Don’t Overlook the Undersold


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A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
— Christopher Reeve

When a basketball team is down by a point with seconds left on the clock, the coach will generally call a play in an attempt to put the ball (and the game) in the hands of the star player. It may be the big man underneath who leads the team in scoring, or it may be the sensational point guard who can confidently drive to the hoop and put up a good shot. But often a lesser known individual, maybe one who is in the game off the bench, is the one who grabs the rebound off the missed shot and hits the put-back for the winning points. Team sports often see the most important, or at least most prominent, play of the game carried out by an unanticipated hero.

This phenomenon is not exclusive to sports, though. All working systems are held together by a series of interrelated individuals or parts, and while some of these parts may be bigger, stronger, flashier or more expensive, each one is necessary in its own form to create the expected overall result. We see it in business, as well, where a company’s upper management may be the most recognizable representatives, but they know full well that without every member of the staff, the collective job does not get done satisfactorily.

While, throughout the year, Production Machining uses our monthly emphasis topics to call special attention to many of the well-identified “superstar” technologies of the precision machined parts industry, we also try to recognize many of the unsung heroes. For a long time, we’ve been providing quarterly coverage of parts cleaning, which we feel is an important link in the post production chain on which shops have a tendency to place low emphasis. This month’s issue features the year’s second installment of this section, including a feature article that discusses the impact of cleaning chemistries on production, quality, personnel safety and environmental requirements.

Another topic that may not always get the attention it deserves is metalworking fluids, from cleaning and degreasing formulas to coolants and lubricants. “Shops often see the lubricant as the least important factor in the total cost of machining and the last place to look for process improvements,” says Joe Gentile, product manager at Hangsterfer’s Laboratories Inc. “Metalworking fluids work well, until they don’t. When they go wrong, it can be a show-stopper.”

Mr. Gentile suggests looking beyond simply the cost per gallon, as many other factors, such as the product’s longevity and maintenance requirements, as well as compatibility with materials being cut, are tied into the overall economy of use. Shops should also carefully consider health and safety requirements during the transport, storage, usage and disposal of metalworking fluids.

“By now, all shops should be in compliance with GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals),” Mr. Gentile says, “and this includes employee training.” GHS is a system of hazard communication that was implemented by the United Nations and became effective in 2016, with a transition schedule that lasts through June 2018. He uses this protocol as an example of the lack of importance many shops place on metalworking fluids, explaining that many still have not followed through on the required employee training, and in particular, that of their health and safety coordinators, who could potentially be held personally liable in the event of an accident (if proper training has not been enforced). Hangsterfer’s does offer a free 30-minute training video to cover these requirements.

Furthering the discussion of metalworking fluids, this month’s cover story looks at how they can be properly applied to make a significant difference in quality for high precision workpieces. Using honing as an example technology, the article explains that selection of the right oil is critical to ensuring a smooth, trouble-free process.

The honing oil accounts for less than a tenth of a percent of the total cost of the operation, so the importance of its performance, and therefore, its effect on cycle times, can be easily overlooked. Matching the right fluid to an application such as honing can deliver consistent, predictable results over an entire production run.

A chain is truly only as strong as its weakest link, and the same can be said of any working system and its individual parts. We need to be sure each is given its due attention.