Leading Indicators, Lagging Indicators & Your Nephew’s Wedding
When a specific job is completed and labor hours are reported—the most obvious first question is usually about labor hours: were they over or under the estimated prediction?
Truth is, at this point, other than knowing, it doesn’t really matter. The job is complete and the infamous colloquialism (which I really despise) comes careening out, “It is what it is!” This is the very definition of a—Lagging Indicator!
In other words, what’s done is done and nothing can be changed to correct the outcome.
Lagging Indicators are all around us—your children’s school grades, your month’s end bank statement, even your damnable weight on those ever-lying bathroom scales. We obviously need or want the information but like your bulging waist-line-predicament when grabbing an old pair of dress pants for your nephew’s wedding, once the day arrives, there ain’t much your gonna do about it!
Much more positive, however, is the wildly undiscovered benefits of Leading Indicators. When done right, leading indicators are a nearly fool proof way of heading off the dreaded let down of “It is what it is.”
For example, if your nephew’s wedding is logged for three month’s time, the smart attendee will start measuring his calorie consumption every day to make sure he is not heading across the gaining-weight line. What other leading indicators could he use? It is obvious—exercise, or calories burned, food macros, sleep, perhaps even stress levels.
All these metrics become very early indicators as to how much one will weigh the night of the wedding.
Weight maintenance may be easy to predict. However, in metal fabrication, it can take work hard to find the right leading indicators to promote jobs being completed in less hours than they were estimated. Machines like tube lasers and flat lasers can be measured for what we call, beam-on-time. In other words, how much time is the machine actually running verses sitting idle waiting for material, setups or other starters.
Other things might be measured like incorrect programming, human error, tooling issues, etc.
The whole idea is to get a handle on what leading indicators are best suited to drive the lagging results your company wants and expects. When those leading indicators are rigorously measured and reported the lagging indicators are usually no surprise.
All Metals Fabrication takes the business of metal fabrication seriously. We want to drive process improvement at every corner of the business because the ultimate leading indictor is happy customers. Happy customers mean repeat work and repeat work means staying in business for a long time.
Finally, I have to say it: It is not what it is—it is what we make it!
Best of luck at your next wedding!
What Is A Dedicated 5-Axis Tube Laser?
We get this question often—what exactly is a 5-Axis Tube Laser? How is that different from a rotary attachment on a tradition flat sheet laser?
Lets start here…laser technology has been around for many years and really started to grab ahold in the mid-nineties. The cutting technology was, by any measure, transformative in the metal industry and now it would seem nearly impossible to operate a modern shop without laser cutting technology.
Adaptions have been made over the years and laser cutting technology has improved.
One of those adaptions, among many, has been to add tube cutting capacity on flat sheet lasers. This can be useful but it requires large setup times as the machines have to be broken down to change from flat sheet cutting to tube cutting.
Setup becomes a huge cost when the machines are forced to changeover from flat sheet to tube and visa versa.
In addition, lead times are often very long for potential customers as most shops want to, naturally, wait until they accumulate several tube cutting jobs before breaking down the flat machine to do all the tube work together.
Setup costs and long lead times are a significant setback for transforming a sheet machine to tube machine but there is more.
Flat sheet lasers can only cut on two or three axis which works sufficiently in some cases, particularly with square tube, but is very limiting when cutting round tube or when one wants to cut a bevel (say for pre-welding conditions). Bevel cutting requires 5-Axis cutting where the head or nozzle of the laser can actually swivel and/or tilt at an angle not perpendicular to the surface of the metal.
Finally, saw-cutting pieces to length is also a limiting, non-value-added process required for nearly all sheet lasers which usually have beds that are 10-12 feet long. That means that each piece of tube not only has to be saw cut but also loaded one at a time into the machine for cutting.
Can flat sheet lasers cut tube, yes…but examining the benefits of a dedicated tube laser over a flat sheet laser is worth considering.
