Welcome to the Dane MFG Blog

The Dane Manufacturing Blog is a series of articles selected by our leadership which best represent our perspective on the metal manufacturing and fabrication industry, environment and/or economic climate at time of publishing.

Sheet Metal Parts & Assembly

How sheet metal parts are assembled goes a long way in defining a metal manufacturer. Correctly assembled products are the foundation of a metal manufacturer. If a product is assembled poorly, the longevity and functionality of the product are immediately compromised. 

Sheet Metal Punching History and Techniques

Punching is one of the most developed yet misunderstood metal fabrication processes. 

By removing scrap metal from a unit of raw metal, punching:

  • Produces holes

  • Cuts large panels

  • Forms complex shapes 

—and more! 

Using modern metal punching technology, manufacturers can quickly create holes and shapes to meet the market’s demand for specific products. 

Metal manufacturers misunderstanding how metal punching technology works can lead to lower quality products and decreased throughput. Knowledge gaps related to metal punching are usually derived from the fact that there are numerous functions and variables within modern punching technology. 

This post will serve to shed light on sheet metal punching—one of the most common materials punched by manufacturers. 

We’re going to examine the history of metal punching to understand better how the industry’s technology has evolved. 

History of Sheet Metal Punching 

Metalwork is an ancient art form. As advancements in metal manufacturing occurred, metal workers quickly became valued members of society due to the durable materials they could produce. The first sheets of metal produced were very thin and came from materials that included gold and silver. 

Workers would hammer gold and silver materials with stones to produce thin metal sheets. Once the sheets were formed, it became easier to make jewelry, armor, and other useful items. The introduction of the rolling mill was vital for metal production as output increased drastically. 

The Rolling Mill Evolves 

While sketches of a rolling mill prototype date back to 1480 drawings from Leonardo Da Vinci—the first reports of rolling steel occurred during the 17th century. 

The first rolling mills formed thin sheets of metal, while the 18th century led the forming of more complicated metal shapes that included: 

  • Rounds

  • Squares

  • Rails 

Early 19th-century rolling mills consisted of a sturdy cast iron cage with two steel cylinders and a screw adjustment feature. Rolling mills in the early 1800s are reasonably comparable to the mill designs that exist today. 

The industrial revolution leaned heavily on the use of rolling mills as a means to meet enormous supply demand. Beginning with a hydraulic wheel, rolling mills soon became powered by steam engines, then finally an electric motor. Like cars, the electric motors on rolling mills evolved to utilize more cylinders for more efficient power. 

A high number of small adjustments since Leonardo Da Vinci’s 15th-century drawings have led to the rolling press processing a stunning 90% of industrial metals

Once metal manufacturers could roll a quality piece of metal, they could then start working, cutting, and forming the metal. 

Initial metal punching work dates back to 1847 when road bridge builders needed metal materials with strategically placed holes. 

The somewhat quick progress of sheet metal cutting from nibbling machines to oxy-hydrogen torches led to more modern cutting techniques such as: 

  • Laser cutting

  • Oxygen cutting

  • Plasma cutting 

Modern Sheet Metal Punching 

It’s an understatement to say that the history of metal punching is action-packed. Comparing modern sheet metal technology to this initial rolling press reflects the remarkable engineering work that humans are capable of. 

Let’s paint a picture of how sheet metal punching operates today. 

What Types of Metal Punching Are There?

Modern metal punching machinery can adapt to different metal forms. Brass, copper, aluminum, iron, stainless steel, and certain alloys are all examples of metals that are commonly punched today. 

Steel punching is in high demand, while aluminum is commonly punched due to its low resistance. Iron contains one of the highest resistances to punching and requires specific tools. Copper is often punched as the material possesses high levels of flexibility. 

Back in the day, metal punching was performed manually. The evolution of metal punching technology has paved the way for manufacturers to punch metal with automatic controls. 

Dane Manufacturing Automatic Punching  

Dane Manufacturing is an example of a sheet metal manufacturer that utilizes modern punching technology to increase throughput and meet market demand. 

MultiTool Punching Capabilities 

The MultiTool is a prime example of a technology that helps streamline Dane Manufacturing’s punching work. A vital strength of the MultiTool is the machine’s ability to process sheet metal parts with several small punching operations and large lot sizes. 

