Making the cut

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Ceca Forge is boosting production, cutting costs and reducing scrap with Behringer Saws’ automated horizontal band saw system.

Sawing system supports goals for zero scrap and defect-free parts

December 2013 - Mark Floyd, general manager for Ceca Forge, understands talk is cheap when attracting customers and building inroads to new markets. In a climate where actions sometimes carry more weight, Floyd is investing in facility upgrades, quality improvement processes and dedicated, skilled employees. “We’re trying to do everything right,” he says. That includes building pallets and shipping crates in-house as one more way to control quality and pass cost savings on to customers. 

The Ripley, Miss., company is a market leader in impact extrusion, manufacturing oil field and rigging products, specialty items like fittings and ordnance and some components for the automotive and furniture markets. Ceca supports parts production with engineering, tool and die making, machining, heat treating, bar processing, painting and nondestructive testing.


Raising the bar

The fabricator uses quality assurance methods like statistical process control to ensure quality at each step of Ceca’s manufacturing processes. Recently Floyd chose to make another quality improvement investment, bringing the company’s cutting operation in-house. “We were outsourcing the operation to two or three different suppliers in different states,” he says. “We got tired of not being able to control quality. We were experiencing high kerf loss on our material and costs were higher overall.”

Floyd researched the market’s leading band saws and cold saws then attended the International Manufacturing Technology Show to watch the saws run. Behringer Saws Inc., Morgantown, Pa.,  made the cut with its HBP-360A fully automatic horizontal band saw and incline material handling magazine. Floyd purchased three Behringer sawing systems and put the equipment in production in June 2013.  The horizontal band saw’s rigidity, cast iron bow frame construction and low maintenance helped sway Floyd’s purchase decision. “We’re ISO and API certified,” says Floyd. “The equipment had to meet the level of quality we’ve set internally. That’s why we went with Behringer.”

Behringer Saws manufactures high performance band sawing machines, circular cold saws and structural fabricating equipment. A subsidiary of parent company Behringer GmbH, Kirchardt, Germany, Behringer Saws heads the U.S. operations.

At Ceca, the sawing systems anchor the fabricator’s manufacturing lines because material for each product must first be cut into slugs for extrusion or bar or tube lengths for CNC machining. “When I told our suppliers I was pulling the operation in-house they said, ‘you won’t be able to cut as fast on a band saw,’” Floyd says. “The data I’ve gathered since June when we started production shows me I’m cutting faster. I’ve cut kerf loss in half and reduced overall costs by 60 percent.”

Maintaining weight and squareness

Ceca sources aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper and magnesium in tight tolerances from mills it qualifies. The fabricator can cut round or square material from 1-in. to 14-in. OD and up to 30 ft. long. In addition to providing a faster cut rate, the sawing systems are designed to become virtually operator-free once job parameters are programmed into the PLC control system and the automatic button has been set. An incline magazine automatically separates bundled material into single pieces before moving them onto the magazine roller conveyor and into the FFJ-1213-sawing-image3machine where an electronically-controlled ball screw feed gripper precisely positions the material for cutting. Once the material lead edge detector senses the material, the feed gripper takes over feeding pieces into the cutting area. 

Ceca currently cuts 30,000 lbs. of material a day. Depending on size, 10,000 lbs. to 20,000 lbs. of material can be loaded at the same time. Single-layer clamping allows Ceca to cut multiple bars at one time. “We’re averaging four bars at a time in 2-in. diameters in 50 seconds,” says Floyd. “It’s a good rate. We cut plus or minus 1 percent per gram weight and maintain squareness under 0.005 in.” The sawing systems’ automatic features support Ceca’s lean manufacturing practices by allowing one operator to monitor all three saws. This frees the operator to perform critical measurements of gram weight and squareness with Ceca-built gauges. “The saws are easy to adjust if we have to make any tweaks,” Floyd says.

Maintaining gram weight and squareness is critical to parts production. “Our saws cut material for every part we make,” says Floyd. “If we cut out of square or off gram weight, that part is scrap. Currently our internal scrap rate on cutting, extruding and machining is less than 1 percent.”

Like Ceca, Behringer invests in research, design and testing and controls its manufacturing processes internally to produce high performance machines. “This particular series of horizontal band saws is designed with a ball screw-driven material feed gripper,” says Joe Suydam, sales and marketing associate for Behringer. “This feature provides Ceca with superior length tolerance. Our cast iron bow frame eliminates vibration from the cutting area, holds high rigidity and supports excellent squareness from top to bottom. The combination of length tolerance and squareness is what gives Ceca the gram weight tolerance it requires.” 


Maintaining performance

Floyd is adding two more Behringer horizontal band sawing systems in December to support increasing production and a maintenance schedule he feels is an important component of quality control. “We have a lot of capacity left, but I’m actively going after more work. I don’t like to run our equipment year round without maintenance. This allows me to shut one saw down and perform monthly maintenance without hurting production.”

Ceca tracks blade usage with a software program that identifies critical elements that affect blade life. “Each time we change a blade we enter the number of cuts we got, the type of material we were cutting when we changed the blade and the cut rate,” Floyd says. “This information gives us a recipe for future jobs but also allows us to see what blade works best with what material. We also know when and where to look for blade wear. This type of record keeping has allowed us to extend blade life by 15 percent.”

Behringer engineers its sawing systems to sense blade wear. As the blade dulls, the system automatically reduces pressure and slows the cut rate while continuing to maintain a true cut. “Our adjustable feed rate regulator knows just how much pressure the blade is applying during the cutting process,” says Suydam. “Depending on how much wear there is on the blade or how hard the cutting material is, the regulator can speed up or slow down the cut rate,” says Suydam. “This technology maximizes blade life while producing the necessary square cuts and quality finishes.”

The sawing systems’ flexibility has allowed Ceca to modify the machines to tailor cut performance to its requirements. Better part quality and a more cost effective operation have positioned Ceca to cut product for other suppliers in addition to taking on new markets. The fabricator’s hallmarks of quality and service fuel a steady growth rate and retain repeat customers while its investment in equipment like its sawing systems contributes to its central goals—defect-free parts and zero scrap. 

“When customers visit us and see what we do, we want them to feel confident about moving their business over to us,” says Floyd. “Our customers are constantly telling us how amazed they are when they see how clean our facility is, the frequency of checks we perform at each station and the upgrades we continue to make. The Behringer horizontal band saws are simple systems but they generate high quality cuts. And quality is what we’re all about.” FFJ



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