First, as originally mentioned, there are relatively NO setup times involved. Dedicated tube lasers are ready to go without changeover or machine modification. As jobs progress through the tube laser machine, programmers and machine operators are loading new programs into the machine while the current job in the system is still cutting.
What that means is significantly reduced lead times and setup costs.
Second, dedicated tube lasers are designed to cut long lengths of tube. In AMF’s case, the machine will handle 25’ lengths of tubing.
This, again, significantly reduces setup times. No hand loading, on-and-off, small lengths of tube into a flat laser modified for tube cutting. Dedicated tube lasers grab an entire 24’ length of tube and feed the piece through the system until all the pieces are cut from the entire length (handled only once).
Third, 5-Axis capacity, as mentioned above, allows for copping and bevel cutting (cutting that is not perpendicular or normal to the surface). This is A BIG DEAL down stream when the parts move from cutting to fitup and welding.
Many studies show that welding efficiencies are increased by as much as 50% with tube parts that are cut precisely with ready-weld bevels and perfect intersections.
5-Axis cutting also allows AMF to cut items like Angle, Channel and Custom Extrusion—none of that is possible on a flat sheet laser.
Dedicated, 5-Axis tube laser cutting is on the frontier of fabrication. Most Industrial Engineers have only begun to understand how this technology can change design and engineering. Parts that were impossible before or very expensive in a traditional machining center (mill or lathe), can now be fabricated at very affordable prices.
Take the time to consider how a Dedicated Tube Laser could really transform your work—better prices, better lead times, better downstream fabrication, better design.
Check out or online video of tube lasering on our website and You Tube channel.
Winning Business Partnerships in 2019
2018 was a solid year for most companies although certainly not without challenges. In the metal industry, we were severely and negatively impacted by government-imposed tariffs on steel & metal imports. Politics seem to find a way into all our lives whether we want it or not (most of us not!)
Tariffs impacted both cost and supply—many typical material units were hard to find and even out of stock.
Despite some of those frustrations, and quotes that literally had a one-day life span, AMF was blessed with both great customers and great, hardworking employees.
2019 looks to be another good year by all indicators, even against some of the negative economic head winds being reported by the national media.
One of AMF’s main goals this year is to reach out to our customers like never before with negotiated win-win deals.
We humbly submit that there is too much wasted & non-value-added time used on the old-fashioned quoting system so deeply entrenched in the traditional market supply chain.
How often do you find yourself saving ten dollars but losing a week of production time?
Time often has more value than a few percentage tics and two weeks of wasted RFQ time.
This can change!
AMF’s promise is to deliver great, quality parts on time and for a price that allows both AMF and our customers to make money.
AMF has been putting these practices to the test over the last several years and found many-more-than-expected relationships where our customers simply give us a price and PO which we agree to fulfill.
The deal takes trust on both sides!
It is a little scary at first (for everyone), but, when it works, enormous amounts of time and energy are saved and directed toward fulfillment instead of the old RFQ dance.
In essence, for the accountant types, wasted overhead money is transferred into direct COGS money…even better, wasted time is eliminated.
These types of partnerships allow buyers to spend more time on very elastic goods and services (where real money can be saved), and sellers to spend more time on fulfillment service (where real money can be saved).
Obviously, this only works if both parties are committed to each other’s success!
In conclusion, we started this article on tariffs and politics—where we can be sure almost NO PERSON is committed to another party’s success. Gladly, we are finishing on trusted business relationships where there are still many people that can see practical Game Theory in action where EVERY PERSON can win.
Here is to a great 2019 and the hope that we can all be game winners this year!
When the Quality of Fabrication Really Counts
In recent weeks an All Metals Fabrication (AMF) employee had the opportunity to travel to Peru where he hiked the Salkantay Trail on the way to the world famous Machu Picchu. The hike was marked by an unexpected landslide which forced his trekking team to cross a large river.
The large river basin from side to side spanned some 300 feet with canyon walls that were nearly vertical. Walking down the trail, the hiking team found a local farmer who had a single metal cable pulled across the river canyon, approximately 200 feet in the air.
