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Why ISO 9001 Certification Matters

How do you measure quality? One way is to create an international standard that sets metrics for the quality of the thing in question. That’s the purpose of the ISO 9001 standard as applied to quality management.

Developed by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 9001:2008 (adopted in 2008) spells out the requirements companies must follow to become certified as fully quality-management compliant in areas such as manufacturing. Now embraced by more than one million companies and organizations in over 170 countries, the current version of ISO 9001 sets the bar for quality management systems.

“The standard is based on a number of quality management principles, including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach and continual improvement,” ISO states. “Using ISO 9001:2008 helps ensure that customers get consistent, good quality products and services, which in turn brings many business benefits.”

ISO 9001 certification is one of the best ways a manufacturer can explicitly let potential customers know that their order will be handled in the most quality conscious manner possible. The requirements for ISO 9001 demand that a qualifying company:

  • “Needs to demonstrate its ability to consistently provide product that meets customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, and
  • “Aims to enhance customer satisfaction through the effective application of the system, including processes for continual improvement of the system and the assurance of conformity to customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.”

Here at Coiling Technologies, our plant in Houston is fully ISO-9001 certified, and we perform audits regularly to maintain our certification and ensure our customers continued quality service, the kind of quality and service our customers should expect from a spring supplier. Our products are analyzed both prior to production, and during, to insure that we are meeting or exceeding your specifications.

We believe that standards such as ISO 9001 matter, because they ensure quality of services and products, safety, and reliability, all at an economical price. It’s right there in our mission statement.

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Five Manufacturing Industries That are Bringing Back American Jobs

The demand for American jobs and products “Made in America” is sweeping the nation and several manufacturing industries are answering the call. We are beginning to see a trend to re-shore or bring back American manufacturing to United States’ warehouses and facilities. Small and large organizations alike are seeing the benefits of coming back to America (Good marketing, Lower Shipping Costs, Immediate Communication, etc…) and bringing back American employment. We applaud industries that are embracing this modern manufacturing trend and we’d like to spot light five of them here.

1.       Electronic Manufacturing

The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook recently announced that in the coming year Apple will begin manufacturing their Mac product lines in the United States. Apple predicts that its re-shoring to American soil will spend $100 million on product manufacturing this year alone. This move by the electronic manufacturing gurus at Apple is only one of the industries recent home-shore moves.

American born company, General Electric just built plants in New York and Kentucky, spending more than $800 million to begin manufacturing on U.S. soil. GE also is planning to start a new assembly line here in America that makes their new stainless-steel dishwasher. That line is expected to begin any day here in the beginning months of 2013.

apple logo

2.       House Ware Manufacturing

Whirlpool Corp has been the manufacturer of the KitchenAid brand for years but it is not until now that Whirlpool is bringing the manufacturing of this American kitchen product back to the United States. This corporation is moving from China to Greenville, Ohio where KitchenAid/Whirlpool already manufactures a few other products.

kitchenaid

3.       Spring Manufacturing

Spring manufacturing has been sent overseas for several years but custom spring manufacturers like the team here at Coiling Tech saw that our clients needed custom springs faster than the standard 8-12 week turn around. We also saw a need for durable and high quality spring, something that we just weren’t getting from offshore manufacturing. Located in Texas, we focus on better, faster and more economical manufacturing processes for American made springs.

springs

4.       Construction Equipment Manufacturing

Athens Georgia is the new onshore location for Caterpillar Inc.’s newest construction equipment manufacturing plant. The plant is expected to open soon with the production of mini hydraulic excavators and employ over 1,400 Georgia citizens. The current cost of Caterpillar Inc.’s investment in American manufacturing is expected to be roughly $200 million.

mini hydraulic excavators

5.       Coffee and Food Manufacturing

Starbucks is following Caterpillar Inc.’s footsteps and opening a food manufacturing plant in nearby Augusta Georgia. The American facility is set to employ 140 American employees and will assist in manufacturing the famous coffee house’s Frappuccino and instant coffee drinks. While Starbucks is an international organization, we applaud their initiative to re-shore on American soil.

starbucks

Bringing Back American Jobs

The demand for American jobs and products “Made in America” is sweeping the nation and we applaud industries that are embracing this modern manufacturing trend.

