Q: You’ve been writing Ask Jim for several years now: What have you learned about the kinds of problems facing the forging industry?
A: I reviewed my answers to questions from various people, mostly from forge engineering/plant personnel, students/faculty from universities, customers of forgers, equipment suppliers, and some foreign firms seeking various data, roughly in the order I received them. It is true that I do get good feedback from many of those who have asked questions and gotten answers from me.
I have presented training programs at several firms around the country on forging technology. As a result, I have had many contacts with persons from virtually all positions in this industry.
I have written more than 80 Ask Jim columns since mid 1996. I have also written several articles, some of which have been published in short form. The most comprehensive articles written to date are about forging of crankshafts and connecting rods, warm- and cold-forging practices, and causes and cures for die and tool failures.
I have listed the topics covered in Ask Jim in response to the most-often-cited questions. This is what I have learned about the technical problems troubling the industry:
- Die and tooling — 29 questions
- Equipment — 15
- Forging Processes — 15
- Forging Materials — 12
- Quality issues/forging defects — 11
- Forging and Die design — 5
Since I had experiences in hammer and press shops making aircraft and commercial forging, and later with cold and warm forging of automotive steering and suspension components, I feel confident in my answers.
There are many more economic issues that the industry is facing, including offshore competition, high steel prices, erratic scrap prices, etc. I do not intend to cover those topics in the Ask Jim, which focuses on technology.
There is one concern that I would like to address that doesn’t involve a technical problem: How can you expect candidate employees to read and understand instructions if they have difficulty reading with comprehension and carrying out instructions to the letter?
I believe testing candidates before hiring is the way to go, rather than the hire-and-train route that has been standard for many employers.With the increasing sophistication of new equipment, our industry needs “trainable employees” — people who can read prints and understand the basics of math and statistics, as well as read operation manuals with comprehension. If these skills are indicated after testing by a local school (e.g., a vocational program), then the candidates are “trainable” for the typical assignments a modern forge plant.
H. James Henning answers forgers' technical and operational questions. For more than 40 years he held key technical positions in the forging industry, most recently as director of technology for the Forging Industry Association. He is president of Henning Education Services, Columbus, OH, specializing in customized education and training in forging technologies.
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