For a small fee the farmer would transport the trekking team across the river in his makeshift cart, cable and pulley system.
The deep mountains and rough terrain of Peru are spectacular, but as one might guess, the traditional testing, engineering and requirements stringently applied in places like the US are not readily apparent on a small Peruvian farm.
Through translation, broken English, broken Spanish and many assurances from the farmer, the team decided to use the metal cart and pulley system to cross the treacherous river.
The trekking team considered the obvious questions about safety, knowing that if the cart or cable failed it was likely certain death. Will the welds hold together on this cart? Is the metal in good condition? Is the metal cable securely fastened? Is the metal cable secure in the cemented structures? All of these were discussion points before the decision was made to go.
Happily, everyone passed over the river safely and the smiling farmer made a good amount of money for his service.
AMF takes these exact questions very seriously as we fabricate parts that HAVE TO WORK! Every day we fabricate parts for roller coasters, transportation vehicles, ski lifts, play ground equipment, railing, guarding, conveyors, automation, paneling, etc.
We track our materials from their origin, we have established weld certificates and processes (WPS and PQRs), we have check points and quality assurance documentation all aimed at delivering components that have passed our fabrication and safety standards so you don’t have to worry if your theme park ride is safe. Because we all know hikes and rides are much better when you can do them more than once!
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How to Move Continuous Improvement Past Flavor-of-the-Month Status
Continuous Improvement is one of those corporate buzzwords that most of us have often heard but few of us have experienced—at least not longer than a flavor-of-the-month initiative.
Many companies, including those in the metal industry, recognize the value but the tough part is trying to execute on Continuous Improvement until it actually becomes part of the fiber and sinew of the organization.
AMF determined a couple of years ago—after a few false starts—to drive this concept into the soul of our company. The jury is still out as to whether we have accomplished that extreme goal but there is no doubt that Continuous Improvement has pierced the armor of our company culture and is heading toward the heart.
How have we accomplished this cultural implementation? Perhaps the biggest key was starting from the bottom (where the good ideas really germinate) and working up.
Some of the key implementation strategies have been as follows:
- Create a cross-functional Continuous Improvement Committee that meets weekly, which does not mean every other week, every week when things are not busy, every week when every person can attend or every week when everyone is in the mood. It means every week no matter what!
Consistency is perhaps THE biggest key and right behind it is having a cross-functional team, consisting of shop and management, that has the autonomy to debate, discuss, agree and disagree about ideas and concepts.
- Recognize that small improvements are worthy of consideration—even simple suggestion like brooms, fixing small leaks or changing very minor work processes are very important. Those tiny improvements add up over time. They build upon each other. Small suggestions often lead to bigger breakthroughs (things that cannot be seen until someone takes the time to notice the impact of a small change.)
- Every suggestion, no matter how small, big, or brilliant (or even not brilliant) needs to be recognized and acknowledged. Without recognizing each suggestion, the Continuous Improvement concept turns into an old-fashioned idea box (that never gets checked and therefore never get stuffed with ideas.)
- Create an easy way for employees to submit ideas—particularly right at the moment the idea strikes them. We have implemented a CI Hotline where employees can use their smartphones to snap a picture and then text the idea the moment it happens.
- Finally, all the ideas, improvements, implementations, etc. need to be communicated inside the company in a major way. We spend resources marketing to our customers—our people need the same. AMF has set up internal Walls of Fame that we update consistently to communicate how improvements are being made and implemented.
The bottom line is we are trying to create more value for our customers and employees by getting better every day. Continuously Improving a metal fabrication company, like any other, is best accomplished by valuing what every employee might suggest, even from the smallest corner of the business.
Technology Does Not Supplant Craftmanship
Technology certainly has an incredible impact on any industry—the metal fabrication industry is no different.
To that end, AMF employs the latest technology in every possible situation—one example includes our latest 60’ long x 8.66” diameter, five-axis tube laser. Still, even with the greatest and latest technological advances, AMF fosters real attention to craftsmanship and quality.
