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Cut costs with outsourcing expertise.

Cut costs with outsourcing expertise

There are two points of view--virtually at opposite ends of the spectrum--on outsourcing parts, according to Associated Spring, Barnes Group Inc, Bristol, CT.

One is more traditional, held by those who buy parts as a commodity, based on lowest price and compliance with specs. Holders of the other point of view enter partnerships with suppliers in which customer and supplier design, specify, and examine the extent of the job together.

In this latter case, suppliers and customers solve manufacturing, quality, and cost problems of parts or subassemblies--as they relate to the cost and performance of the final product--working together virtually as members of the same team.

There is a strong trend to partnering with suppliers to improve overall quality and to reduce overall product cost in selecting springs in industries such as appliance and automotive, says Associated Spring. Here's how:

First, look at how the outsourced part fits into the production of your product. Then determine whether it makes sense for the part supplier to do subsequent manufacturing operations or subassemblies while the part is captured and oriented in the supplier's manufacturing process.

If parts are normally shipped in bulk, the customer may have to pick them up and orient them again for assembly, lubricating, or painting. Since this orientation is a part of the part supplier's manufacturing process, cost is needlessly added if the part has to be oriented a second time.

Design benefits

Most outsourced parts are like springs, in that the perception is that a spring is a spring is a spring. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Spring technology, tolerances, and performance have come a long way, along with everything else. This is probably true of most every product component you buy.

Second, it is important to consult technical people from the supplier before the design is finalized. The best suppliers will work with you to design the best and most profitable solution. Here are a few examples:

* Tension spring redefined: In the production of a small tension spring for a governor in a diesel engine fuel-injection system, an internal nylon plug had to be inserted during spring winding. The function of the plug was to dampen vibration and to change the resonant frequency of the spring during very high cycling to increase its life in excess of 15 million cycles.

Several design solutions to the vibration problem without the use of the plug are being investigated. Solutions include upgrading the spring-wire material; fine-tuning the spring-winding process to minimize stress and to avoid stress raisers; and bulk shot peening, a controlled-intensity work-hardening process which creates favorable stress patterns that virtually eliminate the possibility of stress raisers and thus increase cycle life. Testing so far has shown increases in cycle life and part performance.

* Casting conversion: Figure 1 shows a fabricated electric-motor brush holder, previously produced from a casting that required considerable machining including drilling and tapping. A part redesign for fabrication in stainless steel and tooling were developed. The fabrication process includes metal forming, spot welding, and coining. The change significantly reduced manufacturing costs for the customer.

Subassemblies cut costs

Supplier subassembly of an outsourced part that is difficult to handle or orient can provide major savings and increase product performance for a variety of products, especially appliances.

* Subassembled constant-force spring: In a smaller component for another electric-motor manufacturer, it made sense to rivet a constant-force brush spring onto the spring frame while the spring was captured. Brush-spring frames are for electric motors used in large drag-line cranes and similar heavy applications. Associated Spring fabricates the frame as well as the spring, and the combined production and assembly cut manufacturing time and costs to the customer.

* Refrigerator flapper valve: Refrigerator compressors run for years, and they rely on a critical spring-like device called a flapper valve, which must reliably cycle up to 200 million times (Figure 2). It calls for close control of the spring material, stamping and bending, as well as subassembly onto a small frame via spot welding. Associated Spring built a die to form the small steel frame, and also produced the spring-like high-carbon-steel flapper valve element. This puts the assembly in one manufacturing sequence, which assures valve reliability and minimizes production costs.

* Air-conditioner shock mount: Figure 3 shows a compressor shock mount subassembly for an air-conditioner. By having Associated Spring assemble the spring after winding into its mount, the customer avoids double handling and the need for special assembly equipment, which saves the customer production time and manufacturing costs.

PHOTO : Figure 1-Fabricated brush holder for electric motor costs less than original design--a casting that required much machining.

PHOTO : Figure 2 - Spring-like refrigerator flapper valve and subassembly frame are now stamped, formed, and spot welded together in one production operation.

PHOTO : Figure 3 - Suspension spring for an air-conditioner compressor now costs less because it is subassembled into the spring mount.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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