Strained for capacity and facing skilled employee shortages, manufacturers are always searching for creative ways to meet customer demands, address complex manufacturing issues and meet profitability goals.
To remain competitive, manufacturers must take a close look at their operations to identify strategies for boosting output, minimizing downtime and reducing material waste. Manufacturers are being hit with bottlenecks and heavy production goals and are looking for cost-effective ways to meet them. It’s at the crossroads of capacity and capital investment that manufacturers looking for ways to increase productivity, without adding additional labor, expand their facilities or purchase new equipment.
Figuring the Burden
Many operations have alternatives to achieve savings and improved efficiency without committing to significant and sometimes permanent expenses. In fact, simply taking a closer look at the scope of a machining operation (in this case, bandsawing) can uncover some surprising results. This can begin by analyzing the total cost of a bandsawing operation and then identifying the cost of operational overhead or burden rates.
In simple terms, it is the total cost of operating a business divided by the number of machines making the products. It’s not just the cost of labor, however, but also the utilities and taxes as well as all other direct and indirect business costs involved. This type of comprehensive analysis is often a wake-up call and has allowed some Simonds Saw customers to uncover savings in the tens of thousands of dollars per year – often, with minimal upfront investment.
To help customers better understand the impact of productivity on their burden rate, Simonds developed a SnapShot Bandsawing Calculator. This data-driven tool identifies and measures the impact of improved productivity and performance on day-to-day operations and the effect it has on profitability.
The calculator guides customers through the individual cost components of their sawing operation, and for those categories with indirect value, allows the customer to measure their value on “soft” costs, such as training. The SnapShot Calculator could actually be used to evaluate any machining operation to help determine where efficiency and cost savings may be laying dormant. Often, customers are surprised to discover the magnitude of their total operational costs (and potential savings).
It’s worth noting that advances in bandsaw blade technology play an increasingly important role in a metal center’s ability to speed up production, reduce downtime and minimize waste. Bandsaw blade manufacturers have improved the consistency, design and performance of blades to better compete and win market share. New generations of bi-metal blades with highly refined tooth designs reduce costs through increased productivity. Surprisingly, in some cases, with the right parameters, replacing costly carbide blades with specialty bi-metal blades can actually yield faster cutting performance at a lower price. This defies conventional thinking about moving to carbide as the only productivity solution.
Still, new designs in carbide engineering are giving relief to shops that are on the cusp of adding a shift, purchasing new machines or expanding their building. Boosting productivity by matching the right blade, whether carbide or bi-metal, to the material can, in some cases, postpone or eliminate these
Any metal bandsawing operation that must maximize its bottom line or speed production benefits from analyzing its operations in the following eight areas:
1) The Speed of the Cut
The speed of cut is measured in minutes and seconds and is directly related to the burden rate or the overall cost of running a machine. Shops must account for the burden rate to achieve a complete picture of operational costs.
For example, if the cost of running a shop is $1,000 per hour with 10 machines, then each machine is “burdened” at $100 per hour. If the burden rate is $100 per hour, that machine is costing $800 per eight-hour shift.
If a manufacturer can find a way to produce twice as much with one machine, it has added $800 in daily efficiency to its operation. Understanding the burden rate thus provides the base for understanding the bottom line.
Faster cutting drives down costs in other ways, as well. Shorter lead times for customers bring the revenue to the manufacturer quicker – a higher return on the money the company has invested in materials. If material is sitting in front of the machine, it is capital tied up waiting to be capitalized. Faster cut times can also offer an opportunity for smaller shops to cross-train employees in other areas of production or other time-sensitive jobs, thereby optimizing labor dollars.
2) Going Beyond blade life
Many shops focus only on the cost of a bandsaw blade and how long it lasts. It’s an important cost to watch, but identifying the number of square inches a blade can cut per minute is a more accurate measure of its value.
Here is a quick example using the simple data from the first and second parameters above:
The shop overhead or burden rate is $100 per hour.
Product A: A blade that costs $50 and cuts 100 pieces each day.
Product B: A blade that costs $100, twice as much and cuts 150 pieces each day.
Each blade only lasts one day.
Burden + Blade cost per piece for Blade A is $8.50 each ($800 + $50)/100 pcs = $8.50/pc). Burden + Blade cost per piece for Blade B is $6.00 each ($800 + $100)/150 pcs = $6.00/pc).
