Ulven Forging Succeeds with Jobshop Lean

June 6, 2004
At the recent FDMC Jobshop Lean Workshop in Cleveland, Andy Ulven detailed how his company has benefited by implementing several recommendations from Jobshop Lean and its analytical software, PFAST.

Ulven Forging Inc. is the latest forger to report successes with Jobshop Lean, the program under development at Ohio State University to provide techniques for applying the principles of lean manufacturing to custom or job shop forging.

At the recent Jobshop Lean Workshop, Andrew Ulven, told attendees that his company’s experience indicates that Jobshop Lean and PFAST do work for a custom forger. This article is based on an interview with Ulven after the workshop. Ulven is founder and president of the Hubbard, OR, forger.

Jobshop Lean helped Ulven Forging reduce lead times, improve throughputs, influence plant layout, and guide capital equipment purchases. “Using these tools had a positive impact on our business,” Andy Ulven said.

Ulven acknowledged the contributions of Ohio State University where Jobshop Lean and PFAST are under development and of Prof. Shahrukh Irani and his graduate students who are involved in their development and implementation.

“Ulven Forging also acknowledges the support provided by the Defense Logistics Agency and the Forging Defense Manufacturing Consortium for support through their PRO-FAST Program,” Ulven said. “Without their support, none of what we have realized would have been possible, and none of what you will see today would have happened for the U.S. forging industry as we support the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of our nation.”

Ulven Forging overview
Ulven Forging was founded in 1971. The company began with open die forging, then gradually added closed die hammer forging, press forging, and upset forging. Today, officials claim that Ulven Forging is one of the most versatile forge shops in the U.S.

The forging operation is one of six companies in the Ulven group. The other companies include a steel foundry, a CNC machining facility, and three companies with proprietary product lines for construction and related industries. (For more details on the companies in the group, see Forging, No. 1, 1998, p. 35).

Ulven uses open die forging to produce larger-size products, as well as prototypes and short-run quantities.

Closed-die hammers are used to produce longer runs of forgings ranging in weight from 0.5 to 100 lb. Ulven’s closed die business first exceeded its open die volume in 1996.

Press forging is used for medium- to high-volume production runs, and is set up with automatic bar feed systems and induction heating.

Upset forging is used for both low- to high-volume runs. In Ulven’s practice, parts are forged in a horizontal position where the work piece is gripped between two grooved dies and deformed by a heading die that exerts force to the end of the stock Examples of upset forgings include axles, rod ends, eye bolts, and shafts.

Ulven’s CNC division offers both lathe and mill CNC operations and manual machining.

Jobshop Lean assessment process
As noted, Prof. Shahrukh Irani is in the final stages of developing Jobshop Lean at Ohio State University with support from the Forging Defense Manufacturing Consortium and the Defense Logistics Agency. Prof. Irani puts graduate students at OSU through an intense training program to equip them with the knowledge to conduct on-site Jobshop Lean reviews.

Ulven Forging decided to proceed with a Jobshop Lean assessment in the fall of 2001. Because it was early in the development of Jobshop Lean and PFAST, Prof. Irani visited Ulven Forging to collect routing data for the 530 forgings that the company produces, as well as gather information on the 57 pieces of equipment that Ulven uses in producing and finishing forgings.

Several types of data were collected for each forging, including product identification number and description, annual production quantity, routing through the manufacturing steps, and annual sales, profit, and revenue.

The equipment was rated on whether or not it could be moved or duplicated.

The next step was entering the data into PFAST at the university. PFAST is short for Production Flow Analysis Simplification Toolkit, an integrated library of algorithms derived from Graph Theory, Pattern Recognition, Multivariate Statistics, and Artificial Intelligence. PFAST runs on a single Pentium PC desktop or laptop, and uses standard MS Office tools and MS Visual C++ to provide a comprehensive material flow analysis for any job shop.

