Monday, August 15, 2016

IMTS 2016: Where, What, & Why

In less than a month, the focus on the North American manufacturing community will turn to Chicago for IMTS 2016. As you are likely aware, IMTS is the one of the largest manufacturing focused trade shows in the world, and commands the attention of thousands of exhibitors and attendees. It is estimated that over 2000 exhibitors will fill the booths with their latest and greatest technology; with everything from cardboard boxes, to 3D Printers on display. So with that much density of people and products, how do you stand out? 

Same Show, New Booth
First, for 2016, we will unveil a new booth design that highlights our specialties and raises the Wenzel logo to new heights, literally. Large color graphics, backlight design, and a new hanging banner, will all help you find us in the heart of all things Quality, Hall E. So when you are planning your trip around the show, make sure to visit us at E-5622, and check out our new booth. Here’s a sneak peek:

A 3D Scanning Hat Trick
When you visit us next month in E-5622, you will be treated to a trio of the latest 3D Scanning Technologies.  We will feature:

Shapetracer II - A new laser line scanner, for faster more accurate data collection. More Info Here

CORE DS – A unique scanner that combines the speed of optical scanning, with the reliability of a CMM.  More Info Here

exaCT – The exaCT line of industrial CT scanners provide high resolution, ease of use, and the reliability of a Wenzel CMM.  More Info Here

We’re in That Booth Too…

If you don’t make it down to see us in E-5622, don’t sweat it, we’ve got you covered. Visit us in the Liebherr Booth, N-6930 and check out our latest gear inspection system, the new WGT280. More Info Here

And of course, you can see the latest 5 Axis Scanning system featured at the Renishaw Booth, E-5509. Our LHG CMM will be featuring the REVO-2 system, combining speed, accuracy, and reliability for unprecedented throughput and efficiency. More Info Here

So whether you are looking for a traditional CMM, or the latest in non-contact scanning, we’ve got something interesting to show you.  Stop by for a personalized demonstration on any or all of these systems. We promise you won’t be disappointed!!

Why you should attend IMTS 2016

It is an interesting thought experiment to consider what the impact on a trade show is to your company. There are very few public resources that objectively present whether or not exhibiting at a trade show is worthwhile. As it happens, we will be exhibiting @ IMTS East Building, Booth E-5622.

"The International Manufacturing Technology Show is one of the largest industrial trade shows in the world, featuring more than 2,000 exhibiting companies and 114,147 registrants. The event is held every two years in September at McCormick Place, Chicago."

To derive some possibility of determining the advantage of attending the IMTS show and or exhibiting, I plotted out four scenarios. IMTS attendance from 1990 to 2014 vs. a variety of other trends.

  • BLUE IMTS Attendance  vs.RED GDP 
  • BLUE IMTS Attendance  vs.RED NYSE 
  • BLUE IMTS Attendance  vs.RED Airplane deliveries Boeing+Airbus
  • BLUE IMTS Attendance  vs.RED US Auto sales (millions) 

What does this suggest?
While the data does not strongly indicate what the benefits of exhibiting at IMTS will have on your company directly, it does give an indication of the attendance and how many people, potentially, will be exposed to your product or company. One measure of whether to go or not could be how many people may attend so, in that light, let's consider the graphs.

The IMTS attendance as displayed in the graphs shows the impact of the events in 2001 IMTS off year. It also indicates when the recession of 2008-10 hit. This directly impacted the attendance of IMTS.
In the first graph, it looks as if the GDP doesn't correlate at all to the IMTS attendance. In the second graph, the DOW Industrial Index shows the explosive growth of that index in the last 25 years. When you consider the growth of the Dow, it doesn't correlate to IMTS attendance, when you consider the historical values of the Dow Pre 1990.

I would like to think that graph 3, the airplane deliveries, reflects the growing demand for more planes, jet engines, etc and that this is helping to drive some increases in attendance as the production and future production for airplane deliveries grows. Finally in graph 4, the auto sales in the US, really only has a hiccup leading up to the financial crisis and bailout and it would appear as that situation became clearer, attendance picked back up.

Should I stay or should I go (to IMTS)

Selling @ IMTS
I think that the attendance trends over the last three shows indicates that the attendance will still grow. Will it meet or exceed the nearly 20 year old highs of around 121K? I have no idea. There is a really good chance however that you will be in front of 110K+ attendees.

