Much attention has been focused on increasing productivity in EDM machining operations. Electrical discharge machining has undergone rapid improvements in capability, economical operation, speed and flexibility. New applications are continually emerging as shops discover the technological advantages becoming readily available for this processes.
Due to major advances in speed, geometric complexity, accuracy, ease of use and customer support, EDM has solidified its dominance in tool-making and is increasingly being applied to parts production.
EDM is no longer “non-conventional” or “non-standard” machining. In fact, EDM is now the fourth most popular machining process, selling more than all other processes except milling, turning and grinding, with EDM sales increasing from about 0.5 percent of the 1960 machine tool market to about 6 percent of the 2014 market.
So how can a shop increase its productivity with what has become a standard technology? I believe by improving upon the technology itself.
Accuracy has improved from about 0.001 inch for the first electrodes to about 0.00005 inch on electrodes produced today. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the operator skill needed to achieve 0.0002 or 0.0001 inch accuracy came down dramatically. Developments are responsible for this improved accuracy with less effort. The new technology assures that cuts follow programmed geometry very accurately. Today’s technology is three to five times as accurate.
The biggest advantage for most applications has been the improvement in nominal cutting speed, that is, the cutting speed obtainable under ideal conditions. Speed increased from about 1 square inch per hour in the early 1970s to approximately 30 square inches per hour in the mid-1990s. The reasons for the speed increases are primarily the technology that allows optimization of settings. As the speed increased, the number of jobs that could be cut per hour or per day increased proportionately.
Ease of use of the machines has both improved economical operation and allowed shops to spread fewer skilled workers over more machines. Adaptive control systems automatically adjust systems as needed. A typical system allows the operator to do all programming at a personal computer and simply download the information to the machine. This automation eliminates the need for the operator to adjust these variables when cutting into parts or sections of varying thickness.
So, how can we improve on this already improved technology? I believe by increasing the complexity of the electrode. Most electrodes are manufactured to burn only one cut at a time. Electrodes are manufactured to customer specifications usually to be used as part of a series of burns to complete the task. A lot of the time though, our customer’s needs are so complex that their engineers aren’t sure how to get what they need as far as complex geometry and even more complex hardware goes. This is where my team of very experienced engineer’s comes into play.
Between myself and two engineers, we have over 60 years EDMing and graphite electrode manufacturing experience. It is now the “norm” for our team to either go to our customer’s facility or have them come to our facility months ahead of a project – to collaborate while they are still in their design phase. We generally work alongside our customer’s design team in order to assure that they get the exact burn that they need from the fewest electrodes possible.
By configuring the electrode to perform multiple burns accomplishes a couple of goals for the customer:
• Less burning time for the customer, less labor
• Reduced material cost in the form of the electrodes
• Cleaner cuts
Many electrodes are becoming more complex in terms of geometry, length to diameter ratio and material composition. Of course all manufacturers do not have the engineering capability nor the manufacturing talent to pull off a complex electrode. But, I believe the future of the EDMing process will have to accommodate complex electrodes. Graphel Corporation is meeting this challenge head on be investing heavily not only in people, but in the latest CNC machining technology.
Manufacturing Engineering Manager
Graphel Carbon Products
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the world is changing. Industrial customers are demanding their manufactured goods faster, less expensive and more precise.
As the United States becomes primarily a service driven economy, the expectations surrounding manufacturing transactions are changing. The US has more people employed in services today, than in manufacturing, and subsequently we consume more services than any time in history.
Customer expectations are evolving with this change. As information has become more easily accessible with devices such as our smart phones, our customers expect to receive the data they need, quickly and at their convenience. They expect manufacturers to deliver complex business services along with their manufactured deliverables.
But manufacturing and service industries are two completely different animals – there are many significant differences between service and manufacturing organizations:
• the tangibility of their output
• the need to maintain inventory
• customer-specific production
• labor-intensive or automated operations
• the need for a physical production location
But, in practice, service and manufacturing organizations share many characteristics. Some manufacturers offer their own service operations and both require skilled people to create a profitable business. These common characteristics offer the astute manufacturer the opportunity to create a unique service experience – mainly through increasing the visibility within the process to the customer.
The key difference between service firms and manufacturers is the tangibility of their output. The output of a service firm, such as consultancy, training or maintenance, for example, is intangible. Manufacturers produce physical goods that customers can see and touch. Consider offering your customers touch points along the production cycle that increase the visibility of the tangibility. This can be accomplished through the use of technology enhanced production systems.
Service firms, unlike manufacturers, do not hold inventory; they create a service when a client requires it. Manufacturers produce goods on order, for stock, or with inventory levels aligned to forecasts of market demand. Consider offering your customers visibility to your inventory, or in the case of customer produced inventory, their specific inventory levels. This is easily accomplished with interactive technologies.
Service firms do not produce a service unless a customer requires it, although they design and develop the scope and content of services in advance of any orders. Service firms generally produce a service tailored to customers’ needs. Manufacturers produce goods on customer order or forecast based on customer demand. A manufacturer can exceed customer expectations and greatly increase customer satisfaction by accurately forecasting customer demand.
A service firm recruits people with specific knowledge and skills in the service disciplines that it offers. Service delivery is labor intensive and cannot be easily automated. Manufacturers can automate many of their production processes to reduce their labor requirements, although some manufacturing organizations are labor intensive. A manufacturer can exceed customer expectations by providing access to professionals such as engineers, artists or quality personnel. This can be accomplished through many different mediums, online conferencing, Skype, or a simple email.
