EVS Metal is fortunate to attract some of the best and most accomplished individuals in the metalworking industry; our outstanding staff is truly our most important asset. However, it is understandably difficult for customers to get a feel for the level of dedication our team brings to work every day without reading it in their own words. Therefore, we are pleased to publish the first of what we hope will be many spotlight pieces highlighting employees and their departments in order to help illustrate both EVS’ capabilities as a manufacturer and metal fabricator, and the value our people bring to the table each and every day. We’ll begin with metal forming, featuring Greg, an engineer at our NJ facility.
Spotlight on Metal Forming: Q&A with Greg, Engineer, EVS Metal New Jersey
EVS: What skills or knowledge sets are most important in becoming a metal metal forming expert?
Greg: Definitely strong math, especially geometry… physics and mechanical understanding are very helpful. Open-minded, creative, somebody that likes a challenge and is thinking “out of the box.” In a dream world, an engineer would be a good candidate.
EVS: What types of metal forming are the most challenging or complex?
Greg: Most complex forming challenges are related to robotic forming. Using first-generation robots with limited options can be very tricky. Making these robots form bends they were not designed for and stacking parts can be extremely difficult at times. Other issues that arise are trying to fit 30 bend jobs on one 10 ft manual brake machine with multiple radiuses so the part can be formed complete. We sometimes even find ourselves doing a certain amount of fabrication “tricks” — like bending parts with standard tooling lined up off-center — in order to keep costs low for the customer, as custom tooling can be expensive.
EVS: How do lean manufacturing practices influence your work?
Greg: Lean manufacturing standards can be difficult to implement in forming. Fewer set-up parts, smaller quantities, tight tolerances and short lead times all contribute to the challenge, but luckily, we are able to compensate by using state-of-the-art equipment and software solutions to make what sometimes seems like the impossible, possible. All of our parts are programmed offline using Sheetworks, Dr.Abe-Bend, Astro-Cam and AP100 AMADA software. Therefore, operators are not having to make crucial, on-the-spot decisions of what tools, radiuses or sequence of bends to use. Everything is already prepared for them with very precise multi-staged setups.
As per the lean 5S program, we label everything that’s being used in the department: punches with different radiuses, dies with different V openings, die holders, punch holders, extensions, shims, etc. so finding tools is quick and easy…We have Solidworks viewer, form prints (done automatically by Sheetworks software while unfolding customers parts), DXF files and all other computer aids so operators can quickly verify something in question.
Another benefit of lean manufacturing is that it allows for instant fit and function checks, meaning the next department can pull the job for the next operation quickly when needed.
EVS: What are the specific challenges of using using lean practices in a high-mix, low volume environment?
Greg: We have to be very smart about how we train operators. With the right knowledge, they will be able to spend less time on setups and fine adjustments so they can produce more quality parts, faster. If the job repeats itself, we’re trying to have the same operator run it, so there is no time wasted on getting familiar with the job. We also rank the jobs by degree of difficulty in the system from 1 (easiest) to 5 (most difficult) so we know who can run what and are able to plan accordingly.