Productivity Increases With Automatic Short-Load Bar Feeder

This company was skeptical about replacing its 12-foot bar feeders with an automatic, short-load system until it tested one manufacturer's system.

John Sandvik

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John Sandvik, manufacturing engineering manager for Symmons Industries, Inc. (Braintree, Massachusetts), admits he and others were skeptical about replacing his 12-foot bar feeders with an automatic, short-load system. "We doubted that the short-load bar feed could perform as well as the manufacturer claimed. Plus, we weren't set up to efficiently cut our own barstock, and our suppliers weren't anxious to do it for us."

However, like many manufacturers, this 66-year-old family-owned company, is aware that manually loading 12-foot barstock adds considerable time to certain production runs. First, the operator must constantly watch the machine to know when it is time to load a new bar. Dan O'Connell, the company's CNC programmer, explains, "It almost never happens that the operator is standing by the machine when the next bar needs to be loaded. Sometimes the machine stands idle for as long as 30 minutes before the operator reloads."

Mr. Sandvik adds that a 3-inch diameter brass and bronze bar that is 12 feet long weighs about 280 lbs, making lifting and positioning the bar a difficult and time-consuming task. Then, there is the issue of machine spindle speeds. Twelve-foot bars require a lower rpm than properly supported shorter bars to ensure both safety and precision.

Considering these issues, the company was tempted to test a Quick Load Servo S3 automatic bar feed from LNS America (Cincinnati, Ohio), but was still skeptical. "We wanted proof that the results would justify changing our methods," Mr. Sandvik says. Therefore, the machine tool distributor and LNS America suggested a 60-day trial period. Symmons agreed that if the Quick Load lived up to its expectations, it would keep it. If not, LNS was prepared to supply a 12-foot special loader to replace the short load.

 "Mr. O'Connell and CNC Manager Wayne Mitchell tracked each job that went through the test setup and compared the results to identical jobs run with a 12-foot bar feed," Mr. Sandvik explains. "On average, we saw a 25 percent reduction in cycle time with the new bar feeder, not counting the up to 30-minute idle machine time on the 12-foot loaders (when the operator isn't available to load a new bar). If you factor in the additional time savings, the results are even more impressive. Not to mention, we were able to increase machine tool spindle speeds by more than 20 percent right off the bat."

Mr. Mitchell also notes that the automatic short-bar feeder reduces the possibility of operator injury and frees the operator to work on other jobs while the automatic bar feeder keeps feeding barstock.

Pleased with the results, Symmons has ordered three more Quick Loads and is setting up a more sophisticated sawing operation to handle bar preparation for the over half of a million shower valves, faucets and other parts the company produces each year.

"We receive a large amount of bronze and brass barstock each Monday and Tuesday," Mr. Sandvik says. "So we need a bar prep operation that can handle the work load. Given the savings, we discovered that with the LNS Quick Load versus our traditional 12-foot operations, we've gained 25 percent more machining time. Therefore, this new process is a very sound investment."

The choice of an LNS America bar feed was an obvious one, says Mr. Sandvik, based on his past experience with the company's products and services.

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