Software Solutions

Emergency response

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Lantek software lets operators see when a part needs to be cut and welded to another part. Those parts can be tracked anywhere in the process.

Nesting, plus process improvement program, fosters reliable production of ambulances and other vehicles

April 2018 - It’s a call no one ever wants to have to make. Dialing 911 summons emergency responders to help someone in trouble and every second counts. EMTs and law enforcement teams need to focus on the crisis at hand, not about whether their equipment is sufficiently sturdy for heavy-duty functions.

Founded during the booming oil industry in 1956, third-generation, family owned Frazer Ltd. in Houston builds generator-powered mobile healthcare vehicles. Over the years, Frazer shifted from the oil sector to ambulances and mobile healthcare vehicles such as clinics, urban command vehicles and mobile stroke units equipped with CT scanners. In fact, Frazer built the first mobile stroke unit vehicle in the United States.

“We create the entire ambulance module that is mounted on the frame of a commercial chassis,” explains Compliance and Technical Solutions Manager David Tracy. “Our modules are made completely out of aluminum” and aluminum composites, which the company finds superior to wood components.

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Frazer builds generator-powered mobile healthcare vehicles. The entire ambulance module is made from aluminum and mounted on the frame of a commercial chassis.

“We heartily believe in the strength and durability of aluminum and want to provide the safest possible environment for patient and crew,” Tracy says.

Frazer’s vehicle frames are made from aluminum grade 6061-T6 tubing in various dimensions along with 6061-T6 plate for mounting equipment or adding structural rigidity where needed.

Frazer uses grade 5052-H32 aluminum sheet to manufacture components from the frames and exterior skins to the cabinets, shelves and mounting brackets, among other pieces. “We use LVD Strippit CNC punch presses and LVD Strippit press brakes to cut out and form our material into 3D objects.”

Frazer needed to improve nesting and job programming. “We were looking to increase our efficiency of nesting parts as well as reduce our waste,” Tracy says. “While we have a great aluminum recycling program, we always felt we could fit more parts onto a single sheet than how we were doing it with our previous software.”

After researching its options, Frazer staff was won over by Lantek’s software demonstration. “We could tell Lantek was going to fit the bill and would give us the best return on our investment,” Tracy says.

Process improvement

The software needed to be as flexible as Frazer’s production talent. “The average day changes depending on what station you are working in,” explains Tracy. “Many of our employees perform several different functions.”

For metalforming, Frazer engineers new designs using Inventor CAD software. The designs are sent to CNC programmers for processing in Lantek. The resulting program is then sent to the punch presses to run. Punch press operators remove the parts and place them onto a cart to be taken to the deburring station and prepared for bending at the press brake.

“Our press brake operators will bend the flat sheet according to the program and engineering drawings and, afterward, the part is typically sent to welding,” Tracy says. “The parts are then left as bare aluminum; [or are] painted or powder coated; and, in some cases, [parts] are further prepped in our pre-make assembly area before installation.”

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Lantek software helps Frazer Ltd. coordinate its punch, deburring, PEM nut, press brake, shear; and notch, paint and powder coating processes.

Parts are installed on the assembly line and a final quality check is completed. “After hundreds of components come together, the module is ready for final inspection and customer delivery.”

Lantek software helps Frazer coordinate its punch, deburring, PEM nut, press brake, shear; and notch, paint and powder coat processes. “The primary function is helping to internally prioritize jobs on the punch presses,” Tracy says. “Our operators can pull up what their next job is while the current one is running and it helps them prepare their entire day.”

Lantek started as a CAD/CAM system 30-plus years ago and has evolved into also managing ERP, MES and analytics. “[Customers] rely on Lantek to get data accurately distributed through their work centers,” says Adria Haines, managing director for Lantek’s USA division. “You input the part in the CAD system or as a .dxf file and the software knows how much it will cost to make. It lays out material costs, production time, employee and shop floor costs and continuously updates that information.”

Lantek provides shop floor employees, sales and administration with an encompassing view of each job from raw material to finished product.

The ability to nest as efficiently as possible is Frazer’s primary takeaway from using Lantek software. “Being able to make manual adjustments—including micro joint size and location, moving a part around, and sending the programs out to the punches without leaving the programming computer—makes the software easy to work with,” Tracy says.

Real-time workload monitoring is instilled throughout the shop. “It’s easy to see when a part needs to be cut and welded to another part and users can track those parts anywhere in the process,” Haines says. “This is helpful when you’re not running high-volume production lines like an automotive assembly line because each job is going to be handled differently.”

Within the Lantek system, “operators can see when parts are cut and ready for the press brake, or other operations. If an operator had to take an afternoon off, work is easily rerouted to other work [stations],” she continues. “The system immediately updates and accounts for those changes.”

Users can view estimated time versus real-time expectations on jobs and the software evolves along with the shop’s custom applications. As job types and quantities change, the software provides a real-time view for flexibility so that operators can avoid production bottlenecks.

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Frazer Ltd. first served the oil sector but shifted to ambulances and mobile healthcare vehicles such as clinics, urban command vehicles and mobile stroke units equipped with CT scanners.

Knowledge is power

Lantek software is smart, Haines claims. “The value of Lantek in the manufacturing execution and ERP space is that at our core, we are a strong CAD/CAM system,” she says. “The CAD part of the system knows the area, weight and density of the part, as well as how many holes are in it, its cut perimeters as well as what machine is being used. This is all data that does not need to be entered and re-entered during the part lifecycle.”

The software also accounts for the speed at which parts are cut, using machine post processors, a programming feature that tells operators which processes are required to manufacture each part, according to Haines.

“Lantek either generates or imports production data once, so users don’t have to re-enter quantities for nesting tasks, part tracking or workload monitoring. The software knows the part best and uses its data for a part-smart process.”

Quoting jobs is easier because once the part is loaded, its data is carried through from quoting to finished product. “When creating a quote, we already know what the part is. We know how much the materials cost as well as the required production process and time,” explains Haines. “Think about all the things that can touch a part’s progress in a production situation. To process all the routing steps as it becomes the final thing [is] the hardest part for the ERP to process in order to get the quoting right and manufacturing processes correct. The ERP is dealing with time and money.”

Lantek works with customers to identify goals and create the needed digital path.

“Even shops that think they’ve missed the Industry 4.0 boat can catch up without refinancing their shop, home, equipment,” Haines says. “It’s something that can grow and transition as business does.” FFJ



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