NPL's team of product verification specialists visited ACE to conduct a product verification health check. This highlighted opportunities to optimise manufacturing and inspection processes through improved measurement practices and techniques. Three key opportunities for improvement were identified:
NPL worked with ACE to develop their capability to perform in-house calibrations of measurement equipment. This was realised through NPL guidance and demonstrated that with the right training and practices the business could calibrate its own gauges and equipment using their own precision standard references. This reduced the annual cost of using a third party supplier to achieve this, as well as eliminating the associated dangers and delays with shipping.
Machine tool verification
An NPL specialist tested all 15 CNC machines in the company by using Renishaw ball bar equipment. The quick and easy test showed how capable each machine was and any associated errors that were inherent. The data gathered is very useful, as without knowing how accurate a machine is you are solely reliant upon operator skill and programming. The results showed some machines required maintenance for improvement, some had immediate corrections added thus improving the accuracy via compensation values input into the controller and most were still well within their expected accuracy specification.
The use of the ball bar data was supplemented with a generic measurement capability factoring, to help the company choose the machines that would be capable of meeting customer feature tolerance challenges in conjunction with the right choice of measurement device. This verification processes reduced manufacturing risk.
Improved machine setting process
This process delivered rigour and precision regarding the needs of setting a machine. It was configured as a single workbook that the business could use to select what criteria were needed, and also allowed improvements to the master template to be recorded. The criteria were then used as a competency test to assess operator skills so that any gaps could be added to the skill and development plan of staff.