Productivity losses can quickly kill a machine shop’s productivity margin. Narrow enough already because of high material costs and increasingly unmanageable overhead problems, that manufacturing facility can’t afford a run of rejected products. To correct that issue on a food processing line, some tweaks to the recipe would take care of matters. For punch and die productivity, well, manufacturing quality improvements can’t really get by on a recipe tweak.

Shadowing the Shop Safety Margin

It’s true, safety comes before everything else. Employees must be protected by equipment guards and all of the guidelines laid out in the health and safety regulations. But that’s the only mission statement clause that can lay claim to that title. Right behind safety, perhaps just as importantly in some cases, a machine shop must stay in the financial black, not in the deep dark red. And how does a fabrication line stay profitable? Processing speed is always desirable. In a vehicle manufacturing factory, for example, robots move at a blur to put cars together. However, fast processing times aren’t always beneficial, at least not in a process that uses high impact forces.

A Best of Both Worlds Approach

Punches and dies should eject geometrically intricate blanks at a fast rate. That’s how high-volume production lines judge success, after all. But shop productivity can only push these tools so fast. As a point of diminishing returns nears, tools break and rejection rates increase. A balance must be struck. The processing speed drops. To achieve production equilibrium, high-quality tool materials are sourced. And yet there are still too many rejections and tool breakages. They’ll soon take their toll, so what’s the problem? The tool specifications are configured, which means the punches and dies are aligned, just as the equipment pistons and material carriage decks are stabilizing. Maybe a recipe tweak really is in order, so the tool clearances and lubricating agents receive some fine-tuning, too.

And this all goes to prove the following fact: sometimes the smallest adjustment can yield the largest gain. Using Occam’s Razor, a powerful troubleshooting tool, the punches and dies do use high-quality materials; they rarely fracture or exhibit signs of fatigue thanks to this action. The apertures and openings and indented marks placed by the punch and die combos pass quickly through the line, which means a subsequent drop in rejection rates is imminent. To follow-up, the ligaments and linkages that tie these major elements together also receive attention. Going only as fast as the stabilizing productivity margin allows, consistently flowing lubricant streams and scheduled tool sharpening procedures keep financial spreadsheets all the way in the black.