Reducing Lead Time by 75%: A Publishing Company’s Success with Reverse Engineering

A Publishing Company’s Success with MRO Reverse Engineering

The challenge

A publishing company publishes two newspapers in the top 100 circulations in the U.S., as well as dozens of smaller publications, with a combined daily circulation of more than half a million.

The client operates a printing, packaging, and distribution center of more than 680,000 square feet with a maintenance team of 30, including 15 electrical and 10 facilities, operating 24/7. That facility has an on-site team from RS Integrated Supply managing the MRO spare parts program. Part of that team’s responsibility is to bring the client cost-savings opportunities.

One such opportunity arose after a bevelled gear-set failed on the printing production floor. The on-site team was able to avoid downtime by supplying the necessary spare part. However, in reordering a replacement gear set, the team learned that the lead time on the critical spare had grown to over 16 weeks.

The drive assembly, consisting of one large and one small gear that is manufactured as a match-set, drive a large printing impression cylinder. That three-story tall vertical printing unit is critical to production.

The on-site team seized the opportunity to find a more reliable, less expensive source offering shorter lead times.

That search quickly revealed that there were few options, with all suppliers having similar costs and lead times. There was no real benefit to making a change.

RS Integrated Supply reliability engineers and machinists designed a new set without using any formal design plans, instead referencing a well-worn sample. They identified the material hardness, type of gear, pitch of the teeth, dimensions, and other specifications. The process eventually took them to Quebec, Canada, where a machine shop was willing to reverse engineer a new set of gears, both sizes, to the exact specifications required. Consulting with the client’s head machinist, a test sample was developed and shared with the client for inspection and approval.

The solution

In approaching the problem, RS Integrated Supply engineers explored multiple options, including producing larger quantities of both gears.

Although the smaller gear wore out more often, by replacing the larger gear at the same time, it was thought additional shutdowns would be avoided.

To maximize savings and eliminate downtime, we recommended the production of the entire gear set – large and small – along with a second smaller gear. Because of the way, the two components interact, the smaller one wears more quickly. Producing a second matching smaller gear means the more complex maintenance – changing both large and small – only needs to be done every other time.

The recommendation, which the machine shop was willing to accommodate, resulted in cost savings as well as in reduced maintenance repair time and overall production downtime.

At $400 per small gear, RS Integrated Supply saved significant money but, more importantly, reduced the time necessary to install each new gear set.

At $400 per small gear, RS Integrated Supply saved significant money but, more importantly, reduced the time necessary to install each new gear set.

The results

At $400 per small gear, RS Integrated Supply saved significant money but, more importantly, reducing the time necessary to install each new gear set.

Replacing both gears requires the entire drive shaft to be disassembled. However, replacing just the smaller gear was a less intrusive project and took one-third less time and effectively doubled the life of the entire part.

The re-engineered gear sets have performed flawlessly since the change, cutting the overall cost by 50% and lowering the lead time from 16 weeks to four, significant results with 90 different sets in use at any given moment. Additional savings in labour were realized as well, with 65% less time used to replace the part. Downtime savings were also earned by cutting lost production time by a third.

Supply and Assets. In SyncTM.

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