Buying @ IMTS
Will the generational change of the internet buyer start to attenuate the attendance? IMTS offers a one stop shop "to kick the tires" on new equipment and technology. 

Potential buyers may have a stake in the purchase, so I think those people will want to come and see, in person, the machines and technology they are considering to purchase.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

It’s time to move on.

Changing jobs can be an interesting and sometimes a stressful time.

Moving to a different country is guaranteed to be exciting and stressful in equal measure.Try doing both the above at the same time! 

I did this almost 6½ years ago when I relocated from Wenzel UK to Wenzel America and I will be doing it again in September when I move back to Europe and start another exciting new job with Wenzel Group as their Marketing Director.

America was more different to the UK than I expected, there were many cultural differences to understand and I was surprised how often I was misunderstood with my new hosts and I both speaking “English”!

For me the change of job bit wasn’t so bad back in 2010 – at least the company I reported to and the products we sold were the same. The US manufacturing economy was still pretty bad though and I couldn’t believe the devastation caused by the implosion of the car industry in my new home state of Michigan. 

Detroit always seems to get the publicity but other cities like Flint, Saginaw, Pontiac and even the state capitol of Lansing also suffered greatly. But things started to move and by 2011 we had rebranded the company here, introduced exciting new lines of optical and CT products and got ourselves in good shape for the growth that was happening. 

I would say that 2011 was probably the only year when I experienced the US machine tool market in full flow as companies gained in confidence to make the investments they had been delaying for the last 3 years – we were so busy and it was thrilling to be a part of it.

So what did I learn about business behavior in the United States?

  • Americans are still entrepreneurial in their attitudes to business.
  • Americans want everything done yesterday (even if it doesn’t need to be).
  • Americans are (mostly) very pleasant to deal with.
  • Americans have an enormous amount of respect for German machinery builders.
  • Americans like the idea of buying from a family owned company, especially when they are family owned too!
  • Americans are pragmatic when selecting equipment, but will buy a machine for $100,000 without seeing it!

I look back over those 6½ years with a great deal of affection and I don’t mind saying, a fair amount of personal satisfaction. 

But of course our success in my time here is down to many people. 

I would personally like to thank all those North American customers who trusted me and my team with their business, our excellent partners (Renishaw, External Array, LeDuc Creative, our bank, insurance agent, lawyers, CPA, IT support and many others) and most of all the team at Wenzel America who grew in capability, responsibility, confidence and success during my stewardship.

Many members of the team have taken on more responsible jobs and one of them, Drew Shemenski will take over my job as President from September. 

It’s always positive to promote people from within if you can. It can give encouragement to others and continuity to customers. I wish Drew and the team here continued and even greater success in the future.

Andy Woodward
President, Wenzel America

Monday, July 18, 2016

Shop Floor Inspection – Simple Solutions That Add Value

A few months ago we covered the topic of moving your CMM inspection to the shop floor, and some of the things to consider when doing so.

How will you monitor performance? 
How will the workflow be affected? 
Are there any limitations in space or environment? 

These are only a few of the items to be considered when planning a project of this nature, so now let’s dig a little deeper.

Anytime you are reshaping your plant floor, the first consideration is typically floor space. How much room do I have, and how best to use it? One strategy to make this planning process simple with a CMM is to put the machine in an enclosure.

A close fitting enclosure provides a stable environment for your machine, while also giving you a simple footprint to work with on your floor that has nearly the same footprint as the CMM itself. This makes planning floor space straightforward and easy while also providing some other benefits.

The manufacturing floor is a busy place and safety of people and equipment is always a priority. Therefore, placing your CMM in an enclosure provides protection for both your machine, and your staff, ensuring that you can maximize your up time and protect the longevity of your investment. 

In many instances, shop floor CMMs are introduced in areas where staff may not be well trained in working on or around such equipment. A simple enclosure can provide a layer of safety in this instance which ensures that your people and equipment can work at maximum productivity, giving you the best ROI on your investment.

Over time, the environment of your shop floor can change significantly. You may have seasonal changes in temperature and humidity, or even changes to the ambient levels of dust, coolant, and debris. These changes are not always accounted for when purchasing equipment, and can often affect the performance on your CMM. An enclosure can help you eliminate the effects these changes have on your system and ensure consistent output, performance, and accuracy now, and for years to come.