Service firms do not require a physical production site. The people creating and delivering the service can be located anywhere. Manufacturers must have a physical location for their production and stock holding operations. This has always been a challenge for manufacturers – where to locate key facilities to exceed customer expectations. But with the enhanced distribution systems that are available today, manufacturers can exceed expectations by offering services such as next day delivery.
In the 21st century, customer expectations are changing. Information is becoming much more valuable, more easily accessible, and our customers expect to receive the data they need, quickly and at their convenience. The astute manufacturers can exceed customer expectations and drive customer satisfaction by delivering complex business services along with their manufactured deliverables.
After you set your SMART Goals
Consider Setting a Hard Goal
A SMART goal is a goal that you can realistically and consistently reach and one that provides you with real motivation toward that goal.
SMART goals are great for long term situational change, but for the short term consider adding a HARD goal.
Based on Mark Murphy’s book Hard Goals – The Science of Extraordinary Achievement, HARD Goals discusses why some people achieve so much while others seem to just spin their wheels and get nowhere. When you analyze the science of achieving big things, you’ll find super achievers set themselves HARD goals and then go out and work towards achieving those goals with passion and intensity. It’s the setting and achieving of those HARD goals which drives their achievements.
A HARD goal is comprised of the following elements:
H – Heartfelt
A HARD goal has to be something which promises you more value – you’re not going to let anything get in the way.
A – Animated
HARD goals are so vivid and alive in your mind that if you don’t reach them, you would feel like something’s missing in your life.
R – Required
Hard goals allow you to convince yourself that the goal is a necessity, not an option.
D – Difficult
You want to set goals which are so hard they will force you to tap into all the talents that you possess so you’ll feel a sense of achievement.
If you really don’t care about your goals, there will not be much motivation for you to achieve them. To achieve more, make certain you’re going after what you want more than anything else. A HARD goal has to be something which promises you more value than any other goal – therefore you’re not going to let anything get in the way of making it happen.
Graphel Carbon Products
A SMART goal is a goal that you can realistically and consistently reach. It provides you with real motivation. The goal can be personal or professional.
According to research, goal setting is the single most powerful motivation tool in a leader’s toolkit. Goal setting operates in ways that provide purpose, challenge and meaning. Goals are the guideposts along the road that make a compelling vision come alive. Goals energize people. Specific, clear, challenging goals lead to greater effort and achievement than easy or vague goals. By setting a “SMART” goal, you can keep track of where you are in relation to achieving your goal. It is easily measurable and allows you to accurately gauge your progress.
So, each year our managers and employees are encouraged to set SMART goals when we develop our KPIs.
To be a “SMART” goal, the goal must have the following elements:
S – SPECIFIC
Your goal should include the 5 W’s who, what, where which and why.
M – MEASURABLE
Your goal should include targets and milestone measurements to make sure you are moving in the right direction.
A – ATTAINABLE
Your goal should motivate, not frustrate. Ensure your goal is achievable and won’t overwhelm you.
R – RELEVANT
Your goal should make sense and be relevant when measured against what you are trying to achieve. If you achieve it, it should make a difference.
T – TIMELY
Your goal should be time-bound for each step of the process.
Start the New Year by setting at least one SMART goal. It will help motivate you toward accomplishing more for yourself and your family in 2016
By Lori Strange
Customer Service Leader
Graphel Carbon Products
Customer service is key element in keeping customers happy for the long haul. Providing excellent customer service requires knowing your customers.
Not all of your customers require the same amount of service in order to satisfy their needs. In order to improve service, you need to consider segmenting your customers so that you have different propositions to accurately meet their specific requirements. Across any group of customers, you are likely to have between 5 and 10 segments, each requiring different approaches.
Within Graphel Carbon Products, for example, we have segmented our Tool and Die customers into five key segments with unique characteristics: the relationship segment, the deal segment, the price segment, the logistics segment and finally the transaction segment.
The relationship segment customer values expertise and precision but insists on specific delivery instructions and expectations. These customer will typically not use online resources for sourcing, they work primarily on a relationship basis through our sales department. They are usually long term customers that require a high touch from both our sales and customer service teams.
The deal segment customer values knowledge and service but insists on value for money and will actively split business between distributors. These customers will pay for value-added services but will still comparison shop. As a result, they will use online channels to do research, but still want the service provided by a knowledgeable outside sales team.
In contrast, price-focused customers don’t necessarily need or want salespeople calling on them. They want to compare prices and research companies that can save them additional money. The price-focused customer is often a repeat customer, but is working on such a close margin that price is everything. Graphel Carbon Products keeps its’ cost low to serve these customers, knowing they don’t require the high touch of our sales team.
The logistics customer is often one who is not as concerned about spending a few cents extra, but is working their business so tightly that they always require their materials quickly and reliably. This is often a small business that is heavily reliant on product availability and delivery speed. For these customers, Graphel Carbon Products offers same day or next day shipment.
Finally we have the transaction customer. This customer is usually not concerned about price and delivery, they are just concerned about getting the correct item in a timely manner. They are not looking so much for the assistance of a salesperson, as the value of a concerned, helpful and responsive customer service person.
Our customer mix varies across the]]>