotations is a key piece of your business; quotes serve as a critical communication vehicle that connect your prospective customers to your product. And that means creating those quotes efficiently and effectively is important to your sales team, design engineers and other key staff. This is especially true for companies that create custom solutions and must provide special diagrams and other features with their proposal.

After the popularity of our recent blog post, Design Automation Software: What It Does And Why It’s a Game Changer for Manufacturers, I thought it was time to take a deeper dive and discuss some specific ways that DriveWorks software can help automate the customer-quoting process. So I rounded up ideas from our design engineering team – and here’s a look at the three features that have made the biggest impact.

1. Data Acquisition Using Group Tables

Every time a customer quote is generated for a custom tool (in Steiner’s case, The Autofacer), DriveWorks will collect all pertinent information into a table. That aggregated data can be exported from DriveWorks into Microsoft Excel and customized based on certain criteria (for example, by tool or by distributor).

These group tables/charts, which can then be manipulated according to the specific criteria you’d like to see, essentially works like a live database in Excel. They are updated whenever the data in the Excel table is updated from DriveWorks, providing real-time visibility into customer order tracking. For example, how many open orders do we have? Which type of tools are being ordered? What sizes? How many quotes went on to become orders? All of this information can be extremely useful for the sales and management team.


Diagram 1. This chart (which is updated whenever the data in the Excel table is updated from Driveworks) shows month-by-month quoting activity for The Autofacer. The blue columns show the number of quotes and the green columns show the quotes that became orders.

2. Built-In Macro Ability

Let’s say your company is generating a quote for a custom tool or machine. Chances are, several calculations must be performed in order to determine the exact specifications of that custom order. At Steiner, for example, we perform several calculations using a secondary source, Microsoft Excel.

DriveWorks works in tandem with those secondary sources, with built-in macros that export data to perform key calculations (shown in Diagram 2a). Then the data is “returned” to the software to inform the criteria and next steps in the quote generator (such as tool size and prompts like the “OK to proceed,” shown below in Diagram 2b). These functions, which are performed behind the scenes, make for a smoother and more efficient process – and save users time from having to reference data from one source and reenter it in another.

Diagram 2a. DriveWorks exports data to a secondary source (Excel) where design feasibility for a tool application is calculated. It then “returns” that data to the software.

Diagram 2b. Data is imported from Excel back into DriveWorks to inform the next step. In this case, it has verified that the tool size selected meets customer requirements and the design team is “OK to proceed” with quoting.


3. Built-in Intelligence

Our third favorite feature using DriveWorks for quoting is the fact that the software uses built-in intelligence to guide users through the quoting process. Here again, we’ll use the example of a quote request for the Autofacer.

DriveWorks helps pre-populate certain fields with the data it “knows,” thereby reducing the number of decisions that could otherwise vary throughout the quoting process. This type of intelligence creates time-saving efficiencies in quoting – and delivers more consistent end results, regardless of who is inputting the data.


Diagram 3. DriveWorks uses built-in intelligence by pre-selecting data (shown in red) based on certain criteria. This helps users make “smart” selections and yields more consistent quoting.
Every manufacturing business is unique, of course – but I hope you find these three tips helpful as you think about some ways to streamline your own customer quoting process. At Steiner, we’re always looking for ways to improve productivity and create efficiencies, and we enjoy sharing them with our readers!

Sign up now (see form at top right) for Steiner updates. And as always, if you have questions don’t hesitate to contact me

Making the Case for Change: 4 Ways to Approach Change Management in Manufacturing

Your manufacturing firm is considering its largest capital investment to date: a new piece of equipment that will streamline an otherwise highly manual process.

While the benefits look promising, the stakes are high: will it prove to be a sound decision that ultimately saves your company time and money – or will this decision put your firm in a financial deficit?

The truth is, much of your success relies upon how well you plan to manage that proposed change. Whether it’s a large machine, a simple tooling solution or new software, both management and staff can be slow to adopt the very changes that could validate an expenditure and deem it successful. So what gives?

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the top four challenges to change management that we’ve come across in the manufacturing world, along with the solutions to help overcome them.

Challenge 1: Seeking approval

Let’s face it — executives are never going to jump at the idea of spending money, and are even less likely to sign off on something that disrupts production. Without a thorough, thoughtful analysis to prove how and why a capital expenditure would be valuable to your company, your efforts for seeking approval will likely be futile.

The solution: Gather all necessary details and present a thoughtful proposal that lays out all the benefits and the drawbacks of a particular solution. Do all relevant calculations upfront — for example, in the case of a new machine, what is the cost? How many hours in manpower will it save? What are the cost savings when compared to the old machine? How much will it increase throughput? Perform your cost-benefit analysis upfront, and if possible, try to provide alternate solutions as back-ups.

Challenge 2: Getting your staff on board

Seeking approval from management is just the beginning. Even once that is accomplished, staff can be slow to warm to anything that threatens “the way things are normally done.” Despite your efforts to explain to employees the potential value that a given solution might provide, it’s natural for people to push back on changes – especially if those changes feel suddenly forced upon them. Read more on resistance to change.

The solution: Involve team members from the very beginning – especially those who will be most impacted. Show them how your proposed solution will directly benefit them. Ask your team for feedback and opinions, involve them in your cost-benefit analysis, and include key team members when you present ideas to senior management. By involving your team from the start, they are far more likely to take ownership in the decision and help champion the change for others.