 

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Celebrating the Remarkable Service Career of the Humvee

By now, everyone has heard of the military transport vehicle known as the Humvee. Like the Jeep before it, the Humvee is an icon of the modern battlefield (and even Hollywood parking lots). In terms of service length, it’s also about equal in longevity to the historic Jeep program of the 20th Century. Soon, though, like all good things, its tour of duty will be coming to an end. The U.S. Armed Forces have announced plans to slowly phase out the Humvee and eventually replace it with a new combat transport platform known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

Officially designated the HMMWV, or High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, the Humvee started its career in the 1980s as an all-service personnel vehicle for light-duty assignments built by AM General (a subsidiary of American Motors Corp. then). However, a string of combat operations, from Panama to the Middle East, soon saw the Humvee plunged into more heavy-duty action. By the time the Persian Gulf War erupted in 1991, the Humvee had become fully integrated into the fast-moving tactics that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps had designed for its light infantry forces in the desert campaign. The short-lived Operation Desert Storm, though, did not last long enough for some of the shortcomings of the Humvee to become apparent. Not until sustained operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the last decade, did the Humvee’s vulnerabilities become an enormous source of concern to the military.

Built for speed and utility (it can carry a load of 2500 pounds at 65 mph), the basic Humvee lacked the armor to protect its occupants from heavy ordnance, land mines, or improvised explosives, which soon resulted in unacceptable losses. With 10,000 Humvees in Iraq alone, the situation became so dire that ground forces quickly had to scramble to jerry-rig their vehicles with any armor they could find in the field. While military planners eventually procured armor kits for the Humvee, the cold reality was that the vehicle was not practical as a frontline combat transport (which its original designers at AM General never claimed it to be).

With addition of the armoring package a new suspension calibration was required which included the use of Heavy Duty suspension springs. These were commonly referred to as Frag Kits in the field. Enter Coiling Technologies for being the primary supplier for this major suspension upgrade. Coiling Technologies was very responsive to the needs of the government and provide an upgrade spring that could carry the additional load of the armoring package in the field. Where other suppliers failed to perform in a timely manner CTI was able to provide the fastest solution.  Although, this provided the necessary protection for the boys in mid east theater. The Military knew that they had a compromised solution. This laid the ground work for developing a superior solution.

Enter the first replacement for the Humvee: the MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) type transport. Heavily armored and designed to disperse explosive shock, the 14-ton MRAP family of vehicles, produced by U.S. and overseas manufacturers, began to supplant the combat duties of the Humvee beginning in 2007.

In 2010, the Pentagon announced that it would launch a competition to produce the long-term replacement for the Humvee: the JLTV. Although budget cutbacks have slowed the pace of the JLTV program, the competition has been whittled down to a handful of possible suppliers and a mix of designs. The Army and Marine Corps are proceeding with plans to choose a final JLTV manufacturer among three contractors: AM General, Lockheed Martin, and Oshkosh Defense. Each company delivered 22 prototypes to the Army and Marines in August for field testing over 14 months. The two services will recommend a final contractor sometime in 2015. The Army intends to buy 49,000 vehicles and the Marine Corps wants 5,500, according to published reports. (Click here for a look at Oshkosh’s offerings, for example.) By 2018, the new JLTVs should begin showing up in theaters of operation, relieving Humvees of their combat assignments.

We bring all this up because Coiling Tech has been a longtime supplier of parts for the suspensions of Humvees (independent suspensions for ground clearance and traction), and we hope to carry on that legacy in the future with the JLTV. While the venerable Humvee will still be around for many years to come, it’s fighting days will be mostly over. And that will close out a chapter in military transport history.

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Understanding Lean Manufacturing

One of the hottest topics in the business world today is a school of thought that goes by the name of Lean Manufacturing. You’ve probably heard of it. Yet, you may not fully understand how important it is to modern manufacturers. So here’s a quick guide.

The philosophy of Lean Manufacturing evolved from the pioneering efforts of leaders at the Toyota Motor Corp. to improve their production processes, which became known as the Toyota Production System. (This is why certain precepts in Lean Manufacturing go by Japanese names.) Originally, the Toyota system was a streamlining process to efficiently reach “just in time” (JIT) manufacturing of automobiles, but it grew into an entire business philosophy for the carmaker. Its goals were to minimize overburden (muri), inconsistency (mura), and waste (muda). They were summarized in Toyota’s Six Rules:

  • Do not send defective products to the subsequent process.
  • The subsequent process comes to withdraw only what is needed.
  • Produce only the exact quantity that was withdrawn by the subsequent process.
  • Level the production.
  • Kanban is a means of fine tuning.
  • Stabilize and rationalize the process.