For Ulven Forging, the PFAST Analysis produced before and after process flow diagrams and generated several recommendations or “solutions”:

  • Improve- product flow throughout the facility.
  • Purchase and install tables and a crane near one Rotoblaster.
  • Move and setup/install 440-ton presses. Install an overhead crane at a 5,000-lb hammer.
  • Purchase and install a portable hacksaw.
  • Purchase and install a 1.5-in. capacity bar shear.
  • Purchase and install a magnetic particle inspection machine.
  • Increase and modernize in-house tooling capabilities.
  • Evaluate storage around closed die production area.
Working with Prof. Irani, Ulven personnel reviewed the recommendations and ranked them on the basis of reasonableness, their affordability and ease of implementation, and the cost and timesavings that would result from each. Projects implementedFollowing are some of the projects that have been implemented along with the results that were achieved:
  • Process Flow — To improve process flow, Ulven installed an additional processing area in the drop hammer building, consisting of two heavy-duty inspection and finishing tables. Also, selected packaging and shipping now is handled from this area.
  • Andy Ulven says that this has worked out really well in reducing cycle time and increasing throughput.
  • Install a 440-ton trim press— A 5,000-lb hammer was equipped with a 158-ton trim press, but when it was used to produce larger forgings, they had to be moved elsewhere for trimming and straightening. A 440-ton trim press was installed in place of the smaller trimmer. Shortly after this was installed, it was used for a brand-new order, the largest part in a particular customer’s product line. Without the press, Ulven Forging wouldn’t have been able to produce this job.
  • Crane installed at a 5,000-lb hammer— The installation of an overhead crane at a 5,000-lb hammer facilitates product movement. It also reduces piston change-out time and die key tightening time.
  • Portable hacksaw— Ulven acquired a portable Marvel hacksaw and a 1.5-in. bar shear.
  • Add Magnaflux capability— The company purchased and installed a Magnaflux test machine. This eliminates costs and reduces lead times associated with outside testing. According to Andy Ulven, “That’s worked very well.”
  • Add in-house tooling capabilities— Ulven installed a CNC mill dedicated to producing its own die sets. Also, the company moved its EDM machine into the same area. This has reduced outside costs and lead times. “If we have the die material on hand, we can control when the tooling is available to us,” Ulven reports.
  • Install an additional induction heater— A 350 KW induction heater and conveyor was installed next to a 3,000-lb hammer. “This has really improved throughput,” Ulven says.
  • Install a 2.5-in. upsetter— Purchased new 2.5” upsetting machine and positioned it next to a 3000-lb hammer to form an upset/forging cell. The benefits include a reduction in part travel distance and increased throughput through the hammer.
  • Install a 1.5-in. upsetter— An existing 1.5-in. upsetter was replaced by a faster 1.5-in. upsetter. This is used next to a 700-ton press to form an upsetting/forging cell. This particular implementation, with the faster upsetting operating cycle, has drastically reduced cycle time and increased throughput through the 700-ton press.

Overall results
Based on the projects that have been implemented to date, Ulven Forging has achieved the following overall results: The cost of one group of upset-and-forged parts was reduced by 10-15%. Savings in handling, finishing, and shipping are estimated at 10-12%. More significant savings are expected as a result of future projects to set up manufacturing cells. Several jobs now require less time in the plant due to speed of handling, processing, and finishing. Cycle times are faster in many cases, netting the company more open production time for additional jobs. What’s next?We asked Andy Ulven what comes next and he had a ready answer: “No.1, we want to take care of some additional implementation. No. 2, we want to refine our measurement of results. And No. 3, we want to develop more recommendations from inside the plant, and outside as well.” He goes on to explain why measuring the results needs to be improved. “We don’t have a full-time person to review cost sheets, output rates, and how long a job ties up a piece of equipment. So measuring results is difficult for us. At the same time, we’re certainly able to sit back and say this one really paid off. Or that Project B works well-maybe not quite as good as Project A, but it certainly was worthwhile.” Ulven continues, “We want to take advantage of the Ohio State University graduate student assistance program.” Finally, Andy Ulven envisions applying lean manufacturing to the administrative area. “Lean manufacturing at the manufacturing level really makes you focus on what are you doing in your plant; what are you doing to better satisfy the customer and to increase your efficiency within your plant. We’re always looking for ways to improve administrative operations, but we want to use ‘lean’ to better focus our attention on this area.”