If you’re an assembly line manager or executive, working to improve your production is a constant project. That means finding cost-effective ways to increase speed and decrease lost product. When you’re working with products that are held together with threaded fasteners, managers often find room for improvement with their fastening systems.
That doesn’t necessarily mean shutting down production for six months to install a brand-new, custom-built pneumatic tube-fed automatic laser-guided cloud-programmed fastening system. Sure, if you’ve looked at the numbers and it works, go for it. But there are many less onerous ways to improve the productivity of your fastening system. Chief among them is investing in or upgrading to a new set of wrenches or screwdrivers and implementing an effective calibration and maintenance system. The right fastening system isn’t always the one that’s newest, biggest, fastest, or any other kind of -est. It’s the fastening system that actually improves your production. Here’s how the right torque tools can improve your production quality and speed.
Improve Production Quality with Torque Tool Fastening Systems
Dad used to say that a job wasn’t done if it wasn’t done right. That’s as true in line or cell assembly work as it was about cutting the grass. Your product loss rate is a measure of the efficiency of your operation. Given a certain amount of source materials, your operation should theoretically produce a certain number of products. The difference between how many products you should produce and how many you actually produce is your loss rate. Profitability for a quarter, or a year, can hinge on how much product you lose. Simply put, those source materials cost money, and if you waste too much of them, then you won’t generate enough product to make that money back.
Even if a product makes it past your quality assurance program and into the real world, quality issues can still cause problems. The real people who use your products will report defects and demand replacements. Product issues can threaten safety as well, exposing your company to liability. The reputational damage can, in turn, lower sales and diminish profitability.
When assembling products which use threaded fasteners—like bolts, nuts, or screws—knowing that you’re applying the proper torque to each fastener is a major step towards guaranteeing product quality. Torque is the radial force that turns screws, squeezing their threads together and holding them in place. You can find the torque values for your fasteners from your product designers, or, if you’re a contract manufacturer, from your client firm. Once you know the values, applying the correct amount of torque is a matter of investing in a set of hand, pneumatic, or electric torque tools and training employees in their use.
If you already employ torque tools and are still experiencing quality issues with your threaded fasteners, then the problem may be in your calibration procedures. Tools should be checked for calibration once every six months, either in-house using your own equipment or at a certified laboratory. Any tools found out of calibration should be flagged, removed from service, recalibrated, and have their calibration interval halved.
Of course, it may be wise to check tool calibration more often. Think about it—if once every six months you test a tool and find that it’s not producing the right amount of torque, that means every fastener that tool has touched for the last five months and twenty-nine days may not be tightened correctly. That’s the sort of thought that can wake you up sweating in the middle of the night. With a set of high-quality torque tools, kept in continuous calibration, you should be able to reduce any lost product that occurs as a result of improper fastening.
Improving Production Speed with the Right Fastening System
When we think of production speed, it’s natural for our minds to travel towards whizzing assembly lines populated with robotic tool arms, fed by a byzantine system of cables and tubes. Certainly, these systems are very fast; if nothing else, they’re very cool. But perhaps most importantly, they’re very expensive. If your production line doesn’t have the volume that requires this sort of system, then the added capacity this provides may generate a return on your investment.
Instead, consider the fastening system you’re currently using. Where are the bottlenecks? What are the slower parts of the operation? By improving these, you’ll be able to increase the speed of the entire production. For example, many smaller and even mid-size factories provide workers with slotted trays or shaker trays to hold their screws. Workers have to look down, find the right screw, pick it up, set it on the driver, and finally fasten it. A simple solution, like an automatic screw dispenser that delivers new screws to a fixed point, significantly reduces the time of each fastening motion, which adds up to a faster production time and a higher production capacity.
Other seemingly simple fixes can increase speed as well. Go for the low-hanging fruit. It’s easy and it’s ripe. If your workers are using hand screwdrivers on the line or in their cell, consider upgrading them to electric screwdrivers to reduce cycle time. Combine electric screwdrivers with automatic screw dispensers to multiply their effects by each other. Add in ergonomic tool arms or balancers for your workers, and you’ll reduce time lost to fatigue or, eventually, injury. If you’ve done all this already and still need more capacity, then it may be time to consider a more complicated fully-automated assembly solution. Do the math though—would it be more profitable just to buy a new factory and double production?
Small changes to your fastening system can improve both your production quality and speed. Investing in quality torque tools and training employees in their use will reduce lost product. Regularly testing your tools will keep your operators from accidentally over- or under-torquing their fasteners. Small equipment upgrades—like adding several electric screwdrivers, a new ergonomics program, or an automatic screw dispenser—can increase production speed without starting a costly, involved renovation. Improvement is a constant, daily journey, taken a little at a time. Wherever your factory is, consider how torque tools will help you take the next step.