Category Archives: Project Management

How to Solve Quality Issues

Consumer’s expectations of quality have risen over the years in the fabrication and construction industry. In the curved steel industry especially for OEM products we rely heavily on inspection and contractor certification to ensure product quality. Inspection looks at the end product, while certification evaluates the processes and procedures used to manufacture the product. Inspection is often referred to as quality control. Quality control came about when mass production manufacturers produced thousands of parts and each part was expected to be identical and finding the ones that didn’t meet product specs was black and white. Contractor certification is a quality assurance or total quality approach to controlling errors and non-conformance parts. Quality assurance is the prevention of quality problems through planned and systematic activities including documentation.

Most steel benders and rollers have a simple quality program that meet the requirements of each customer through their work order procedures that are controlled documents created on per order basis. The shop has standard measuring procedures for checking quality. When a quality issue or nonconforming product arises the bender/roller will record everything in a corrective actions report or CAR. Corrective action is the measure taken to identify and eliminate the source or root cause of a nonconformance to prevent its recurrence. A CAR should have a description of the problem, containment action (what immediate action must be taken to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again), root cause analysis (what are the most likely causes of the problem), preventive action taken (what steps must be taken to make sure it does not happen again), and person responsible for following up with the solution.

Let’s face it, people will make mistakes. Corrective action should not be seen as a disciplinary process, and it should not be allowed to evolve into that. It will become counter-productive and make the process seem personal. It will appear as if the intention is to point fingers and assign blame, rather than to identify and eliminate the sources of nonconforming parts. It is about the process and not about the people. The main goal is to provide your customers with the best quality, service, delivery and value. This is achieved by the understanding of customer’s needs and continual improvement in every area of the company through the introduction and use of new technology, and through the education and training of its employees. The corrective action process is a powerful tool that will not only help improve the quality of your products and processes, but also increase efficiency and productivity. If implemented properly you will see greater customer satisfaction, repeat business, and lower cost.

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Genchi Genbutsu: “Go and See” the Curved Metal

One of the key principals of the Toyota Production System, that spawned such initiatives as just-in-time production and lean manufacturing, is the concept of Genchi Genbutsu which translates into “go and see.”  The idea is that shop problems and process improvement opportunities should be identified and dealt with on the shop floor where the activity is taking place.  How might this concept apply to Roller / Benders, metal bending companies that specialize in curving metal?

First of all, the concept directly applies to the production of OEM parts in the Bender/Roller shops.  All those involved directly or indirectly in the process–including project managers, engineers, purchasing agents, and even sales persons–may need to meet on the shop floor to “go and see” how best to proceed.

In our shop recently, a machine operator was given the task of putting some twelve bends with three orientations in a steel plate.  A template was provided but with no information on the radii or arc lengths involved.  Had the project manager provided the machine operator with the mid-ordinate rise over defined segments of the curved tube, the operator would have had an easier time.  The part turned out fine, but the process could have been better.  It was only when the project manager decided to go and see the process that the problem and solution were identified.

How might this apply in the case of curved steel for the construction industry?  Another way of expressing the “go and see” concept is by the Japanese word “Gemba” which translates roughly to mean “the real place.”  In steel fabrication, the Gemba is the factory floor where value is created.  Management should go to the front lines to identify waste and opportunities.  For example, if management sees forklifts moving raw material, work in process and finished goods within the factory in ways that add no value, management should work with shop personnel to move equipment to minimize flow time and flow distance in the fabrication process.

When Bender/Rollers produce OEM parts as well as curved steel members for construction, the Gemba, the real place, can also be the shop floor of the OEM customer or the shop floor of the steel fabricator.  Visits by Bender/Rollers to their customers and vice versa can add great value through increased communication especially when identifying expectations.

Finally, the concepts of “go and see” and “the real place” can be extended to include the sales floor and construction site where Bender/Rollers can interact with the final customer as well as all the intermediaries in between.

curved steel sections
Chicago Metal Rolled Products Machines Operators “Go and See” Their Curved Steel Sections Being Installed at the Job Site

Genchi Genbutsu is pronounced “gen” as in “again” + chee, and then “gen” again with “but” as in “boot” and “su” as in “sue”.  Mimicking the sound and sense of the Japanese word, the concept has sometimes been loosely translated as “Getcha your boots on.”  So lace them up and go and see the real place.

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Rolled Steel Shapes Supplied to Equipment Manufacturers – What Should be Measured?

Bender/Rollers, those companies that specialize in curving structural steel, steel sheet and steel plate, often supply rolled steel and metal shapes to equipment manufacturers as component parts.  These original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) turn to Bender/Rollers precisely because their make-or-buy analysis indicates they should buy these parts.

Given that Bender/Rollers will supply many parts to OEMs, what measures or metrics should the Bender/Roller put in place regarding this type of work?  Best practice indicates that they should align their performance measures with what customers want.  And what the customer wants is almost always quality, service, on-time delivery, and value.

