One of my favorite parts of my job is having design reviews with our customers. If you haven’t heard about our design reviews, it’s a member service – and something you should learn more about here. Anyway – I recently had a member customer in for a design review and we were looking at a series of new concepts for his part. We had a laser expert, resistance welding expert, and arc welding expert all in the room at the same time from EWI’s side.
The first question I usually ask is “Why are you here / What do you hope to gain today?” The answer was typical – he was looking for a way to reduce cost to manufacture his part. Fair enough. After describing the part’s function in a bit more detail, we started talking about options and it quickly became clear the customer really was looking for a way to improve the efficiency of his existing arc process. There was talk about recent GMAW work in twin-wire and CMT, possible changes in shielding gas, etc.
I sat and listened for about an hour with my laser welding colleague and finally asked a question that silenced the room…
“So have you considered any other solutions for your part outside of your current arc process?”
Silence. Pause. Blank stare.
“Um…. No, not really. I mean – I guess we kicked around lasers, but not really seriously. And, well… We just figured MIG was the way to go because it’s proven and easy to sell to our customers and, well, that’s how we’ve always done it.”
There you go. That’s what I was looking for. EWI is well-versed in helping customers improve their existing processes. We have engineers at our customers’ facilities every week working side-by-side to solve complex issues. We do that, though, because we have already worked with the customer to help ensure that the processs they have selected is the right one for the application and not just because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”
I’m sure it’s overstating the obvious, but step-changes in productivity or quality or cost benefit come from opening one’s field of view and considering what was previously thought impossible. Don’t accept “that’s how we’ve always done it” as a finality. Let us be a fresh set of eyes to help offer insight on alternate possibilities.
That customer’s visit to EWI ended great. We ended up laying out a quick feasibility study where we agreed to look at a laser solution and a resisance projection welding solution for the same part. These alternatives would require slight design modifications and some capital investment – but would pay for themselves in a matter of months. The project isn’t over yet – so I can’t tell you if we ended up back at an improved arc welding solution or went a whole other direction (and I wouldn’t tell you anyway because it’s confidential). What I can tell you is the customer was excited I was using his meeting as a blog topic, and likes what we’re doing so far for the study on his part.