Oftentimes, subcontracting the manufacturing of a single part to multiple vendors delivers nothing but poor results. But there can be other, more profound advantages when dealing with a single source like RS Precision.
A customer had been shepherding the production of a highly complex part through a number of different shops which ultimately resulted in a lot of fall out, scrap and unusable parts. The part, a vertebrae ring used in the bending section of miniature flexible endoscopes, featured some very intricate and fragile geometry and complex angular relationships. The multi-vendor production process looked like this:
1. The customer purchased the raw material.
2. The raw material was sent to a screw machine shop that produced turned blanks of about an inch long, which yielded about 10 pieces per blank.
3. The blanks were then sent to another shop that Wire EDM’ed the internal configuration and cut it into 10 individual pieces. This often resulted in angular misalignment between the interior and exterior features.
4. The part’s final stop was a machine shop that drilled .015 inch diameter holes. The part’s delicateness and lack of pronounced alignment features caused some drilled holes to be off location.
As the “blame game” among vendors ensued, and the quality issues continued, the customer finally approached RS Precision. Perhaps by producing the part through a single source, the results would be different.
The customer walked us through the entire production process so we understood the challenges. However, what we soon realized was that if we were to produce the part exactly as it had been done before, we too would have experienced the exact same production problems. So, what did we do?
1. Developed a radically different manufacturing approach. Because of this particular part’s geometry, we concluded that the only way to avoid problems inherent in a multi-step production process was to load the raw material/blank once and unload it only when the part was completed.
2. Created innovative fixturing that enabled the process to reach its full potential. This was a key development because it addressed the major challenge: how to hold such an extraordinarily fragile and complex part from start to finish without distorting it. To do so, RS Precision developed proprietary fixturing that held two pieces per fixture and enabled us to machine the interior and the exterior of the part, and drill the holes—all without taking the part out of the fixture. The fixture we developed could hold very thin-walled parts securely enough to machine them but gently and uniformly enough to avoid distortion during machining. The outcome? Consistently accurate results.
3. Continued to improve our processes. Over time, through continuous process improvement, RS Precision increased the process’s output from 80 pieces a day to 300 pieces a day—all using the same resources and the same single operator. This allowed us to actually reduce our price over time while still maintaining a perfect delivery and quality record!
Oftentimes by utilizing a one-stop shop, a customer can eliminate potential sources of error. But in this particular case, not only did our customer enjoy the hassle-free convenience of working with a single source, but he also received a drastically superior and better-performing part, and lower cost! As a matter of fact, the process developed by RS Precision was so stable, reliable, and robust that we were able to eliminate most of the in-process inspection and eliminate all final inspection and still deliver more than 150,000 pieces over a 14-year period while maintaining 100% on-time delivery and 100% quality!