The current worldwide pandemic - COVID-19 - has upended our everyday lives on an unprecedented scale, not witnessed for decades. As a result, we have pressed pause on all that we took for granted, including traveling to and from places of work and the continuity of business operations, to simple leisure activities and visiting friends and family.
The disruption that manufacturing and global supply chains have faced were not anticipated or even seen on such a scale before the current crisis. This has even led to some mining and manufacturing activities completely ceasing operations. As businesses adapt to the profoundly challenging, unfamiliar demands and working conditions, many must now seek new suppliers to sustain their production lines; or they must answer the call of the market by manufacturing new products.
Ensuring the correct and current incoming inspection processes for raw materials and components are in place mitigates against financial losses otherwise spent on time wasted reworking lines or scrapping material, thus interrupting production. Over time, you can avoid both the potential loss of contracts and any customer returns which impacts heavily on both your bottom line and reputation.
The Response of Manufacturing to Supply Disruption
In the short term, manufacturers simply need to survive, with a focus on damage limitation, before carefully planning the route back to business as usual. Ultimately, this will need to be done as quickly as possible and at the lowest possible cost.
Global supply chains have recently been faced with the harsh reality of just how fragile they can be. Many manufacturers are in turn searching for a new sense of normality. Already, supply chains are having to reevaluate and source parts from a newer, more diverse range of suppliers.
For instance, the US supplies China with raw materials to support substantial manufacturing activities. Consequently, the US relies on Chinese manufacturing for indispensable items, including medical supplies. This relationship may have to undergo a process of change and diversification in the near future.
As ever manufacturers have a keen eye on cost when looking to rebuild and restart. Key strategies will include the minimization of waste and rework: new processes will emerge with a new wave of ‘right first time’ and ‘zero defect’ policies becoming more important than ever.
Material Analysis Plays a Crucial Role in Manufacturing Rebuild
In essence, increased amounts of raw material and component testing means increased freedom when sourcing materials, as you’ll be equipped to test everything prior to it hitting production.
1. If you completely halted production
Your first task is to take stock of everything.
Restarting production and sharp ramp-ups are renowned for material-mix ups and bad parts ending up in final products. Materials analysis, such as XRF or LIBS, can assist you to quickly analyze your work in progress while identifying the material you have in stock. Goods completed can be cross-examined to safeguard against compensating a customer for the unwanted parts working their way into their production lines. Any internal rework can be reduced on a large-scale by simply ensuring the right materials find their way into the right products.
It will be necessary to inspect raw material and components coming in if you are having to change suppliers if your current chains are still not delivering. Once again, analytical techniques, such as XRF, will help you validate the composition of everything from petroleum to stainless steel. This mode of analysis can be done quickly, meaning you can immediately reject or accept a new material from a new supplier and insert it into manufacturing lines. This will boost cash flow, as well as ensuring delivery is on time, as unverified material will not be sitting in your stock.
2. If you are having to switch suppliers while production is ongoing
A multitude of recent stories have emerged where companies have had to change their suppliers in-situ to ensure they meet higher-demand. They have then found that the products delivered were not up to standard or did not meet specification, especially where PPE equipment was concerned.
While it is relatively straightforward to introduce steps into your own processes in order to control manufacturing or fabrication, because you are a component of a larger supply chain, any errors made by your suppliers could give you costly quality problems. Thus, acting fast and taking relative action to verify check incoming material is crucial.
Material properties become vital when applying this to raw material or metal components. When the time comes, you must be able to analyze all alloying, treatment, trace, residual and tramp elements especially in steel, aluminum, and iron applications. With numerous different grades of steel, aluminum, and cast iron, swift analysis will help to make certain your raw material or components are up to the standard of the alloy grade.
The Analyzer You Use Makes All the Difference
Being able to accommodate in-house analysis enables you to hold all the cards where material verification is concerned. This offers you the freedom to accept, reject or simply just try-out new suppliers at any given time. However, to do the job correctly the analyzer itself must have specific features and attributes.
- Efficiency: you will need to test a lot of material, perhaps 100% PMI, and a fast efficient analyzer that’s portable will allow you to get through hundreds of components in a single day.
- Data management: with huge amounts of test data being turned-out, you’ll need an instrument that can store, capture, and transfer information for real-time decision making and easy referencing.
- Reliable and accurate: with new processes and right first-time production techniques in place, you’ll need a dependable analyzer that yields the results you can trust over and over.
- Low cost of ownership: With budgets becoming a lot tighter, the analyzer should be cost-effective to operate effectively paying for itself.
- Robust service agreement: Express, cost-effective support as and when you need it ensures production keeps running smoothly: it’s not always just about the analyzer itself.
Hitachi’s Toolbox of Metals Analyzers
Rapidly ramp up production while keeping mistakes to a bare minimum with analyzers for materials analysis from Hitachi.
With a one-second measurement time this is one of the fastest laser metal analyzers available. Optimal during incoming inspection and throughout the manufacturing process, portable enough to enable you to hold the sample in your hand while you measure it.
Used globally by thousands of companies: this handheld X-ray analyzer is non-destructive which makes it perfect for incoming inspection and finished goods analysis.
OES Product Range
The most accurate of the three measurement technologies. If you need low levels of detection for nitrogen, boron, sulfur, carbon (including L-grades), and phosphorous in steel, then an OES analyzer is a must, available as either mobile or stationary.
ExTOPE Connect is a consummate data management and storage service that is ideal when it comes to managing large amounts of data, recording notes, and capturing images of the materials and parts measured. All real-time data is stored in a one, secure centralized location, which can be accessed from any computer, anytime, anywhere.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.
For more information on this source, please visit Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.