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Stainless Steel
Thursday | 13 July, 2017 | 1:17 pm

Keep it light

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Heyco’s control systems ensure quality at each stage of producing light-gauge stainless steel stampings.

Lead times are critical in a fast-paced environment

July 2017 - The true test of grit isn’t when things run smoothly; it’s when you’re hard pressed for options. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked, “When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” At Kenmode Precision Metal Stamping, Algonquin, Illinois, a reputation for steadfastly providing materials under difficult circumstances is what has kept customers coming back since 1960.

The stamping company specializes in producing complex, high-precision custom metal stampings and assemblies. Stainless steel is now made in lighter gauges for use in critical components in the automotive, aerospace, oil and gas, consumer electronics, and medical device industries. Companies like Kenmode have a pool of trusted suppliers they turn to for typical jobs as well as last-minute projects, and Heyco Metals Inc. in Reading, Pennsylvania, is a standout option.

“Quality is a given but we have a shortlist of companies we know can help us when we’re in a bind,” says Ken Wojcik, vice president of operations at Kenmode. Processing materials ranging from copper, beryllium copper, stainless and cold-rolled carbon sheet steel, as well as some exotic metals such as titanium and niobium, inventory and availability are key to keeping customers happy.

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Stainless steel in lighter gauges is being used increasingly in automotive, medical, electronics and solar energy applications.

“We try to get the tightest tolerance at a fixed price to produce precision metal stampings,” Wojcik says. Kenmode has found Heyco’s quick turnarounds helpful in unexpected time-sensitive situations. As a reliable source for lighter gauges, Heyco has no problem supplying sizes 0.024-inch and thinner for brasses and stainless.

Analyze and approve

Heyco uses a wide range of equipment to produce defect-free material for customers. “Our stretch/bend leveling line provides optimal flatness, and our Cognex vision system to ensure product surface is analyzed before it leaves our building,” says Heyco’s William Barry, vice president of sales and marketing. “Where at all possible, we provide a redundancy of equipment for maximum flexibility and reliability and we maintain an aggressive preventive maintenance program that minimizes equipment downtime.”

From a cost, weight and space standpoint, lighter gauges are increasingly being used for a cross section of applications. “Heyco recognized this ongoing trend and, fortunately, this movement aligns with our historic strength as a light-gauge supplier,” Barry adds.

Between market demand and Heyco’s internal initiatives to expand its capabilities, the stainless provider now produces sizes to 0.0018-inch. “We continue to push ourselves further,” Barry says. “We are constantly being challenged to provide better surface quality to meet these stringent applications.”

Tolerance and turnaround

Being a reroller (non-casting mill), short lead-time supply is critical in standing out from casting mills. “We’re not trying to fill all niches,” Barry adds. “By focusing our equipment more and more toward lighter gauges, we’re able to produce a better product, reduce costs, and reduce lead time.”

Honing in on tight tolerance specifications, Heyco’s technical group is challenged to determine if the most challenging of specs can be met. “Our goal, to the greatest degree possible, is to fill in the gaps in the marketplace which competitors have difficulty filling,” Barry says, adding that many customers buy from Heyco strictly for its ability to meet a difficult specification on a consistent basis.

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The shop floor at Kenmode is constantly churning out precision parts from light-gauge materials.

Shorter lead times allow Kenmode to promise customers materials in less time. “Where a different supplier was limited to eight to 12 week lead times, Heyco was able to deliver in four,” says Kenmode’s director of purchasing, Jim Shotsberger. “After helping us in those situations, we knew we could go to Heyco when the need arose again.”

Defect-free

Stamping suppliers know that if a product has a defect, it could be catastrophic, forcing that customer to idle the production line. “Our stamping operation is a key part of our customers’ production lines,” Wojcik says. “We can’t have a defect on the part we provide because that might cause a customer’s line to go down.”

If the line stops, playing catch-up is costly. Premium freight costs to get the right material to the customer in a timely fashion is spared no expense—companies will fly material to a customer if necessary to get it done as soon as possible. “The quality of raw material is non-negotiable,” Wojcik says.

A customer recently asked Heyco experts to recommend a lower cost stainless steel to meet a challenging electronics specification. Providing a commodity grade stainless for a mission-critical application is a difficult match. “We believe it would have been impossible for most suppliers,” Barry says. “Heyco’s stringent quality systems, sophisticated stretch/bending technology, vision system and experienced technical team have allowed us to gain market share for our customer and ourselves where it otherwise seemed an impossibility.”

Heyco frequently works with customers to offer less expensive materials when such opportunities arise.

Heyco’s technical team keeps abreast of any quality issue and reviews any complaint with the entire manufacturing management team. “An action plan is immediately developed and implemented as a response to any quality concern,” says Barry. “We recognize the support on the back end is just as important as the service on the front end.” MM

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