Eventually, word of the Toyota system spread to carmakers in the Unites States. An engineering grad student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, John Krafcik, came up with the term “Lean Production System” in 1988 to describe the Toyota approach. Shortly after, Jim Womack, Daniel Jones, and Daniel Roos of MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program co-authored a book on the subject called The Machine That Changed the World, which became a bestseller and spread the principles of Lean Manufacturing to the world.

These days, the methods embodied in Lean Manufacturing have been implemented by some of the biggest and best manufacturers in America (please see the videos for GE and Atlas Copco for examples). Here at Coiling Technologies, we’ve started our Lean Vision by developing our employees with Lean training. We are currently doing 5’s Kaizen events across the entire company. 5’s is an essential Lean Manufacturing tool, which is going to help us establish the necessary stability needed for a Lean Culture.  Training your employees is the first step towards a Lean Transformation; the second is the implementation of 5’s.

Because we understand the demands placed upon companies today, we employ reliable, fast, and cost-effective technologies to design and engineer your custom springs. Our rejection rate is less than 1%, and we maintain a 95% plus on-time delivery record (which we have recently increased by 30%). We make sure the highest quality products get where they are needed, when they are needed. We understand the importance of Lean Manufacturing.

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Happy Manufacturing Day!

This October 4th marks the second annual Manufacturing Day. We think it’s definitely worthy of marking on our calendars.

Originating last year, Manufacturing Day (or MFG DAY as it’s officially spelled) was started to deal with “common misperceptions” the public has about the work manufacturers really do. “By working together during and after MFG DAY, manufacturers will begin to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry,” the organizers state. The line-up of backers includes: the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, the Manufacturing Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, and the Precision Metalforming Association.

“Manufacturing Day is a great opportunity to celebrate work and innovation of the 12 million men and women who make the United States the world’s largest manufacturing economy,” said Ed Youdell, President and CEO of the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association.

The key goals of Manufacturing Day, as listed on its website, are to educate the public about:

• What modern manufacturing facilities are really like these days.
• What companies located in your community make and who they sell to.
• What kinds of jobs are available in manufacturing.
• What skills and education are needed to qualify for today’s manufacturing jobs.

“Manufacturing Day provides a focused point in time each year when all manufacturers in America can collaborate to bring attention to this crucial sector of the economy and celebrate their accomplishments,” said Jennifer McNelly, President of the Manufacturing Institute.

One of the best intentioned aspects of MFG DAY is its concentration on getting young people to consider educational options for careers in manufacturing. Its Connecting Youth With Manufacturing initiative sounds like a winning idea. The MFG DAY sponsors noted: “Despite many technical and technological aspects that make it a naturally appealing career field for young people, manufacturing hasn’t yet found a way to make itself widely appealing to upcoming generations.” On October 4th, they’ll attempt to turn around that false impression.

Now, that’s something we can all support.

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How Springs Are Made

Spring Manufacturer

Since many products rely on the durability of their spring components, it is crucial to select high-quality springs that will not fail prematurely. Untimely spring malfunction can be the result of several factors, which include poor design, the use of low-quality materials, or an inferior manufacturing method. Although a spring may seem like a minor component within a larger device, functional failure of the spring could result in device malfunction. This is why the quality of the materials being used to produce a spring and the manufacturing process should be taken into consideration before making a purchase.


Materials Used

Springs are generally made of hardened steel. The spring manufacturer has the option of using either pre-hardened steel before forming the spring, or they can also harden the spring after the formation process. The most commonly used spring steels are music wire, stainless steel, chrome silicon, oil tempered wire, and chrome vanadium. The different materials are ideal for a number of different conditions.

Music Wire is used for applications that demand a great deal of strength and results in an overall high-quality spring.

Stainless steel creates a product that functions well in moist environments since it will not rust.

Chrome Silicon will allow for use in higher temperatures and is a higher strength and quality version of oil tempered wire.

