In-House Heat-Treat Operation Improves Efficiency
Globe Products Co., Inc. has been manufacturing high-quality ferrules and eyelets as well as other deep-draw stampings since 1981. As a family-owned and managed business, the company has experienced tremendous growth through the years due to their ability to provide the customer with a high-quality ferrule and eyelet at a competitive price.
Recently, Globe Products worked with Praxair Inc., Abbott Furnace Co. and Ennis Oxygen to bring the heat-treating portion of the manufacturing process in house, and they achieved ISO9000-TS16946 certification.
A business built on quality and service, the company’s line includes parts made from C1008 steel strip, 260 brass strip and 304 stainless steel. Manufacturing starts with a stamping process, followed by cleaning and drying. Steel parts are then annealed to remove stress. Brass parts are annealed in a salt bath and then bright dipped, while the steel parts are acid cleaned before plating. Once treated, cleaned and plated, the parts are ready to ship.
Until recently, Globe Products sent the steel stampings to a commercial heat-treat shop for processing. Sending the parts out lengthened the manufacturing process cycle time and added material-handling steps as the parts were processed into and out of their warehouse. This additional handling added to a mixing problem that created sorting costs. However, the company felt the service provided by the heat-treat shop was reliable and cost-effective.
An ownership change at the heat-treat facility brought with it changes to the relationship. Over time, heat-treated parts were not the consistent quality they had once been, and mixing issues increased while price increased dramatically. Logistics changed as well, meaning that turnaround times for parts were no longer consistent.
Change Brings About Change
The changing relationship with the company’s heat-treat provider pushed Globe Products into a decision process. Over a 12-month period, the company evaluated options for improving the flow of materials and possibilities for heat treating their stamped parts in house.
Jess Haupt (Fig. 1), owner/president/CEO, and his team decided the best option for Globe Products would be to invest in their own heat-treating furnace and bring the work in house. From that point, Haupt brought in Randy Rowland, a consultant from Industrial Furnace Specialties, to guide Globe Products in the selection of a furnace and an atmosphere. Rowland helped Globe Products locate Abbott – a continuous-belt, hump-back furnace company. Industrial Furnace Specialties and Abbott suggested a hydrogen and nitrogen atmosphere in the furnace that would offer the right combination of precision and ease of use in the heat-treating process. A furnace atmosphere of hydrogen and nitrogen would enable Globe Products to achieve a quick and successful start-up.
Selecting an Industrial-Gas Supplier
Globe Products knew they had choices when it came to selecting an industrial-gas supplier for hydrogen and nitrogen. Initially, the company decided to interview two major industrial companies. Based on a recommendation from Joe
Beatty of Ennis Oxygen, a long-time cylinder gas supplier, however, the company added Praxair Inc. to their list of prospective suppliers. Ennis Oxygen, through their parent company DuPuy Oxygen, enlisted Praxair’s Patrick Diggins to meet with Globe Products’ general manager, Kevin Lewis, and Haupt.
Globe Products quickly realized that Praxair had a deep and practical knowledge of the heat-treating process. Additionally, the local support of Ennis Oxygen made the decision to go with Ennis Oxygen and Praxair an easy one.
“The technical expertise brought by Praxair gave us the confidence that they could contribute to our start-up and add to our heat-treat process down the road,” Lewis said.
Install and Commission the Furnace
Due to Globe Products’ lack of experience in heat treating parts, the company relied on “furnace install group” and Praxair for a successful start-up. Globe Products was not disappointed. The “furnace install group” started the furnace and conducted the troubleshooting with Globe Products’ maintenance team looking over their shoulder. Praxair provided safety training on the use of nitrogen and hydrogen (Fig. 2).
They provided classroom lessons on why they were using this particular atmosphere and how it worked to protect the parts during processing.
The classroom session was attended by managers, supervisors, operators and maintenance personnel and allowed Globe Products’ employees to gain a base of understanding for the heat-treating process. Also included in the training were sessions covering safe start-up, operating and shutdown procedures. Next, Praxair operators demonstrated how to introduce atmosphere into the furnace. Praxair tested the atmosphere for oxygen content (ppm) and dew point. Once the atmosphere was ready, the first parts were put on the belt by Haupt.
“The first batch came out of the furnace perfect. Our products are meeting our standards for appearance and hardness,” Lewis said.
Globe Products has been able to treat both steel and brass parts in their furnace (Fig. 3), eliminating the labor-intensive and sometimes dangerous salt-bath operation and most post-heat-treat finishing steps such as the bright dip. Using the suggestions and expertise provided by Praxair during start-up, the company is currently optimizing their annealing process. They are able to increase production of both brass and steel parts while eliminating much of the movement of parts and reducing production time.
Praxair continues to be a resource for Globe Products as they try new ideas to maximize the benefits of moving the heat-treating process in house. IH