Get With The Program

Decreasing consumable costs improves overall total operating costs

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Most shops take a similar approach to their consumable abrasive wheels and discs: just use the same abrasive over and over or maybe try a new wheel here and there without doing much research. While some shops might think that this approach will save them time – compared to the research required to properly select the right consumables to use – it ends up doing the opposite while flushing dollars down the drain. Fortunately, there’s a better way. Instead of just randomly swapping out abrasives, Weiler Abrasives created a consumables program to help shops optimize their cutting and grinding operations.

The consumables program focuses on in-house testing to determine where dollars are being lost. After evaluating a customer’s cutting and grinding operations, the program measures real-world data and provides quantified results. The goal is to help the customer increase production efficiency, meet customer expectations and improve profitability.

A cutting test is performed during an on-site assessment for the Weiler Consumable Productivity program.

“We try to focus on shops where we can deliver the most impact,” says Trevor Thomas, district sales manager for Weiler Abrasives. “Sometimes that is a single operation with operators that use a high volume of consumables. But, it can also be an application that has a few operators that use a small number of wheels or discs. We are able to offer a solution either way.”

“On their end, all the customer needs to do is give us information,” he continues. “We walk the floor with them and look for things that others might not notice. We need access to information to really be able to see the application so that we can come to them with a solution that applies specifically to them. The Weiler Consumable Productivity program is a systematic approach for measuring improvement. We like to say, ‘you can’t improve if you don’t measure.’”

The five-step program looks at how abrasives are used, how long they last and how productive they are.

Taking steps

1. First and foremost, an on-site assessment is scheduled, which involves walking the shop floor to learn about the production process and understand the priorities and challenges. From there, a plan can be created where the most appropriate products are tested on the shop’s actual parts.

“A big thing to note, though, is that we don’t want to interfere with production,” Thomas says. “We need access, sure, but we can balance that without interfering in a company’s day-to-day production. We don’t want to be a distraction in the facility, but we do want to stand next to the operators that are running the tools. We’re looking for things that can be improved whether it’s something specific we were brought in to look at or something we see while performing our general assessment.

“The initial assessment is like a Q&A,” he adds. “Offering some suggestions and figuring out what we want to try is all derived from what we see and hear during the assessment. We’re looking for engagement at all levels of the organization.”

2. Based on the initial assessment and the data that is captured, a baseline is established for the current process. “We establish a baseline to know what it’s costing the customer to grind today,” Thomas says. “A lot of times, we’re surprised that organizations really don’t know what it’s costing them to grind – we’re there to help figure that out.”

3. At this point, testing can be performed, including measuring the time it takes to perform the operation and counting how many parts are completed and how many consumables are used. Typically, the Weiler team tests multiple products to determine which one is going to work the best for the application.

“Sometimes, if we have a situation where the operators are resistant to change, we might change how we perform the testing,” Thomas says. “Knowing that some operators can be resistant to change, we genuinely want to engage with them individually during the testing. We want them to understand that we’re not just looking to save their employer a few bucks. That’s why we actually ask pointed questions about their preferences and which products make their job easier or harder. It’s a huge focus of the testing.”

4. From there, the collected data is calculated and savings are estimated based on labor, time and consumables consumption.

“As we calculate the data, we figure out what it’s costing them to grind from a material perspective and a labor perspective,” Thomas says. “Maybe they’re spending money on wheels that are harder so they last longer, but it’s costing them more to get their parts completed because it takes the operator longer to grind the parts. We can then move forward to present the results. Typically, we have an exciting story to tell so we want to deliver that solution quickly.”

5. The results and recommendations are presented to the customer. At this final phase of the program, it’s important to understand that a silver bullet solution isn’t always discovered.

“When we get to the presentation phase, we typically have honed in on a solution that we know can deliver results based on our testing and data,” Thomas says. “Whether we are able to deliver a solution today or not, we present our results and are completely transparent on our testing. If we don’t have a solution today then we’ll come back in the future with something that actually works.”

The first step in the Weiler Consumable Productivity program is an on-site assessment where Weiler experts learn about the production process and understand the priorities and challenges.

In instances where a specific product isn’t recommended, the results often go beyond consumables usage. The problem isn’t always the abrasives.

“By walking the shop and taking time to engage with operators on the floor, we can improve techniques and offer cost savings and efficiency improvements that aren’t really product-related,” Thomas says. “Sometimes in our evaluation process, we discover the operators are applying too much pressure while they’re grinding or they’re doing something unsafe or inefficient. It could be tooling related or something like a leaky air hose. When we find that stuff, we still point it out and try to help them understand how much that’s affecting their operation. It doesn’t help us sell products, but that’s not always the point. It’s more focused on solving a problem and providing good customer service.”

Real examples

In addition to explaining to customers how the Weiler Consumable Productivity program can work, Thomas is motivated to provide real-world examples of how the program made an impact. A good example comes from a recent trip he made to a foundry with a large bottleneck in the building’s cleaning room. The staff there had been using the same product for about 10 or 11 years that was steadily increasing in price year over year. While the product was working fine, they decided to look at some other less-expensive solutions.

“We came in and through our program’s process, we were able to pinpoint a product that could deliver material savings right away,” Thomas says. “But, the switch in consumable was also an improvement to their operation. It offered a 47 percent extension to the life of the wheel, which meant a $103,000 annual cost savings in material spend alone. The longer lasting wheel didn’t require more grinding time, so their cost of labor did not increase at all.”

In a second example, Thomas explains the consumables savings found in another foundry back in early 2023.

“They spent about $10,000 a year on abrasives for a particular application, which might not seem like a significant amount for abrasives,” he says. “But, the Weiler Consumable Productivity program evaluations discovered they could save $70,000 a year by switching to a new product. And, by giving them a wheel that allows them to get a lot more parts out the door, we saved them in labor costs, as well.”

Watch the video to learn about how the Weiler Consumable Productivity program improves metal fabrication operating costs.

Which is, ultimately, the end result Weiler Abrasives and its customers like to achieve. By taking advantage of the Weiler Consumable Productivity program, customers can find the best, most productive abrasive for the application – a nice alternative to the old way of doing things.

Weiler Abrasives

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