Oil Tempered Wire is used for many common applications but will not usually result in the strongest or most uniform product.

Chrome Vanadium has a similar quality structure to chrome silicone and is ideal for high temperatures.


The Manufacturing process 

Step One – The manufacturing process starts with coiling the spring. This can be done with either cold or heated wire. Cold winding starts with a wire that is at room temperature and involves winding the wire around a shaft. The process of hot winding is used for thicker wire or bar stock. The metal is heated beforehand to increase wire flexibility and then the steel is coiled around a shaft while it is still extremely hot. After it has been coiled, it is immediately taken off of the shaft and dipped into oil so that it can cool and harden at a rapid rate.

Step Two – Once this step is complete, the steel needs to completely harden. The coiling process causes stress in the wire, which is alleviated by heat treatment. The spring is heated in an oven for a specific amount of time at a set temperature and then placed aside to cool slowly.

Step Three – The following step is called shot peening and using a machine to strengthen the steel to prevent metal fatigue, which could cause cracking during its use.

Step Four – The next step is called setting. It sets the spring to function correctly and remain stable at a certain length. During the process, it is completely compressed, usually multiple times, so that all the coils are completely pressed up against their bordering coils.

Step Five – The final step in the creation of the spring is usually coating. This is done to prevent corrosion, and the whole surface of the spring is coated with liquid rubber or plated with another metal such as chromium or zinc.

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The Automotive Industry: Why Spring Manufacturers Should Diversify

Coiling Springs Used in Auto IndustryThe automotive industry has always presented a lot of challenges for those of us who manufacture the springs for them. The main issue stems from the tight restriction, safety/quality guidelines, and general business demands that are intrinsically linked to the industry. Despite all these hurdles, though, the success of the automotive industry is tied very closely to spring makers and other parts manufacturers, and vice versa.

Many spring manufacturers, over the years, have relied very heavily on the automotive industry. In the past, this wasn’t much of a problem, and many companies made a lot of profit going that route… right up until the recession hit everyone hard. Suddenly the biggest car manufacturers were cutting back on their production, which left many of their suppliers suddenly without an outlet for their products.

Working with the Automotive Industry

Even now, as things start to look up in the industry, it can be very difficult to work in automotive circles because the margins are extremely tight. There is simply no room for error. Any springs made for a new vehicle must meet some exacting specifications, and any mix-ups can turn the prospective profits into nothing. On top of that, rising material costs have cut those margins even further, making it very hard to sustain a business by relying solely on a single market segment.

The Key is Diversification

The lesson from this is that the best way to succeed as a spring manufacturer is through diversification. While there may have been a time when the automotive industry could support multiple spring makers, that simple isn’t the case anymore. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a market at all for automotive springs. It simply means that one must have a good cash flow through other markets to ensure that success isn’t dependant completely on a single buyer.

Diversification can take many forms. We work with a wide range of industries and provide springs for industrial equipment, locomotive engines, playground equipment and much more. Even within the automotive market there is room for diversification, and we deal with aftermarket parts, military vehicles, and race cars.

Balancing Supply and Demand

Balancing the supply and demand for springs in the automotive industry has always been a challenge, and will likely continue to be so. The manufacturers have gone through hard times, significantly limiting the demand, which meant there was no need for the supply. But as customers start to come back, car manufacturers will once again start looking for the most affordable alternatives for parts supplies.

As the demand increases, it will be important to remember the lessons learned over the past few years, and while it might seem like a lucrative choice to focus strictly on one market with a suddenly high demand, the best route will be to continue producing a diverse line of custom springs.

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How to Determine if a Spring Needs Replacement

Group of Compression Springs

Well maintained springs can last a very long time, but after so much stress and constant usage, there may come a time when you need to replace them in order to maintain the necessary levels of performance. Obviously, if a spring cracks or breaks, it’s time for a replacement, but ideally things won’t get this far. If you pay attention to the springs, you can ensure less downtime from breakages by spotting any problems before they get out of hand.

As custom spring manufacturers will tell you, one of the most common factors that cause springs to fail is fatigue. There doesn’t have to be any significant faults in the spring. It is simply a consequence of constant and repeated stress. Eventually, a fatigue crack can appear in any type of spring, whether it’s a custom extension, torsion, leaf or spiral. These fatigue problems can occur in any size spring, as well, so even if your materials are over 50mm thick, you should still check to see if it’s time for a replacement.