The single biggest benefit to a CMM enclosure, is the fact that it can allow you to re-purpose a tool you may already own. Let’s say you want to build a new cell on the floor, with a CMM to handle inspection. Looking for a new “Shop Floor CMM” may add a level of cost that makes the project unrealistic for you. 

But what if you could simply take your existing CMM, and move it to the shop floor? This would avoid the cost and lead time of buying new capital and help you realize the ROI of the cell even faster. 

Simple, right? So what’s the catch? Many times when designing a CMM enclosure, people can over complicate things; building in automated controls, complicated power solutions, and levels of environmental controls beyond what you would do if you were putting the machine in your Inspection Room. 

This can lead to the perception that CMM Enclosures are expensive and a big hassle, when in reality it may simply mean you are working with a vendor that doesn’t have a good solution for you. After all, the enclosure only needs to do two things: 

  1. Provide a barrier between the machine and the shop floor environment
  2. Help you measure your parts with ease and confidence.

Any feature of the enclosure that doesn’t advance these two points is adding unnecessary cost and complexity, and should be avoided.  A CMM enclosure can be a simple, cost effective solution to help you realize the benefits of shop floor inspection. 

It can help you plan an effective workflow, protect your investment, and help you avoid buying specialized equipment that may not scale with your needs over time. 

At Wenzel America, we pride ourselves on our ability to help you make the best choices for your business when it comes to inspection. 

So next time you are planning a new work cell, avoid the maze of specialized solutions and let us help you find a simple, cost effective inspection solution that will support you for years to come.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Measuring Round Parts

Sometimes if you're searching for Wenzel, you may run into a picture like the one below. Especially during the summer, people are more likely to think about tents than measuring round parts. I, however, can't stop thinking about round parts!

There are many different strategies for measuring round parts. From basic touch trigger CMM’s, entry level roundness or form checkers, to scanning CMM’s, and all the way to dedicated high-end roundness checkers. Instead of just focusing on form, many times these parts have dimensional features that need to be checked. Ideally, one machine could measure everything.

Examples of round parts encompasses a wide variety such as, shafts, cylinders, and housings. These are just a few varieties of the round part family and they have different GD&T callouts as compared to prismatic parts.

Consider Runout - (Resource - GD&T Basics

Runout is how much one given reference feature or features vary with respect to another datum when the part is rotated 360° around the datum axis. It is essentially a control of a circular feature, and how much variation it has with the rotational axis. Runout can be called out on any feature that is rotated about an axis. It is essentially how much “wobble” occurs in the one part feature when referenced to another.

Gears present a challenging metrology task in that they are rotational parts and that they have a feature, teeth, that need to be checked with their own unique considerations.

For example, looking at a transmission, you can see a number of parts that are clearly in this family. Additionally, when you think of transmissions, you naturally think of gears.

So checking gears could be considered near the pinnacle of challenging parts to measure. They encompass all the rotational characteristics that are important, as well as the unique feature of teeth that need to be checked.

While all gears do not have tolerances that are tight, we can safely say that the tolerances for gears going into automotive transmissions need to be fairly high tolerance because of the immediate feedback the end user experiences, noise, feedback and performance.

So checking gears, instantly rules out all roundness checkers because they cannot measure teeth. It rules out a touch trigger CMM, because not enough data is collected for the roundness measurements. It leaves scanning CMM’s and dedicated gear checkers. 

Enter the Wenzel WGT Family of instruments

What if you could have a instrument that could check all the rotational features that are called out on your part as well as some dimensional features?

Features such as, Diameter, Distance, Axial and radial run-out, Perpendicularity and parallelism, Roundness, Flatness and straightness, Accumulated run-out (axial and radial), Position, Concentricity and coaxiality, Symmetry, Cylindricity, Run-out of interrupted contours. 

What is interesting about these characteristics is on a traditional roundness checker it cannot measure a simple diameter out of the box. While a roundness checker can give you very accurate results on all of the roundness characteristics, adding the capability to measure diameter usually entails a special engineered solution or a huge jump in price. These instruments are not built as multi-purpose measuring tools, rather they are for the most part dedicated to a specific task.