Challenge 3: Sticking with it

You’ve made it this far: you purchased a new solution, demonstrated its benefits and trained your team on the new process. But it’s not too long before you realize that on the floor, things aren’t exactly going as planned: some of your staff has reverted to the old processes that you worked so hard to replace. This scenario not only creates inconsistencies in operations, but makes it difficult to validate the long-term value of your expenditure.

Solution: Develop a validation plan that lays out guidelines and a timeline for your process change. Before you roll out your changes, define and formalize your goals and expectations, then share them with your team so they feel collectively motivated to hit goals. For instance, will a new tooling solution increase throughput by a certain percentage? From the time of the first run-off, how long will it take your team to achieve that goal? Once you define the criteria upon which to measure success, it will be easier to track and measure improvements and/or identify inefficiencies. It’s also important to periodically follow up with your team to check progress to make sure they are following through with the changes, as well as identifying anything that is not working as planned.

Challenge 4: Proving value over time

You’re eager to show senior managers how the solution you proposed improves operations over time — but not all solutions show immediate value. For a large capital expenditure like a large piece of new equipment, for example, it may be several years before your manufacturing firm realizes any financial or operational gain.

Solution: Here again, it’s necessary to perform your cost/payback analysis early in the process. This will help you set reasonable benchmarks that can help you stay on track in measuring the value of your investment. You may even want to seek outside financial expertise to help you create accurate projections for your analysis.

All in all, implementing a new solution and its accompanying new processes may feel like an uphill battle — but when you apply a thoughtful and strategic approach, the rewards can far exceed the risks.

Whichever solution you’re considering, don’t forget to ask your vendor for help, too. A prospective vendor should be able to help you with a cost-benefit analysis and other key calculations to help guide your decision. (For example, take a look at our Cycle Time Calculator that helps manufacturers understand how much time and money they can save with the Autofacer®.)

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How Today’s Trends Are Fueling Innovation for Automotive Manufacturers

With vehicle production on the rise, automotive manufacturers are feeling the impact. For many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), this means investing in new machinery and/or improving facilities to increase productivity and efficiency. Meanwhile, changes in consumer demand, technological advancements and environmental regulations also challenge organizations to refocus their thinking for the future. In this blog, we’ll explore current trends in the automotive sector and discuss what they could mean for manufacturers.

Production & Spending: What the Numbers Say

Recent research suggests that vehicle production is at historic levels, a pattern that’s expected to continue in the next couple of years. According to the 2017 Metalworking Capital Spending Survey1, annual vehicle production in North America is predicted to top 18 million vehicles in 2017, 2018 and 2019, up from 17.55 million vehicles produced in 2016. The survey also offers insight on how production is expected to impact spending throughout the manufacturing supply chain:

  • In 2017, facilities that serve the auto industry plan to spend $804 million on machine tools.
  • Predictions on overall spending by automotive facilities can be broken out by machine type as follows:
    • $370 million on machining centers
    • $48 million on turning centers
    • $103 million on grinding equipment
  • The automotive industry is expected to outspend all other industries in machine tool purchases by an excess of about $319 million (followed by the aerospace industry).

Investing in Automation

Under pressure to produce parts more quickly and in large volumes, it’s likely that many auto manufacturing facilities will continue to adopt tooling solutions that help automate and streamline operations. The trend could also open the door to various forms of additive manufacturing, which entails manufacturing a part using 3D printing technology. Another opportunity for cost reduction and automation is 3D modeling and design automation software, which allows manufacturers to speed up design time and increase consistency in their designs.

Investing in automation goes beyond the automotive sector, too – in fact, according to another manufacturing survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, 75 percent of respondents said their companies planned to increase investments in automation or advanced manufacturing technologies over the next five years. ²

Responding to Non-Traditional Demand

Evolving consumer demand may also be a contributing factor for increased production. As consumers push for “non-traditional” types of cars, including those with green features and driverless technologies, auto makers may find their current vehicle line-ups are no longer sustainable. Even with the possibility of rolled-back mandates on fuel-efficiency from the new administration, the demand for electric and more efficient vehicles remains strong — with auto makers at the ready to move forward with green technologies to meet that demand.

Electric-car maker Tesla serves as a good example of changing consumer demands. Widely known for the self-driving technologies of its Model 3, Tesla nearly overtook industry giant Ford in market value in recent weeks – and came within striking distance of long-time market leader General Motors.3

What It All Means, For Now

Of course, there are no guarantees that vehicle production will hit its expected targets; no guarantee that demand will stay its course. But even as trends ripple throughout the automotive supply chain and redefine the focus of numerous auto makers and manufacturers, one thing’s the same: despite both internal and external influences, the manufacturing world continues to adjust, innovate and move forward.

If you would like to learn how automated tooling solutions like the Autofacer® can help you speed up high production volumes, try out this easy-to-use Cycle Time Calculator.

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¹Gardner Business Intelligence (the research division of Gardner Business Media, publisher of Modern Machine Shop). 2017. Metalworking Capital Spending Survey. Retrieved from http://mms.epubxp.com/i/802599-apr-2017/90 [PDF].

²Belfiore, Michael. (2017, April). Automation Brings Manufacturing Back Home. Retrieved from http://www.automationworld.com.

³Dwyer, Colin. NPR Contributor. 2017, April 4. Riding Hopes For Model 3, Tesla Overtakes Ford in Market Value. Retrieved from www.npr.org.