Back to the Future of Manufacturing

With much of the US and world abroad lifting restrictions for individuals and business to return to normalcy of life and operations, it will be time for manufacturers to start reducing the implementation of once unlikely contingency plans, and re-engage with forecasting, capital expenditures, and perhaps most importantly - innovation. At the time of this article, it is unknown how the federal (and/or state) government or agencies within will incentivize manufacturers to implement new technologies in their  organizations to further the pursuit of greater efficiency and ultimately greater profitability, but it seems reasonable to assume that (additional) incentives in the form of grants or tax credits will exist sometime in the near future.  

Lean manufacturing thrives amid coronavirus crisis

Amish fabricator in Ohio responds to exploding demand for field hospital cots

By Tim Heston 
April 29, 2020 

Lean manufacturing assembly of field hospital cots

A lean cell is configured to produce a field hospital cot about every 30 seconds. PioneerIWS workstations give assemblers quick access to tools and components.

Being in quarantine, Eddie Wengerd had time on his hands. He had returned from the MODEX material handling trade show in Atlanta and was notified that someone at the event had tested positive for COVID-19.

Eddie is general manager of Dalton, Ohio-based Pioneer, an Amish company that specializes in a small niche in the ag market that the plain community knows better than anyone: horse-drawn farm equipment. Powered off the grid by a natural gas generator, the operation has all the technology of a modern fab shop. The organization also has embraced lean manufacturing and has even designed flexible workstations that it now sells under the Gridlok and Flexturs brands through its subsidiary, Pioneer Industrial Workflow Solutions.

When Eddie and his brother Steven, director of sales, returned from the tradeshow and learned they were exposed to COVDI-10, the two quarantined themselves for 14 days, but they spent that time wisely. One day Eddie showed his brother a newspaper article about how the country was running out of hospital beds, and the need for field hospital cots was exploding.

“That’s when his mind started spinning.”

So said Leon Wengerd, Pioneer’s CFO, who explained that at the tradeshow both Eddie and Steven met someone from the Lyon Group in Chicago who had connections throughout the medical supply chain. All the pieces of the puzzle—sales and distribution, local manufacturing collaborators, and lean production—seemed to be in place.

Could it work? The world needs more field hospital cots now amid the coronavirus pandemic. Could Pioneer and its partners provide them?

As Leon recounted, “Within a few days we developed a prototype in SolidWorks. The next day we had a prototype built. A few days later, we were in production. Eddie called me about the idea on March 20, and the first 50 cots were being shipped to Long Island, N.Y., on April 3.” Less than two weeks after that, this company of 50 employees had shipped more than a thousand cots to state governments and medical facilities in Ohio, Maryland, Colorado, and elsewhere.

Leon emphasized that all this couldn’t have happened without two things: lean thinking and good relationships. The latter includes that serendipitous tradeshow encounter with the Lyon Group representative, which led to an expansive sales and distribution channel (though Pioneer is also selling direct). Pioneer also has a relationship with Zoro, a Grainger subsidiary.

Fabric welding systems-maker Miller Weldmaster, Navarre, Ohio, also played a role. “The company builds vinyl welding systems, and they were very instrumental in helping to design the webbing for the bed,” Leon said. “And they have strong connections with Seaman Corp. out of Wooster, Ohio, which is supplying the webbing going forward. And Weaver Leather in Mount Hope, Ohio, punched the vinyl webbing to fit the bed.”

Immediately after the prototype was finished, it was all hands on deck. Pioneer has extensive fabrication equipment in-house, including a new laser cutting system and press brake. But to ramp up fabrication capacity and to ensure it had resources available for final assembly, Pioneer outsourced the cutting and bending work to Metal Dynamics in Wooster, Ohio. When cut and bent components arrive at Pioneer, they head to robotic welding. Several third-generation Wengerds, still teenagers, designed a fixture that facilitated extremely short cycle times.

Metal fabricated field hospital cot

Bringing this field hospital cot from conception to production took less than 14 days.

The entire bed was designed around downstream needs, not just for comfort and strength for the end user, but for ease of fabrication, painting (including quick-dry paint), assembly, and deployment. For instance, small teardrop designs in the plate allow cots to stack securely and compactly for transportation and storage.

Lean, high-velocity assembly is at the crux of it all. With its own flexible workstations configured as needed, Pioneer designed an assembly cell—complete with Plexiglas separators to maintain the social distancing protocol—where 14 people assemble a cot from start to finish. “And the Flexturs and Gridlok [flexible workstation] systems worked so well for keeping all the needed tools and hardware the assemblers needed,” Leon said.

