|Programming one of the CNC machines at Weldaloy.|
Heating a forging at Weldaloy.
Recently, Weldaloy Products Co. of Warren, MI, started promoting to potential customers the advantages of its vertical integration— that is, the organizational advantages that occur when a manufacturer brings all operations to produce parts inhouse. This allows Weldaloy, or any company, to manage an order from start to finish, and it results in better product quality, faster and more reliable delivery, and greater customer convenience.
Vertical integration has paid off for Weldaloy (www.weldaloy.com) and its customers. In 2007, the forger shipped 25,424 parts and only 27 were returned for further inspection. That’s a quality record of 99.9%.
Since vertical integration requires that all production be managed within a single location, there is no need to ship products to multiple locations during manufacturing. This dramatically reduces lead times for customers. Weldaloy engineering manager Dennis Werthman details, “Shipping products to multiple locations not only extends lead time, but increases cost without adding value. Performing the functions in a single and solely managed location cuts out nonvalue added costs.”
Werthman also points out, “Vertical integration eliminates unplanned delays by centralizing control over the development process of new products.” Weldaloy’s delivery record shows the results of vertical integration: They are able to keep promised delivery dates 96.2% of the time.
Often overlooked, according to Weldaloy, is that a forger (or any manufacturer) and the customer both benefit from the convenience that results. Simply put, vertical integration means less work for the manufacturer and the customer alike. The need to coordinate multiple suppliers, various manufacturing facilities, shipping and quality inspections at various sites, is eliminated.
Benefits of Vertical Integration
1. Increased quality. Having all processes controlled and maintained in-house prevents long lead times, delays, and quality problems typical when using multiple suppliers.
Weldaloy traces its origins back more than 60 years. Today, it produces nonferrous materials as open-die forgings closed-die forgings, and rolled-ring forgings for a variety of industries. It specializes, however, in producing copper forgings from C10100 OFE (oxygen-free electronic), C18200 chromium-copper, C18150 chromium-zirconium copper, C10800 (oxygen-free low-phosphorus), C46400 naval brass, C10700 (oxygen-free with silver), and various others.
Because it has moved to vertical integration in recent years, Weldaloy claims its ontime delivery record is one of the highest in its market niche: Its deliveries of copper forgings to customers meet the promised delivery date 96.2% of the time. (See the delivery performance chart at www.weldaloy.com.) In addition to its vertical integration, Weldaloy credits a 15- point Order Review Process for limiting the risk of drawing or tolerance mistakes, and contributing significantly to its quality and on-time performance
Starting with raw material
Weldaloy commonly stocks over $4 million of material in more than 17 alloys, including copper and aluminum alloys, in various shapes, sizes, and configurations, to help ensure quick turnaround of a customer order.
Processing an order usually begins with precision sawing of initial stock before forging, which Weldaloy describes this way:
Operator checks machining of a copper disc.
“While sawing nonferrous materials is not ‘rocket-science,’ you must control the speed, feed rate, and pressure at which the blade is fed into the material in order to effectively and efficiently process them. We have developed optimal matrix patterns for all the materials that we process, so that we eliminate mistakes and save you money keeping your project on schedule.”
As noted, Weldaloy produces open-die forgings, closed-die forgings, and precision rolled-ring forgings. In addition, Weldaloy can process to optimize the performance characteristics of parts produced. It invites customers to discuss the options as follows: “Whether cold work, crossgrain, hot forge, upset, upset and cross-grain, or warm work, talk to us about which method will work best for you.”
Open-die forging is used to produce very large products that cannot be processed in closed dies due to size limitations. Weldaloy tells customers that this approach is cost effective when quantities of the product are low, thereby eliminating the cost of required tooling used in the closed-die forging process. The fact that no dies need to be fabricated means quicker delivery of the desired product. And, opendie forging offers a wide range of mechanical properties that may not be able to be achieved by other forging processes. The company’s open-die forging capabilities include:
- Lengths up to 96 in.
- Widths up to 40 in.
- Thickness up to 20 in.
- Diameters up to 72 in.
- Weight up to 4500 lb.
Closed-die forging is used to produce shapes with closer dimensional tolerances. The production of parts that are “near net shape” reduces the amount of input material that goes into the product and offers cost savings on raw material. Also, the closed-die approach means machining requirements are greatly reduced over those of open-die forging. Finally, the cost of tooling spread over higher volumes proves to be relatively insignificant in the piece price.