Spring fatigue can start with just a micro-fracture which will continue to grow every time it is used. Extreme temperatures or corrosion can also affect the fatigue strength of the spring until it eventually hits the breaking point. If you take a few precautions, though, you can replace these springs before they ever reach that point.

Detecting Problems

There are a few ways to determine whether or not your springs are still performing as well as they should. Depending on the application, there are some simple things that will immediately tell you if it’s time for a replacement.

For example, stainless steel compression springs in a vehicle are meant to support its weight, not deal with the bouncing. The shocks and struts are supposed to handle that and provide a smooth ride. If those components have gone weak, though, the springs will have to deal with a lot more weight and added stress. If this is the case, you will likely start to notice some clunking noises or other unpleasant sounds as the coils weaken. The signs will be clear. You just have to be aware of what’s happening around you.

In other instances, you may be able to look at the way the platform or chassis is sagging. This is generally the most common way to inspect a spring, but it requires that you actually measure the distance between the ground and the platform since you might be wrong if you just eyeball it.

You can, of course, inspect the springs closer up. Simply run your hands all the way around the coils from front to back, top to bottom. Keep in mind that many coils have a protective layer that might conceal a fracture, but if you are careful and work slowly, you should be able to feel any problems. This method can help you find any stress cracks, missing coils, or questionable areas between coils.

Just remember that there really is not a standard life expectancy for springs. It all depends on a range of factors, from the temperature of the surrounding environment to the regularity of the stress. If you’re really in doubt, consider calling in a trained professional for a second opinion.

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Made in America Again

Reshoring is a popular topic in the manufacturing industry these days. In basic terms, this refers to the process of bringing manufacturing tasks/jobs back from so-called “low-cost” countries to North America. There are a number of organizations in the U.S. and Canada that are pushing some initiatives to bring manufacturing back home, and in the last few years, they have shown a lot more influence on some of the decisions that are made in a variety of industries.

Why Now?
The idea that manufacturing jobs are hard work, dirty, and only for unskilled laborers just doesn’t apply anymore (if it ever really did in the first place). Modern manufacturing processes require highly skilled individuals that have been trained in their relevant fields and built up an applicable skill set. These people will need to have the mind of an engineer and dedication to the job to keep up with the demands of increasingly dynamic industries.
Reshoring is becoming a more popular option now because many new graduates are starting to understand exactly what it will take to get into these jobs, and many companies require this kind of skilled labor to provide the best products possible.

Of course, we are also currently seeing rising labor rates in China, while North American manufacturing is simply far more productive than it was 10 or 20 years ago. With all the automation available here, the level of output has also increased, giving companies more reason to bring manufacturing home now.

Building and Keeping Skilled Personnel
Despite the current trend, it is still difficult to market manufacturing careers to new potential employees. It’s important to show these recent graduates what the industry is really like. The image of the “low level career option” just doesn’t fit anymore, and a new image has to be created to start developing the necessary in-house personnel.

Modern manufacturing is all computer-driven. This is the image that potential employees should see. Going into a manufacturing career means managing highly automated processes from a computer, not crawling under greasy machines and standing on a mass production line. Companies that do manage to attract the skilled peopled will still have to work hard to keep them. This means providing ongoing education and training in all the new changes in the industry and keeping up with the latest trends in technology.

Specialty Market Examples
Companies that manufacture niche items are a great example of the reshoring trend. The industrial spring market, for example, is seeing a lot of manufacturing come back to North America because many of the clients for these products require high-quality, specialized products that are customized to meet their needs. Generic torsion springs, for example, are of course available from Chinese manufacturers, but for more complex custom torsion springs, companies will need something more.

Modern spring manufacturers can produce custom springs in minutes from scratch and at a cost that is profitable to the company. In a fast-moving industry with companies needing products right away, they simply can’t afford to wait months for the boat to make it to shore and the springs to clear customs.

Reshoring will require a large workforce of skilled and educated people. It will be a long, slow process to make this happen, but the trend is becoming more and more apparent. Many industries can’t afford to look at manufacturing as a low paying career anymore, and they need to look for people that have the skills to handle new technologies and the ability to apply their knowledge to be even more productive.

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