We back that claim in the undercurrent of both our company mission and vision statement. Our mission, in short, is the never-ending pursuit toward improvement. Our vision, summarized, is about being the absolute best company in our industry.
On the shop floor, we refuse to call our people fitters or welders—instead, they are fabricators or craftsman.
We believe that technology makes us price competitive and efficient fabricating steel, aluminum, stainless steel and other materials but craftsmanship and quality make our work stand above others in the industry.
Any company can fabricate parts—we want to fabricate results that make our customers smile and feel at ease. That is a brand promise that we recognize will be tested over and over, but we are not shy about saying as much.
Frankly, we don’t want customers, we want partners. We want to be part of a supply chain that is seamless and easy—one that creates real value for all parties.
We invite you to explore AMF and figure out how a customer-vendor relationship can turn into a real supply chain partnership.
Metal Fabrication Trends: What’s Next?
The metal fabrication industry has seen growth in jobs and technology over the past several years. Although there was some anticipation about possible impacts with the new administration change, overall manufacturing has seen positive growth over the past year. Let’s take a look at rising metal fabrication trends.
The State of Metal
As a whole, metal manufacturing is in good shape, although recent government intervention and Trump Tariffs are causing big concerns about the future as steel and aluminum prices have surged at record rates. Hopefully, steel and aluminum fabricators will see continued strong demand as the market adjusts to these new pricing realities. The good news is that the economy overall is boiling at a good rate — shops are busy and demand is strong.
Creating a highly skilled workforce in the United States is critical to job growth in America. Over the past five years, more than 265,000 jobs have been returned to the U.S. The reshoring trend is due in large part to new technology, automation and advances in speed and productivity, as well as rising costs overseas. This reverse trend is vital to restoring a vibrant U.S. economy, and hiring high-quality metal fabricators to fill worker shortages is at the core of success.
Automation has helped simplify all forms of metal fabrication. The industry is thinking in new ways about merging worker productivity and automation.
Tube Laser Technology
Tube laser technology introduces several significant advantages over traditional manufacturing and fabrication processes. Tube lasers increase the ability to produce more intricate cuts, increase fabrication speed, save on downstream assembly and can reduce costs while improving quality. Learn how AMF is utilizing tube laser technology in our Utah metal fabrication shop.
Things are looking exciting for the metal industry as metal fabrication businesses invest in 3D printing technology. Metal 3D printing differs from traditional steel fabrication processes as it involves the stamping of metals to produce a required design. The evolution of 3D printing has gone from a product development tool to a full-blown industrial and manufacturing tool.
There are currently 12.3 million manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and the metal fabrication industry ranks third in providing manufacturing jobs in the U.S. The global metal fabrication market is expected to exceed $21 billion over the next five years. The metal fab industry includes all forms of fabrication: tube laser, metal cutting, metal forming, CNC fabrication, welding, punching, metal finishing and more. There are a number of opportunities for growth, as long as we are willing to adapt to rising metal fabrication trends.
Tight Fabrication Tolerances Are Often Unnecessary and Always Expensive
Ah yes, the title block at the bottom of the print clearly spells it out: +/- .005 fabrication tolerances for anything with three decimal places…and every dimension on the print goes out three places!
But (there is always a but) how many engineers and designers realize that one little box at the bottom of their print—usually from a default template—can drastically change the cost of their designed part?
Speaking about metal fabrication specifically (not machining), tolerances as tight as .005 can be very arduous and many times completely unnecessary.
Unfortunately, many engineers design these constraints into their work unknowingly, which nearly always leads to significantly higher priced parts—sometimes as much as double.
Engineers should consider that metal fabrication shops work with cutting, forming, sawing, punching and welding—all these processes are a far cry from milling, lathing, drilling or boring.
Fabricated parts are usually assembled with fasteners and welds while machine parts are assembled with pins and intersecting pieces—consider, as a simplistic example, the difference between a vehicles metal frame (fabricated) versus the vehicles intricate engine block (machined).
