Going Very Lean with Remote Control Nesting
Take a look at how Liebert Corporation coordinates and drives 19 punch/shear machine tools across four different plants by coupling remote control processing technology with advanced CADCAM and nesting software from JETCAM.
Talk about lean. This sheet metal fabricator coordinates and manages the production operations of 19 punch/shear machine tools across four separate plant sites by coupling remote control processing with high performance nesting technology.
Liebert Corporation (Columbus, OH), a division of Emerson Electric, manufactures air and power conditioning for computers and server rooms. When they purchased their first Finn-Power Shear Genius punch/shear back in 1997, the machine tool was offered with Expert software from JETCAM International s.a.r.l. (Monaco) by the vendor.
Alan Mauerman, a senior manufacturing engineer with Liebert, explains, “The previous CAM software we were using back then was simply not designed to support right angle shearing and was barely acceptable for creating basic X and Y G-code for machines like our stand-alone Amada turret punch press. It was slow to use, often displaying unexplained errors, and it suffered from problems importing DXF files. The software that was supplied on the Finn-Power machines was a great combination because it greatly reduced our training time. We could make a nest and see our results quickly.”
Since moving to the new software, the company has aggressively expanded and upgraded its CNC machinery across several plants. The Columbus shop now boasts six Shear Genius punch/shears that use mainly CNC turret punches, with one integrated punch/laser combination machine. All of these punch/shears use material loading robots, with most also benefiting from right angle shear and one tied to an Express Bender machine.
That’s not all. JETCAM software now drives all of the punch/shears in other Liebert facilities, including two machines located in the Delaware, Ohio plant; five more in the Ironton, Ohio shop and four punch/shears along with two stand-alone punch presses in the Mexicali plant in Mexico.
CAD import routines in the previous software had been a problem earlier, but now automatic ‘healing’ routines are used to ensure that any ‘dirty’ files can be automatically healed using pre-defined parameters. Complete directories of CAD files can be healed, imported and tooled automatically using JETCAM SCAP (Single Component Automatic Processing) and are then immediately ready for nesting.
Moving forward, Liebert has seen ongoing staff benefits through ease of use with the new software. A number of new users had extensive shop floor knowledge, but little computer experience. However, in under a week they were confident and capable of producing highly optimized nests. Mauerman notes, “This software easy to use because there are only a few keystrokes required for each step and what you see on the screen is what happens at the machine. There are no surprises.”
As the price of material continues to rise, Liebert has empowered the shop to deliver further savings in this area. The company purchased a JETCAM high performance nesting module that delivered between 5 percent and 13 percent savings on materials by continuing to try different nest patterns over a specified size range. The software also includes utilities such as common line cutting and remnant sheet management that allow every possible square inch of material to be used or saved for reuse where possible.
Although the firm provides interaction at every level, Liebert was looking to automate the system as much as possible. In 2010 they investigated automating methods for analyzing optimal sheet metal material sizes. Mauerman recalls, “It took weeks to analyze even a small number of possibilities, and we simply could not analyze all of the parts for a particular material type and gage. We realized that we needed an automated method to achieve better material utilization, so we talked to JETCAM to see if they could create a solution.”
The company developed a separate application that utilized its RCP (Remote Control Processing) system to compare previous sheet sizes versus several options for new sizes. It uses the component file for each part, monthly part usage and current sheet dimensions. Other information such as material cost, part spacing, trim width, sheet increments and minimum/maximum size ranges were also selected. RCP then automatically nests each part on all of the different sheet sizes, which takes on average three seconds per nest.
A spreadsheet is then generated that compares the current cost and provides three recommended sizes based on the best weighted average material cost savings. “I’ve used RCP to analyze over 15,000 combinations of sheet sizes for just one material type,” adds Mauerman. “I simply could not have done that manually.”
Liebert has now been using JETCAM for over 15 years, spanning their four locations in North America and covering many types and models of NC punching equipment. Mauerman concludes, “In the past our sheet utilization was around 68–72 percent, but now – by coupling the RCP method with high performance nesting – we have seen increases up to 13 percent that has resulted in many thousands of dollars being saved. And we are just getting started. With this software we know we will have the capability and will be able to benefit from it no matter what metal fabrication equipment we have.”