A WGT is built from the ground up with our knowledge on how to make 3-axis coordinate measuring machines. What does this mean to you? It can handle ALL the measurements your round parts require + it can measure gears.

The WGT family uses a scanning probehead to take hundreds, if not thousands of points. So you get all the advantages of CMM scanning. With a simple add-on it can also measure surface roughness, as well being able to detect grinding burn. 

Another important consideration is the rotary table capacity. In some CMM solutions, it is an afterthought. At Wenzel we realize that it is integral to measuring these types of parts. The capacity of the two types of rotary table are: the pneumatic goes up to 3,000kg, diamter of 750mm, the hydrostatic up to 30,000kg, diameter of 1800mm.

Gears + 

To summarize, a WGT is not just for measuring gears, it provides answers to multiple metrology questions.

Also, if you need to measure something, slightly larger, and it's round, we have answers for that too. Search for Wenzel America or the Wenzel Group and find pictures like those below, instead of tents. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Benchmarking Company Performance

In business why wouldn’t you measure your performance against your peers and against relevant industry sector data?

Last month we talked about customer satisfaction surveying and the Net Promotor Score; this month we are looking more specifically at the health of manufacturing sector in the US and the orders obtained for manufacturing technology (largely metal cutting machine tools).

At Wenzel we watch the PMI (Purchasing Managers Index) and the USMTO (United States Manufacturing Technology Orders) numbers and compare them with our own performance.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) is an indicator of the economic health of the manufacturing sector. The PMI is based on five major indicators: new orders, inventory levels, production, supplier deliveries and the employment environment. These current indicators are analyzed but somehow it gives us a view into the future, through the eyes of purchasing managers, as to how confident they are about ordering equipment because of the growth they foresee.
An index of 50 represents a stagnant market, anything above 50 a growing sector
and anything below 50 a contracting sector.

USMTO is managed by AMT, The Association For Manufacturing Technology. Members of the USMTO provide order acquisition data each month and this information is then compiled into a report showing the orders placed in 5 different regions of the USA. This data normally takes a process time of 2 months so unlike the PMI index, the USMTO data is looking back into recent history a little more.

I believe that both measures above give an excellent snapshot as to the health of the manufacturing sector in the US, one being slightly more forward looking and the other slightly more retrospective. Having said this if we plot both measures on top of one another we can see a very high degree of correlation, which would give me some confidence that both measures are tracking the same thing and with a high degree of agreement about the state of the US manufacturing economy.

Comparison of USMTO and PMI data over the last 5 years.

So what do these measures tell us about the state of manufacturing or perhaps more precisely manufacturing investment (even more significant for vendors!)?

USMTO order for May 2016 were 18.2% down on May 2015 and April and May’s orders were the lowest for 5 years
There has been a slow downward trend in orders since the ‘boom’ of 2010
PMI in June was 53.2 – an average for the last 5 years, but a great deal healthier than in Q4 2015 and January 2016 where the index was below 50 for 4 months running.

So not good news on the whole.

The upcoming IMTS show in Chicago should help stimulate new business. See the USMTO national figures plotted below and look at the peaks of September 2012 and 2014. These peaks coincide with the IMTS show and experts at AMT see no reason why IMTS will not have the same stimulus this year.

Also click below to listen to Pat McGibbon, VP of Strategic Analytics of AMT, talking about the May orders report. The folks at AMT (USMTO) believe that the decline is slowing and by the time IMTS comes around we will see some growth and a strong finish to the year.

All of the five regions are down this year when compared to a 4 year average.

  • The NE region is down in real numbers but its share of US consumption has increased from 17% to 20%. 
  • The SE has seen a 15% decline in 2016 but its share has also increased from 10 to 12%.
  • The West region has declined the least (just 6.5%) and has increased its share from 15% to 18% this year.
  • The North Central (The mid-west rust belt!) is split into two, east and west, but together they account for 45% of the US machine tool consumption. This percentage has held in 2016 but orders are down around 15% compared to the 4 year average.
  • The region hit most hard, presumably due to the oil price affecting investment in Texas is the South Central region. Orders in 2016 are less than a third of the 4 year average and its percentage share has dropped from 12 to 6% of total consumption.

So, in summary all regions are down with some worse than others.