Takt time at each station is just 30 seconds. That means every 30 seconds a completed cot emerges from the line. When seconds matter, the exact position of assembly tools and hardware matters too.

Such a quick ramp-up to production shows just how powerful lean manufacturing is in response to a crisis. Lean concepts allowed Pioneer and its partners to ramp up quickly to meet an urgent need. They’ll then scale back just as quickly when the crisis subsides, with no inventory weighing down the balance sheet.

The feat also highlights the importance of relationships. Pioneer couldn’t have accomplished what it did without its partners, including those mentioned here and more than a half-dozen others. All wanted to help in a time of need. Thinking and working together, a community of progressive manufacturers and suppliers can accomplish great things.

How To Make Manufacturing Sustainability A Strategic Priority

Sustainability has become a strategic priority in the manufacturing industry.  Customers will no longer accept companies who do not align their strategy with the global health of the planet. With technology today, companies can use data to not only be sustainable in the final product creation, but also in the entire product development and manufacturing process. While the world is moving in the direction of environmentally conscious expectations, adopting sustainable practices is also in the best interest of businesses as well as the world. With the vast amounts of data available to manufacturing companies from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the future of manufacturing holds unlimited potential. By putting this data into action, companies improve the way products are designed and manufactured. 

Understanding innovation starts with your customers

While innovation is a concept that’s been circulating at the top of distributors’ minds for years, many still struggle with what innovation and adaptation means for them. The drive for transformation is encouraging distributors to reach for new processes and technologies, but true innovation is more complex than purchasing all the bells and whistles. The key to understanding, and ultimately achieving, innovation is to start with the customer. According to Dirk Beveridge, founder of UnleashWD and proud Infor partner, “Innovation is leading customers to a better future for which they are willing and capable of rewarding you.” It’s not about shunning technology; it’s about being strategic in what tools you use to strengthen the customer relationship and improve their experiences. 

Reducing Employee Stress in a Time of Widespread Disruption

The social and economic turmoil unleashed on our society by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has created a level of apprehension not seen in this society since the financial crisis, or perhaps even since World War II. Anxiety is compounded by the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and global messaging apps. Misinformation travels around the globe while the truth is still putting on its shoes. 

The Journey to the Factory of the Future

While most people are staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are on the front line. Not just in hospitals, but our manufacturers who are essential to society and doing their part helping to stop the global pandemic. These manufacturers are on the factory floor continuing to build, construct, create and prepare. Their need is urgent and the vision for a better tomorrow continues. That vision begins with the factory of the future. 

Advent Design: How Strategic Planning Led to Increased Sales, Jobs and Savings

Advent Design Corporation is an ISO 9001-certified, award-winning company that provides businesses with custom engineering solutions. Located in the Historic Mill of Bristol, PA, Advent provides an array of services aimed at helping U.S. manufacturers become more competitive in a global economy.  It is the breadth of services — all focused on the unique needs of manufacturing — that differentiates Advent Design from other engineering companies, custom equipment builders, product development firms, and contract manufacturers. Each individual service the business offers is designed to complement and enhance each of the other services that Advent Design provides.  The company has approximately 125 employees. 

Preparing for a New Decade of U.S. Manufacturing

Each new year brings about a period of reflection, where one can think back on the path that the previous year took us on. The coming year represents an even larger opportunity for reflection as the world enters a new decade. Reflection provides an opportunity to learn and improve and extends beyond just an individual, but also to industries and businesses. As a U.S. manufacturing enthusiast, I’m looking back over the past 10 years and how manufacturing has changed, evolved and innovated so that I can continue to support that evolution. 

Sale vs operations...and the loser is...

Leaders and managers have been dealing with this epic battle since the first person sold a product and someone else had to get that product to the customer. Operations (or finance, logistics, marketing, etc) thinks sales is living the easy life wine and dining clients and making hoards of money. Sales thinks operations could care less and never reads the damn order especially the extra "notes" that says "don't deliver before 10 AM." Both sides are just "waiting" for the other side to screw up so they can run to their leaders inside their silos and claim victory that they are the better army. Many of these armies have seasoned "bus drivers" just waiting to roll over their enemy when any opportunity presents itself. As this battle rages on over the years the casualties pile up. The challenge is many of the leaders of these armies don't even realize the amount of losses that are really occurring during these internal battles.