Brookville, OH--Beginning with this issue of Design News, readers can get more information fast on many advertised products through a new "instant fulfillment" program on our website.
This new service reflects a crucial need to help engineers cope with the enormous time pressures in product development. Our new study of the design engineering universe, conducted by the Simmons Market Research Bureau, shows that the typical engineer is involved in 18 designs or redesigns a year--up from 10 in 1989.
That reality has led many OEM suppliers to bolster their application engineering staff and enhance their production capabilities to accelerate the delivery of products.
Typical is the new "Rapid Response" program offered by Parker Hannifin's Fluid Connector Group. Thanks to the latest CAD/CAM, LAN, and CNC machining resources at such facilities as the Tube Fittings Division's Brookville, OH, plant, the program can put even customized parts in the hands of a design engineer in 24 hours.
The process can start with a simple hand-drawn sketch of a fitting faxed to Brookville by a customer. There, an application engineer on the Rapid Response team can search Parker's extensive CAD library for a part closest to the customer's need. After modification, Parker engineers send the CAD drawing back to the customer to verify the design and material specs. Then the approved drawing is downloaded to one of the facility's multiple-spindle automatic screw machines for production.
"The whole point is to give the customer the part when he wants it--not when it's convenient for us," notes Don Smrekar, vice president of manufacturing technology.
Customers taking advantage of this speedy design/manufacturing service range from heavy equipment operators, who need an hydraulic fitting to keep expensive running, to design engineers who need prototype parts for important development projects. Among the many industries served: automotive, agriculture, aerospace, de-fense, and machine tools.
"Customers who used to be content with standard delivery in six weeks now want it in two," says Steve Barnette of Empire Machinery and Supply Company, which operates in Virginia's Tidewater region. "Not only that, but I'm seeing more and more customers who come in at 4:45 on Friday with a broken fitting, and want a new part by Monday."
In many cases, those parts are foreign-made--often Asian--and cannot be easily sourced locally. "Try to get someone on the phone in Tokyo and ask for an order of 5 parts," says Barnette. Nor does he have the time to seek out small machine shops capable of doing a custom job in a hurry. Instead, Barnette now contacts the Parker Brookville plant to get these non-standard parts designed and machined in a few hours.
About 50% of Barnette's customers are OEMs who need hydraulic fittings for new designs or redesigns. The other half need parts for test rigs or for maintenance of existing equipment.
Smrekar notes that the Fluid Connector Group is offering the Rapid Response Program at some 30 plants worldwide. About 10% of the Brookville plant's capacity is kept busy with the program. There, set-up times for new production runs take less than an hour, with 1,700 set-ups in a typical month across the plant's 24 CNC machines. Adds Smrekar: "It's a great feeling when customers say to us, 'You can't make this part.' And then we turn around and ship it to them the next day."