Custom Tool Maker Boosts Efficiencies Through Virtual Collaboration

Manufacturers need optimized production processes to reach competitive efficiency levels. To highlight strengths, identify weaknesses and quantify optimization savings, an onsite Manufacturing Efficiency Evaluation (MEE) examines every aspect of a shop’s operations. Under normal circumstances, an MEE requires careful planning, setup, coordination and, most importantly, in-person facility tours. However, a global pandemic made the latter of these impossible for health and safety reasons. As a workaround, two resourceful teams collaborated to conduct the first-ever remote process evaluation and virtual tour for a customer in China.

OSK Precision Tools Co. creates tungsten carbide drills, reamers and milling cutters for the “three Cs” – computers, communications, consumer electronics – and various other industries, including aerospace, automotive, machinery and molding. Nearly 70% of its products are customized, made to order in mass-produced batches of 5,000-10,000 pieces. Each year, OSK runs two production seasons that match its customers’ development cycles, including two to three months of prototyping and one to two months of small-batch testing. The scale of these processes makes production efficiency critically important.

To control costs, shorten delivery times and reduce overall scrap rates in a workflow that requires a seamless transition from small-batch prototypes to high-volume production, OSK called on the Manufacturing Transformation team at Seco Tools for an MEE. The Seco team draws on 80 years of metal-cutting experience at more than 20 production sites to offer digital knowhow, process optimization and custom products, all of which help small to medium-sized manufacturers like OSK tackle fundamental production challenges.

But an MEE is an intensive onsite process that examines a manufacturer’s entire production system in person and analyzes its planning and scheduling, production workflows, management practices, tool use, human resources and more. In the midst of a global pandemic, the Manufacturing Transformation team had to find an alternative for the “onsite” aspect of the MEE analytics. For safety’s sake, Manufacturing Transformation and OSK agreed to conduct the MEE remotely.

Two representatives from Seco Shanghai acted as the team’s eyes, ears and translators on a video tour, while gyroscopically stabilized smartphones and the Microsoft Teams application gave Manufacturing Transformation live interactive capabilities. Manufacturing Transformation created a long list of questions to ask before and during the tour, identified which operations the team needed to view live, and requested part drawings and process data.

Manufacturing Transformation honed in on OSK’s work in progress, work-area design, production optimization, management feedback to operators and engineers, scrap rate, cycle times and other key performance indicators (KPIs). With extraordinary commitment from all parties to the process, the MEE provided a wide variety of actionable results for the customer.

Remote MEEs may not become routine, especially because the in-person approach offers the most-straightforward comprehensive view of how a manufacturing facility operates. But under dramatically unusual circumstances, this particular remote MEE showed that strategic preparation makes the process a success. Most importantly, it demonstrated the breadth of what Manufacturing Transformation could accomplish from a distance, and gave OSK actionable production insights for new, profitable efficiencies. OSK’s full engagement and commitment to transparency made the MEE productive for everyone involved.

The Manufacturing Transformation team remains committed to helping customers achieve optimized, efficient workflows so they can position themselves for ongoing success. This virtual MEE helped Manufacturing Transformation find new ways to help customers, using teamwork and ingenuity to maintain analytical standards. Read the full story of Manufacturing Transformation’s recommendations to OSK, and how the MEE helped lead the company to greater production capacity, efficiency and productivity, in our case study of the event.