Very simple engineering modifications can help parts and assemblies work without requiring mind-bending fabrication tolerances. Holes, for example, can be slotted or oversized.
On paper the difference seems minimal. That is not true. Most fabricating estimates start right at the title block as estimators check to see what tolerances are required for a successful part. The tighter the tolerance callouts, the more expensive the part will be!
Nearly any professional metal fabricating company would be excited to work with customer engineers and quality teams to collaborate on design tolerances that make sense. Take a few minutes to contact All Metals Fabrication and discover how a few small changes could save your company real money and time.
Tube Laser Work in Real Life
AMF recently won a job from a very significant customer with a worldwide footprint. They wanted approximately 150 each of these vanity support brackets (see drawing) and requested a price.
When we gave them our bid they were surprised at the price. Too low, they thought – and they wanted to be sure we had everything covered. (We did!)
The part is designed for angle iron but because of the 10 EA holes that need drilling into the angle (a major pain in the booty) the customer is willing to concede making the part from flat sheet metal and break-forming the bend. (See Highlight #1 on the print)
Still, they are asking for the edges to be ground smooth—actual call out is a 1/8-inch radius. (See Highlight #2 on the print)
The buyer and engineer have been trained over the years by fabricators that this part would be easier to make from flat sheet metal than angle iron. (That training needs to be re-done, and new possibilities need to be considered!)
With the tube laser, none of these issues exist!
• Tube lasers can cut angle iron easily.
• Tube lasers can cut hole or slots into the angle iron flanges easily (and very accurately!)
• Tube lasers can miter the 45-degree joint easily, while simultaneously chamfer the cut prepped for welding with its 5-axis cutting head.
This is a relatively simple part even with the workaround – but the point is that real-world tube laser technology takes a simple part and makes it even simpler AND less expensive.
Think about it.
Stop for a minute and consider what simple parts can get even simpler with this technology, and you are just scratching the surface of what can be done! Our expert metal fabricators can bring your next project to life. Contact us.
Tube Laser and Welding Technology – How They Work Together
All Metals Fabrication was founded in 1994 and since then, we’ve been a top-tier metal fabrication company. Our two core markets are industrial metal fabrication and architectural metal fabrication. As industry experts, we specialize in fabricating all types of metal including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass and more.
Tube Laser Technology
Advancements in tube laser technology have significantly reduced welding and assembly times. Here at AMF, our Mazak Fabrigear II 220 gives us the ability to cut tube, pipe, angle, bar, beam and more in rapid time and with incredible precision. Our customers and even our own internal welding crews have been surprised and thrilled by the incredible benefit, especially when it comes to the downstream assembly of materials – we’ve discovered that welded assemblies happen about 30 to 40 percent faster. For example, a normal assembly that may take an hour to weld can be fabricated with tube laser technology in 35-40 minutes, and two-piece cut can nestle up without so much as a finger to hold them together.
Extreme heat from welding metals together can reach temperatures above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s basically melting pieces of metal together. That much heat can distort and warp materials so it’s important to take steps to avoid over-welding, especially if you like straight, square and well fit assembly of parts. Learn more about All Metals Fabrication’s welding processes here.
And here’s how we use tube laser and welding together:
How do you turn 3-inch square tube into a rectangular tube with an integral formed corner? Use a tube laser and some skilled welding! This part that Justin is showingin the photo below started out as 3 x 3 x 0.125 steel tube. A little presto magic on the tube laser with some welding and we ended up with a rectangular shape tube tapering from top to bottom and through a formed end.
The combination of welding and tube laser technology yields endless possibilities—structurally, architecturally, and mechanically. More and more we’re seeing engineers and designers incorporate tube laser technology into welding projects.
• Dedicated 60’ Tube Lasering
• Flat Sheet Lasering
• Water Jetting
• TIG and MIG Welding
Call us today to learn how All Metals Fabrication can make your next project a reality!