MMS Blog

April’s Gardner Business Index (GBI): Metalworking registered 53.6 for a third month in a row, making the 2019 trend atypically static. April’s value is 10.4% lower than last year’s reading. Index readings above 50 indicate expanding business activity while those below 50 indicate contracting activity. Gardner Intelligence’s review of the underlying index components observed that the Index — calculated as an average of its components — was supported by increased supplier deliveries, production and employment activity. Components including new orders, exports and backlogs lowered the Index. Both backlogs and exports contracted in April.

April’s growth in new orders extended the volatile pattern of this component reading first experienced in late 2018. Since reaching a peak in February 2018, the three-month moving-average trend in new orders activity has signaled decelerating growth. However, individual month-to-month changes have expressed a much more volatile seesaw motion. Throughout 2019, new orders readings have been the most volatile among all business index components. Unexpectedly, export orders readings have been very consistent in the last six months, with all readings falling within a nearly two-point range.

The image gallery above, based on Modern Machine Shop magazine’s Modern Equipment Review Spotlight, features a selection of the product releases we have recently published about machining centers—powerful milling machines with advanced CNCs, enclosures, automatic toolchangers and other peripheral technologies.

Find more items in the product page of the MMS Online Zones dedicated to Vertical, Horizontal and Five-Axis Machining Centers.

Founded in 1943, Ira Green Inc. (IGI), headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, is a full-service manufacturer and distributor of nearly 40,000 different accoutrements for military uniforms. IGI’s tool shop is focused, therefore, on manufacturing coining and blanking dies. It also produces small fixtures for welding and polishing.

With high demand for IGI products, new fixtures are required every day. However, each job had to wait in a queue for several days before it could begin, resulting in bottlenecks. Lead times between job requests and fixture delivery ranged from several days to weeks. Moreover, each fixture required eight hours of CNC programming, either for setup of pockets or contour electrodes for tool steel and wire EDM flat pockets. IGI was spending $300 for every fixture.

Having spent many years training and consulting on lean concepts, I have responded to many questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked ones:

In simple terms, lean manufacturing is a process that operates effectively through the elimination or reduction of waste. There are proven tools to address waste, such as the 5S system to improve workplace organization, quick change-over to reduce machine setup times, total productive maintenance to reduce equipment downtime, one-piece flow to keep things moving until finished, standard work to discover the best way to do a job and ensure everyone follows the same protocol, and more.

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding has been the traditional method for building-up worn or damaged mold and die surfaces prior to subsequent hand finishing or CNC machining to complete a repair. However, pulsed laser welding technology, which has been popular in Germany for decades, is gaining acceptance here in the United States as an option for mold repair (as well as other welding applications).

These welders fire a laser beam in 5- to 10-millisecond pulses that melts the base workpiece metal and filler wire that is deposited and then re-solidifies the weld pool before the next pulse. It offers high peak power, but low heat input into the base metal compared to continuous TIG and other welding operations. In fact, most workpieces are said to be cool to the touch immediately after welding.

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