Cold, hard convenience: How one company's cold saw pays for itself in blade life

December 20, 2012

By Stephanie Andrews

How one company’s cold saw pays for itself in blade life

December 2012 - From building playground equipment to medical instruments to even creating sets at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, Scotchman Industries’ cold saws lead versatile lives. The reason is in the final product. 

A cleaner finish, faster throughput and longer blade life are all characteristics of a cold saw at work. “[Cold saws] give you one of the most quality-controlled and straightest of cuts,” says Michael Albrecht, national sales manager at Scotchman Industries, Philip, S.D. The ironworker, cold saw and band saw manufacturer opened in 1967. In 1988, it began manufacturing a complete line of circular cold saws, from manual and semiautomatic saws to fully automatic saws.  

“A semiautomatic saw gives you the features of being able to step on the pedal, the saw automatically clamps, head comes down and makes a cut, head returns and vise opens for a semiautomatic cycle stroke,” says Albrecht. And it was Scotchman’s CPO 350 PKPD semiautomatic cold saw with a power clamp and power down feed system that caught West Bend, Wis.-based Cole Manufacturing Corp.’s attention. 

It started in 2011 at Fabtech Chicago. Cole Manufacturing was in the market for a new cold saw. It received a sales flyer from Scotchman Industries prior to the expo, but it wasn’t until a live demo at Fabtech that the company knew Scotchman’s cold saw was the right fit. 

“We were able to see one of the saws run and we were really impressed with how it was performing at the show,” says Nicholas Cole, purchasing manager and production supervisor at Cole Manufacturing. “Ideas started going through our heads and it looked like it was going to be a great fit for our company.” 

Sharp turnarounds 

For any business, it’s important to have fast turnaround. And for companies like Cole Manufacturing, which has a booked schedule almost daily, it’s essential to process orders in a timely manner to keep things flowing smoothly. 

“We can usually get about 25 10-ft. lengths [of steel tube, angle or channel] through on one shift,” says Cole. When Cole Manufacturing used a manual saw, it had two or three additional operations after cutting, which significantly slowed throughput. “We would have to chamfer the outside of the tube or grind away the sharper burr that may be left on the edge at a second operation, and then we would have to chamfer the inside of the tube using a drill press or power drill, which added another operation,” he says. With the CPO 350 PKPD, the company has decreased its processing time and can push material through the shop faster. 

“[Before], we would cut all the pieces individually, stack them up and go to the next operation, stack those up and go to the next one,” says Cole. “But now, we can do that in just one operation, while the saw is cutting, and keep it flowing.” As the saw cuts, the operator can perform other operations, and the finished product is placed in the done bin just in time for the operator to receive the next cut part. Flowing from one operation to the next, with the saw running, has significantly increased Cole Manufacturing’s productivity.

 Many of the parts that come off the saw go to the weld cell, which consists of two robotic welders and several hand welders, including a TIG welder. With the Scotchman CPO 350 PKPD, Cole Manufacturing can now move those parts to the weld area much quicker, allowing the company to “really be productive and flow material a lot more efficiently through the shop,” says Cole.

 With the new cold saw, Cole says the company stays on top of all orders that come through. And if any orders suddenly change, it can easily accommodate those changes. “If we are in the middle of a job—we may say we plan to cut all day—and all of a sudden a hot order comes in, we are able to just pull that job out, set up the next one in no time and hit go and it’s already cutting on it.”

With abrasive saws and band saws, the processed metal can develop a burr, but Scotchman’s CPO 350 PKPD often removes the need for deburring. “Most cold saw applications will give you a clean enough cut that you don’t have to secondary deburr the product,” says Albrecht, “which again helps with getting more throughput through the shop, making your operation more productive.”

 

Comfortably productive

For any operator working a typical eight- or nine-hour shift, battling fatigue and operational error can have competing effects. “If you have a man pulling on a manual saw, the first hour of the day he might make those cuts just perfectly, but as he gets tired and he’s not paying attention, it tends to maybe increase or decrease feed rate through the material,” says Albrecht. 

Changes in feed rate ultimately will not give the proper speeds to make the cut, decreasing turnaround and overall blade life. “The advantage of the semiautomatic is that it gives you the contact feed force,” says Albrecht, “which, in turn, increases your blade life approximately 30 percent over a manual feed system.”

