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Quality Scan: Time: The Final Frontier

James Sawyer

By James D. Sawyer
Senior Editor
Manufacturing Engineering Media

Haste makes waste?

This is not necessarily so. In fact, one thing implied by lean manufacturing is that waste impedes productivity. If waste is eliminated, more efficient use can be made of time. And time really is the final frontier. (Sorry, Capt. Kirk.)

As once-backward nations grow their economies, gain affluence, and develop a sizable middle class, global consumption has increased. This is despite the dour economies many developed nations are experiencing.

Norbert Hanke, president of Hexagon Metrology (London), notes that because consumption is increasing, "we need to find ways to perform more with less." Hanke says Hexagon Metrology has adopted a 5S strategy, focusing on services, sensors, software, solutions and market segments, to help its customers eliminate waste and increase throughput.

Because he was speaking at Hexagon 2012, a conference for Hexagon customers and partners, it would be easy to dismiss his words as something only intended to make his company look good and its products seem necessary. However, a scan of statements from executives of other companies who have been interviewed for the preview of IMTS pavilions in this issue finds similar statements about the need for emphasizing accuracy and repeatability in manufacturing.

For example, David Goodfellow, president of Star SU LLC (Hoffman Estates, IL) says the "fundamental trends in innovation today [in gear generation] include a movement towards higher precision and hard finishing requirements in the automotive and truck industries." He goes on to say, "The demand for greater accuracy requirements and improved productivity will continue to be … significant."

According to Grant Anderson, CEO of ANCA Inc. (Wixom, MI), "There are several key drivers of innovation in grinding technology today," and among them are "automation to improve productivity; smaller batch sizes, made-to-order tools and short lead times;" and "tighter tolerances, tighter accuracy and repeatability requirements."

Other factors also influence the world of measurement and inspection.

"The demand for flexibility and performance," says Frank Powell, product manager at Marposs Corp. (Auburn Hills, MI), "are some of the most popular trends that are driving innovation in the field of gaging today: flexibility in being able to reconfigure the gage quickly as the parts evolve; performance in being able to measure more features more quickly and on parts that have tighter tolerances."

And there are other technologies that will help increase throughput. Another Marposs product manager, Roger Zioli, contends, "The use of wireless technology such as Bluetooth for simple hand-held gages will replace many of the traditional wired applications. At some point, there will be an iPhone app where the part’s 2-D code is scanned, measured and the data is uploaded to the plant’s server."

"Vision and optical systems," notes Michael Creney, Vision and Optics manager for Mitutoyo America Corp. (Aurora, IL), "continue to be a high-growth industry for many metrology vendors as new products enter the market. Optics, cameras and computer processing systems continue to change at breakneck speeds, realizing more throughput and functionality."

New relationships are being formed to make measurement and inspection technology more available. Recently, VISIONx Inc. (Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada) began distributing its VisionGauge digital optical comparators in North America through Methods Machine Tools Inc. (Sudbury, MA).

Patrick Beauchemin, president of VISIONx, sums up the outlook for efficiency in inspection and measurement this way : "I expect that we will be seeing more and more developments to increase throughput and efficiency in quality control operations. That is something that every customer appears to be looking for right now. How this is implemented will vary. It could come, for example, in the form of increased automation or reduced programming requirements or integrated automatic documentation and SPC. There is no doubt that the flow of data, both to and from QC systems, will continue to be streamlined. The goal here is to have production and QC equipment using and sharing the same data and even communicating with one another to close the loop so that the production equipment gets direct, real-time feedback from QC systems." ME



This article was first published in the August 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF



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