As Pat pointed out in the AMT video some industries are still doing well. So for us vendors it makes sense to focus on the industries that are doing well like Aerospace, medical, guns and general engineering. It’s also good to note that others which have recently been hit hard show signs of improvement such as agricultural machinery.

So here’s my summary of what going on in the manufacturing sector and how it is affecting manufacturing technology or machine tool sales;

  • Following the boom of 2011, orders have consistently fallen to a level around 23% lower than 2011’s peak consumption.
  • AMT are forecasting and improvement and double digit sales growth in Q4 of 2016 and 2017.
  • IMTS we hope will have its normal positive effect
  • The recent jump in PMI tends to support this optimism in the AMT/USMTO forecast
  • We are hopefully at the bottom of the slump right now – things can only get better!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

CT Scanning explodes

It’s a good time to be running a CT services business.  
There are not many companies providing service in this field and the demand for it is exploding. As new manufacturing techniques are introduced, particularly those using additive manufacturing, people are designing and making parts they can’t measure.  They are also realizing that if they can’t measure what they produce; they can’t sell it and they are looking for solutions; CT scanning is providing the solution. 

Demo machines working for a living
Wenzel’s traditional market is contact CMMs and Wenzel America has always had examples of our CMMs on display in our demo room in Wixom so that we can show prospective customers the machines and use them to help test out applications for our customers.  When Wenzel entered the CT market with the Volumetrik exaCT range of scanners, it made sense to have one of the range of machines in the demo room too.  

My previous experience has included running 3D Scanning services businesses with laser and white light scanners so when we launched the exaCT CT scanners in the USA amongst the first people we showed the product to were companies that provided inspection and reverse engineering services to the whole range of industries hoping they would suggest where our target market would be.  They were not slow to see the potential for using our demo machines on a contract basis to scan parts that they were not able to scan with their optical scanners and overnight we found ourselves in the contract scanning business.

Why the rush to use CT?
For both reverse engineering and inspection, there is no single measurement device that is ideal in every situation.  For very large objects such as buildings, plant, ships or aircraft; only a long range laser scanner is going to be able to do the job.  Similarly for high precision power-train components such as gears, shafts, pistons or cam-shafts only a high precision gear checker or CMM will suffice.  

Today there are an increasing number of parts that are made with highly sophisticated injection molding, casting or additive manufacturing methods that are so highly complex and contain features that are impossible to access using conventional methods that only CT is capable of measuring them.  Some of these parts are highly specialized parts from medical devices or aircraft but most are very familiar items such as bottle caps & closures, zip ties and all the clips holding the interior of your car together; items on which we depend on so much in our lives but which have become extremely difficult to measure for quality.

Repeat customers.
Every day we get new enquiries but the bulk of our business is from repeat customers.  The quality of the stl files used for measurement both in terms of accuracy and repeatability is so much better that other methods for the parts for which it is suitable that once tried, no one ever goes back to conventional measurement.  

I liken someone used to laser scanning seeing stls files from a CT scanner to being like someone seeing colorTV for the first time having only ever seen black & white.  The cost of getting scans done is not as expensive as people expect either and often works out cheaper than if they had parts optically scanned, either as an outside service or by their own people.

In addition to the regular business we get from our service provider partners, we also have developed relationships with companies making safety critical products in the Medical field and in the Automotive industry with such products as safety belts, airbags and ignition switches where the work is long term in support of product development right through first article inspection, launch and tool life management.  Such customers are the bed-rock of a long term business in both service and the sale of scanners. 

The future?
I look at it like 3D Printing was 20 years ago; few end user purchasers of machines with the early growth of the industry driven by service providers.  Back then it was the growing use of 3D solid modeling that fuelled the growth of 3D printing, nowadays it is 3D printing itself that will fuel the demand for innovative measurement techniques and as 3D printing expands – CT scanning will grow with it.

Keep it simple; Fast quotes, fast response time.
In the mean time we at Wenzel America are continuing to invest in capacity.  We recently added an exaCT “S” machine to our service capacity that enables us to scan parts to resolutions as high as 4.5 microns.  If we will continue to be responsive to our customers need for fast quotes and turnaround time on scanning we will continue to do good business, educate our customers in the advantages of the technology and demonstrate its benefits.