Before Cole Manufacturing installed the cold saw, the cutting process was significantly longer. The company went from a “saw where our operator would stand there and have to pull down on a handle and it would take him twice as long to cut through a piece of steel and he might not have the right pressure on it, or dull the blade,” to a cold saw that “all the operator has to do is set up the cut conditions and hit the foot pedal, adjust the feed rate and he’s cutting,” says Cole. “There’s not a whole lot of physical stress involved in setting up the saw and cutting through steel; it does it on its own. So that was a great improvement from where we were.”  

Cutting waste

Scotchman’s saws feature TigerStop stop/gauge systems, which eliminate the need for old-fashioned and often inaccurate tape measures. “It’s doing the measuring for you, instead of pulling a tape out and measuring your part, trying to see if you cut it on the line or to the right stop,” says Albrecht. “I don’t like having anyone pull a tape measure out to read the numbers. Anyone pulling a tape measure out, you ask them to find 9⁄16 on a tape measure, it’s not always easy and smart to find.” Rather than squinting to find the small hash mark on the tape measure, the programmable system allows the operator to punch in the needed lengths and the saw does all the cutting. 

 “Say I need three 10-in. parts; it will automatically index the material to 10 in. a cycle, use the semiautomatic saw to make the cut and automatically do all three cuts,” says Albrecht. The CPO 350 PKPD also eliminates material waste. “Let’s say you have a minimum rim that you can’t cut another 10-in. piece out of,” he says. “You can program a secondary length to cut that part into a finished product. That eliminates your waste so you can get more yield out of your material.” 

This feature, which initially sold Cole Manufacturing on Scotchman’s semiautomatic cold saw, has helped decrease the company’s waste. “Depending on the material we are cutting or the length, it’s usually just a small drop of material left over,” says Cole. “But we will end up using it somewhere along the line, so there isn’t much waste.” 

Life investment 

For a company looking to invest in one of Scotchman’s cold saws, two factors must be taken into account: volume and accuracy. “For a company doing enough cutting, they want to get the efficiency of better blade life,” says Albrecht. “There is more throughput from a semiautomatic, so it’s an upgrade for the person who may have started with just a manual saw.” 

The Scotchman CPO 350 PKPD also is ideal for cutting heavier and solid materials. ”For larger, solid diameter cutting, where it takes a little longer, there are more chips to make the cut and more fatigue on the operator, and it also greatly affects blade life. The semiautomatic is a big improvement,” says Albrecht.

The major value of a Scotchman cold saw is its blade life. On average, a blade can go through eight to 10 hours of cutting time before it needs to be sharpened.  When abrasive and band saw blades wear out, they are replaced with another expensive blade. For cold saws, the value is in the initial blade investment. “The cold saw blade might be a little higher in price to start, but over the life of the blade, your cost is only fractions of a penny per cut,” says Albrecht.

For Cole Manufacturing, this cold saw has been a wise investment. “We knew we didn’t just want to replace a saw and get another one that was going to basically do what the last one did,” says Cole. “We needed to improve our process. That’s how we survive and thrive in this industry—we are always updating and upgrading to become more efficient in our work.”

Because Scotchman believes a big part of the cold saw process is the blade’s maintenance, the company offers quick turnaround service on cold saw sharpening. “The saw is only as good as the blade on it,” says Albrecht. “So it’s very important to have a reputable sharpener to do the sharpening.” Currently, Cole Manufacturing is in the process of phasing out its old sharpening supplier, but has not needed to use Scotchman’s service. “We did get a blade from them. It came with the saw, and it’s a great blade,” says Cole.

Regardless of the sharpening service and attractive features Scotchman offers, it ultimately was “the people and the quality of an American-made saw” that satisfied Cole Manufacturing. 

“We’ve seen Mike around. He showed up here with his demo truck and made a real simple presentation of how the saw would definitely benefit us, and he’s available whenever we need him,” says Cole. “If we needed him here tomorrow, I’m sure he would be here. If there is ever an issue, there’s a number to call right on the saw, and you are going to talk to someone right away,” he continues. “Someone is going to answer and walk you right through whatever problem you have.” FFJ


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