Weldaloy’s 15-Point Order Review Process
Weldaloy’s goal is to give the customer exactly what was ordered, so it instituted a detailed system of recordkeeping and -checking. Each order is subjected to the detailed review process below as it is entered into Weldaloy’s Plexus ERP system to make sure nothing is missed. The review:
1. Verifies that if a customer’s drawing is used, it is identical to the drawing listed on the job record.
Although initial deliveries may be longer than those with the open-die forging process Weldaloy works to set up a release program with this process that includes delivery dates set in advance.
Rolled-ring forging is used at Weldaloy to minimize material usage in the manufacture of annular forgings. Raw material is pierced or punched from its center and then placed on a mandrel and drawn out circumferentially to create a ring. Weldaloy tells potential customers: “Circumferential grain flow ensures that the strength and reliability of your part is maintained by this rolled-ring forging process.”
Weldaloy points out that rolled-ring production promises cost savings over the closed-die forging process in that no additional tooling charges are required, and the process is effective for low volume or larger sized rings. The rolled-ring approach may offer significant material savings compared to the use of plate, and the machining required is minimized, because this process brings the product to a near-net shape. Weldaloy’s ring-rolling capabilities include products with diameters up to 72 in., with maximum thickness of 17 in.
Heat treating, testing, machining
Weldaloy can manage typical heat treating needs in-house. Services include annealing and / or stress relieving, quenching, and solution annealing. The Weldaloy message to potential customers is, “Properly heat treating your material is key to getting the right material characteristics for your process.”
In recent months the company rebuilt and “re-bricked” its furnaces, adding state-ofthe- art controllers.
“Our furnaces are periodically surveyed and maintained to ensure set-point accuracy and variation within the chamber meets our standards,” the forger states. “This results in better control of processing parameters which, in turn, translates to optimum properties to meet your specifications. We are continually evaluating our heat treating processes to maximize material performance.”
Testing equipment at Weldaloy includes two coordinate measuring machines and a full range of dimensional inspection equipment. Also, the company can provide testing for mechanical properties, grain size, hardness, and conductivity. Non-destructive test services include dye penetrant, ultrasonic, and radiographic testing.
Weldaloy machines close-tolerance components from nonferrous metals. It has more than 20 turning and machining centers, the majority of which are state-of-the-art CNC operated. It can provide rough machining with stock allowance for a customer’s final machining operation, or it can machine products to meet a customer’s requirements specified on drawing.
“Because of the unique properties of nonferrous metals, specifically copper-alloy materials,” Weldaloy points out, “machining copper is quite different than many of the standard ferrous materials that are machined.” Specifically, copper may become ‘gummy’ during machining.
“With over six decades in the copper machining business Weldaloy has developed the expertise to machine nonferrous materials in our shop. We know the best way to handle and machine copper and aluminum alloys.
“Certain geometric tools need to be used along with a knowledge of the speed with which the material has to be delivered. If you don’t know the precise mechanics of machining copper, you could end up ruining your parts or, worse yet, making nonconforming parts during the process of machining copper.”
Weldaloy can handle machining in the following size ranges:
- Turning up to 72 in. in diameter.
- Milling up to 30 67 in.
Weldaloy points out that its quality system is registered to ISO 9001:2000. “We have Quality built into our corporate culture,” it explains. “You see in a closely knit company like Weldaloy where forging and machining operations share the same location you can’t pass along an inferior part.”
The emphasis for its quality systems is placed on customer service, and pride of workmanship.
“At Weldaloy we don’t have an army of inspectors. We don’t need an army. Every operator from the forge and machine shop to the shipping department is responsible for the part they make and sign off on their operation before they send it to the next operation. That means that each operator has checked each part and it meets all requirements up to that point. Any operator may stop production if there is a quality problem as well as reject a lot back to the previous operation if they do not agree the quality standard is met. As a result the product is inspected twice at every step by people who are best qualified to produce good product. Of course we do have a formal Quality Audit before the parts are shipped but for the most part it is a formality. The operators make sure of that.”
Every part manufactured by Weldaloy is marked with a material ID to maintain traceability throughout the manufacturing process. Also, parts can be serialized if the customer requires or if Weldaloy finds an internal need for a higher level of traceability. The pedigree of each part can be traced back through every operation and operator to the raw material received at Weldaloy. It maintains files on material suppliers’ chemical analysis of the raw material.