Precision alignment supports cost reduction & profit margin expansion

March 7, 2014

One key to delivering a FARO® precision solution is to first understand an operation’s critical components and the associated cost-contributing challenges. To best exemplify, I want to share excerpts and summaries communicated to me from a recipient of the FARO Laser Tracker solution for precision machinery alignment.

Why Alignment is Important
Proper alignment in a manufacturing facility greatly reduces maintenance costs. When bearings, motors, couplings, etc. are not properly aligned they operate under tension or load conditions. This increases the stress that is created naturally when something mechanical is in motion. Some of this stress is caused by friction and improper alignment increases in the friction. Increased friction and load greatly reduces the cycle life of these components; leading to frequent repairs or replacements of the components.

Benefits of Precision Alignment
In addition, proper alignment generally allows you to run the equipment at higher speeds. Higher speed means higher production, which results in higher profits for the company. When you do the math on it, lower maintenance costs plus higher production levels equals a winning situation for a manufacturing facility.

Criticality of Alignment
In our environment, alignment is even more critical. When you operate an aluminum rolling mill, you pull aluminum thru a series of hydraulic presses. These presses are actually large rollers which forced down into each with hydraulic oil. The goal is to make the aluminum thinner (about the thickness of a beer can). We feed the mill from a coil of aluminum called a payoff reel. At the exit end, we wind it back up on another coil called a rewind. The aluminum travels thru the mill at a rate of about 3000 feet per minute. If the rollers in the mill are not properly aligned, the material will not track straight through the mill. If the material doesn’t track straight, it won’t rewind straight. If the coil is not rewound straight, it’s difficult to handle and ship (the coils weigh roughly 35000 pounds).

Quality from Alignment
Also, if the material does not track straight through the mill, it tends to not hold the shape we are looking for in our product. It has a huge effect on the gauge (thickness) of the aluminum. Our end product has to have consistent shape, or thickness, to meet our customer requirements.

The accuracy in alignment that we have been able to achieve since we switched to laser tracker alignment has been an asset to our production efforts. The time required to perform a laser alignment is also much less than we previously experienced while using optical alignment equipment.

In summary, the solution begins with an in-depth education and focus on the operations and its critical production processes. We can’t improve, fix, or advance a process without first understanding the “why” or the importance it holds both for stability in a production run to the bottom line profitability of the business.

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