Many OEMs provide suppliers with something like a “Supplier Report Card” or a “Vendor Performance Report.”  These, of course, are a direct expression of what an individual customer wants.  One such report card measures “Spend” (the cost of the parts ordered), “Line Rejects/Returns,” “Delivery Score,” “Quality Factor,” and “Total Score.”  Another measures the number of “On-Time Receipts” and its percentage, the number of late receipts and its percentage, the number of early receipts and its percentage, and the number of orders within tolerance and its percentage.  It allocates 45 points for delivery, 10 points for quantity, and 45 points for quality.  Ratings of 100-95 are “Exceptional;” from 94-85 “Preferred;” 84-70 “Qualified;” and 69-0 “Probational.”

Most OEMs, however, do not provide suppliers with a report card.  Consequently, it is important for Bender/Rollers to maintain their own internal report cards.  Again best practice is to measure what the customers want.  On-time delivery and quality are metrics that the best companies should be able to track.  Service and value may be more difficult to quantify.  Service could include requirements such as special packaging, aid in sourcing raw material, and even invoicing correctly.  Value is measured in part by the willingness of customers to continue to order parts at a given price year after year.

Manufacturers, of course, measure many other things including machine utilization, sales volume, profitabilility, and the cost of labor and material for a given item.  As important and critical as each one of these metrics is, a truly customer-focused organization puts the highest priority on measuring and meeting customer needs and strives to continually improve in the eyes of those customers.

Performance Report
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Structural Steel Bending Questions From Architects and Engineers Answered Here.

I have frequently lectured and written about structural steel bending for architects, engineers and structural steel fabricators as well as for undergraduate and graduate school engineering students. In the dialogue that followed the presentations, I have been asked a number of questions.

Some of these questions are best answered by the rolling houses (companies that specialize in curving structural steel), others best answered by structural steel fabricators, others best answered by architects and engineers, and still others best answered by a combination of the above groups.

The following list is a compilation of the major questions that arise and what Chicago Metal Rolled Products has blogged about that topic:

1. Cost
a. Curved Steel in Construction?  No Worries!
    b. Structural Beam Bending:  $aving More Money When Cambering Beams

2. Allowable bending stress, strength capacity reduction, and other effects on properties
    a. Curved Steel in Construction?  No Worries!

3. Specification requirements
    a. Working With Detailers to Achieve Multi-Radius Bending
b. Specifications For Building Circular Staircases
    c. Bending Steel Sections:  The “D” Word
    d. Curved Steel Sections?  Material Take-Offs Yield Quick and Accurate Quotes.
    e. Specifying Curved Steel Sections
    f. When There Are No Pictures To Communicate Specifications For Bending Steel Sections, Use Everyday References

4. Relationship between member types/sizes and rolling limitations
    a. What is the meaning of “Yes, we have the capacity to bend that beam”?
    b. Minimum Bending Radius When Bending Bars of Steel

5. How to analyze and design
    a. Curved Steel in Construction?  No Worries!
    b. American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Revises Beam Bending Standards.
c. Galvanizing Curved Steel
    d. What does AESS really mean when applied to structural steel tube bending?
    e. Both Camber and Sweep in Tube Bending?

6. What tolerances are achievable
    a. How Do the Tolerances for Structural Steel Construction Apply to Companies that Specialize in Structural Steel Bending?
b. Mock-ups For Structural Steel Bending and Steel Plate Rolling

7. Sequencing, project schedule impacts, and other design/project limitations.
    a. Bending Steel Sections:  How Long Does It Take?

These blogs comprise partial answers to the questions commonly asked by architects and engineers about curved steel. More information can be found on our website.

Chicago's MP

Chicago Metal Rolled Products’ Tour of Millenium Park on Steel Day

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Bending Steel Sections: How Long Does It Take?

How much lead time is for required for bending steel sections?  How long does it take to fabricate curved steel?  What is the schedule impact?  Architects, engineers, and structural steel fabricators regularly ask these questions of Benders and Rollers, companies that specialize in curving steel.

The answers vary, of course, from company to company depending on its capacity, its processes and its overall responsiveness.  Many Bender/Rollers can easily fulfill an order to curve a few beams, for example, within a two-week time span.  Larger orders might take longer, but often the customer, typically a structural steel fabricator, will be happy with an initial partial shipment so he can begin his fabrication.  The Bender/Rollers most often simply curve the steel so their turn-around time is usually faster than a fabricator’s because the latter has more work to do on the steel sections.

The trend over recent years seems to be that the Bender/Rollers are offering faster and faster turn-around times.  At Chicago Metal Rolled Products, for example, we have offered three-day, two-day, one-day and same-day service.  Truckers will haul in beams as large as W44 x 290, drop them off, go to McDonald’s for lunch during the beam bending, come back, and load up the curved steel sections destined for the fabricator’s shop.

Quick turn-around times are sometimes required because although the project’s due date remains firm, delays in permitting, engineering approval, design revisions, etc. can impact the schedule.  In most instances, however, curved steel can be supplied quickly enough for any project’s schedule.

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