The data tells us this is a bottom-line cost improvement of $2.50 per cut. On an annual basis that is a productivity improvement of $62,500 ($2.50/pc x 100 pcs x 5 days x 50 weeks = $62,500).
It is often difficult to grasp and accept that doubling bandsaw blade cost
actually saves $62,500 per year, but that is why the catchphrase of the decade is
“savings through improved productivity.” Companies that understand this will be
3) Crooked Cuts Slice into Profit
Operators that work with high-temperature alloys know that crooked cuts are a chronic problem. Just one or two crooked cuts per week can kill production. Stopping the bandsaw to change blades brings production to a standstill, but more importantly, reworking, recycling or scrapping crooked-cut material is a huge expense.
If crooked cuts are a regular problem, it’s important to understand the total financial loss in terms of lost production time as it becomes one of those hidden costs that creep into the total cost of the operation. Imagine if someone has just two crooked cuts a week that cause a couple of hours of downtime for rework and blade changes for each incident. That is stealing another four hours weekly or roughly $400. In 50 weeks, that total quickly becomes another $20,000 in annual expenses hitting the bottom line.
4) The problem with pinching
Many materials today, particularly high-temperature alloys, have internal stresses that once machined, release and cause the material to literally change shape. Blade failure through pinching is sometimes a result of these internal stresses “closing in” on the blade inside the slot being cut.
These stresses and resulting pressure can be so strong that they cause the bandsaw blade to seize up and stop inside the cut or else break off completely. When a blade gets jammed or broken inside the cut, resolving the problem usually involves the use of hammers, blowtorches, a trip to the rework department and time.
Therefore, choosing the proper bandsaw blade for the application is critical. If a manufacturer is currently experiencing blade failure through pinching, the effect on profitability may be even higher than crooked cutting. Specific blade designs and symmetries can reduce the frequency of pinching by 70 to 75 percent.
5) Producing a clean cut
A clean cut helps eliminate downstream operations to smooth out the surface of the material. Likewise, a smooth finish can reduce or eliminate the material waste that is associated with resurfacing.
If clean cuts and reduced material waste are important to a shop, cut finish should be called out as a component in the cost analysis. Proper blade specification can eliminate rough surfaces that require trimming and create excess waste. Cost varies from user to user, but proper blade specification has been known to reduce annual costs in the six-figure range.
6) Drowning Out the cost of Noise
Excessive noise can destroy hearing, create worker stress and contribute to accidents due to impaired communication and unheard warning signals. Bandsaw blades are known for squealing, often at a high decibel levels. In some cases, the concern over noise level is sufficient to spur an expensive noise abatement program.
Identifying the costs associated with hearing protection, miscommunication and worker safety should be factored into the bottom line. Some bandsaw blades are quieter than others. Straight-back blades have a tendency to squeal, while more refined blade geometries can reduce noise levels significantly.
7) Operator training programs
Machine operators spend an estimated 2,000 hours a year running bandsaws, and most of this time is on-the-job training through trial and error. It can, therefore, be incredibly effective to evaluate worker training programs to achieve business goals. To assess the success of those programs, it’s important to ask a series of questions.
Is the shop currently using internal resources to establish a training program? Does the current program meet an ISO training requirement? Would a more robust training and certification program better prepare and retain employees?
Vendor-based training is another option, which can save tens of thousands of dollars each year in lost productivity and improved bandsaw operation performance. Attaining a level of certification can further increase employee pride and workplace satisfaction.
8) Machine maintenance and repair
In an effort to keep repair costs low, shops may buy into the promise of free machine repair, maintenance and tune-ups. While these value-added services can potentially save money, sawing operations are advised to also look at the big picture. If maintenance programs save a shop $5,000 per year, but choosing a more efficient bandsaw blade can instead save $50,000 per year, the choice is clear.
In sawing, small changes can yield significant time and cost savings.
Engineered competitive trials using quality baseline data will confirm that new advances in bandsaw blade technology help reduce cut time, decrease material waste and nearly eliminate unnecessary downtime. By combining new blade technology with vendor-based training resources, bandsaw users can quickly increase capacity and create a strong, efficient, knowledgeable and sustainable workforce.