By Ken Gredick
Triangle Manufacturing Co.
Upper Saddle River, NJ
Triangle Manufacturing Co. was established in 1955 by William F. Strohmeyer and two other enterprising engineers in a suburban New Jersey garage. It’s grown steadily over three generations to become a leading provider of highly complex, tight tolerance surgical implants, medical instruments and powered hand tools. Today, Triangle employs nearly 200 employees in four dedicated state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Triangle maintains its competitive edge by continually investing in new equipment, technology, and talent. Some of the key productivity improvements, perhaps overlooked by other companies, are those being made in our quality inspection department. Triangle recognizes the importance of designing a robust and lean quality system that supports all phases of its projects. A system that exposes and eliminates hidden expensive, non-value-added steps results in faster inspections to keep shop floor spindles cutting chips.
A key piece of our faster, leaner quality control puzzle has been fixturing. While training at Methods Machine Tool (Sudbury, MA—a Carl-Zeiss certified Training Center), several members of our inspection team were introduced to Inspection Arsenal fixture plates and workholding. Methods’ state-of-the-art metrology lab showcases this lean concept fixture system designed and manufactured at nearby Phillips Precision, Inc. (Boylston, MA).
A group of us at Triangle experimented with one Inspection Arsenal Loc-N-Load fixture system to quantify the benefits. After making custom fixtures for each job, we started to see a reduction in setup time, averaging only 5–6 minutes per setup. With more than 300 different programs running at different times, this decision became very simple: Standardize on this system.
We started working on a new family of complex implants from the DFM/DFI (Design for Manufacturing / Design for Inspection) stage through first-article inspection with production scheduled for the Spring. This project involves 100% inspection of what are termed ‘Critical to Function Characteristics.’ One hurdle we had is the cycle time of the Zeiss CMM. The combined cycle time on the original CMM programs was almost equal to the total machining time of the part. It needed to be reduced significantly to keep up with production.
We purchased the Loc-N-Load system for this project and made fixtures so that multiple parts could run at a time. The quick-disconnect fixtures reduced the CMM set up time by 12 minutes per part (an average of three minutes per operation). This fix, combined with other improvements, cut our total cycle time by 35%. The system proved to be so valuable in reducing our set up times that we are making it the new standard for fixturing our CMMs.
The initial product launch of the implant consists of 3120 complex parts requiring 100% inspection. Previously, the time to inspect was nearly one hour per piece. The new, leaner process now takes just 35 minutes. If a $100/hour rate is used, the savings in the inspection cycle time alone for this part equates to roughly $40 per piece or a savings of approximately $125,000. Much greater savings being realized, but not calculated, are the savings in setup time and the reduction of expensive spindle down-time on the shop floor. This one project, once approved, will require the inspection of thousands more pieces and is just one of the hundreds of parts manufactured by Triangle that will now become a great deal more profitable.
Implementation of the new fixture system has been very easy, further reducing training costs. With at least six quality engineers and more than a dozen inspectors, the importance of building redundancy in equipment and tooling is essential to quickly bringing staff up to speed to perform faster inspections.
We are eager to design more dedicated fixtures. I have another plate order ready now, and as soon as our new Zeiss CMM arrives, we will fit it up with the same fixture system.
Published Date : 2/5/2015 – See more at: AdvancedManufacturing.org