HxGN RadioPodcast

Using SpatialAnalyzer® in production

In this episode, we discuss how SpatialAnalyzer® has helped Janicki Industries improve and monitor their production environment.

BK: Welcome to HxGN radio. My name is Brian and in today’s podcast, we are discussing Janicki Industries, their relationship with Hexagon, and how the use of SpatialAnalyzer® has helped them improve and monitor the production environment in their manufacturing. Joining me today is Zachary Brown, Director of Metrology at Janicki and Zach, thank you for joining me, appreciate it. Good to have you here in person.

ZB: Yup, my pleasure.

BK: All right. Well, let’s get to know you a little bit. So, tell us about yourself, what you do and what you’re nerding out on.

ZB: Yes, I’m Zachary Brown. I’ve been in the kind of metrology world in Janicki. Actually, that’s where I started off straight out of college, spent a little bit of time doing that, shifted in the manufacturing engineering for metallic tooling, and then moved back into the metrology world in October, after my predecessor left. Outside of work, I’ve got a couple of dogs. We take them out on hikes. We live north of Seattle, about 90 minutes in Bellingham, Washington. So, we’ve got mountains on one side, water on the other. We’ve got all the breweries we could possibly have. Good restaurants. That’s what we like to do.

BK: That’s fun. The best of both worlds with the mountains and the ocean. I’m in Colorado, so we get just the mountains. I wish we had the ocean, but we’ve got the breweries, plenty of those.

ZB: I visited Golden for the first time for a wedding a few months ago. It was a nice experience.

BK: It’s a beautiful place to be. Well, cool. Welcome. Now, how did you come to Janicki? I’m curious, you said you came right out of college, right?

ZB: Yeah, fresh out of college. I had a couple of projects throughout school. Janicki Industries is in Sedro-Woolley, Washington, which is about 45 minutes south of where I live. So, through school, we had a few projects, classes that were tied into the company. It’s common to have companies like that with relationships with the universities that are nearby. So, we have a lot of alumni from Western Washington University at Janicki. So, I had some pre-existing relationships there that I tapped into straight out of school. That was the fall of 2009. So, I was expecting not to get a job during that financial crisis. Fortunately, I had some good contacts and they hired me fresh out of school.

BK: Great. Got to love that.

ZB: Worked out pretty well.

BK: That’s awesome. Well, tell us a little bit more about what Janicki does, then.

ZB: Sure thing. So Janicki, to kind of start at the beginning was founded in 1993 and they’ve got their roots in the logging industry in the Skagit Valley in Washington. It’s owned by two brothers, Peter and John. They initially started the company as a design and manufacturer, intent for large five access mills, like 20 feet wide, 60 to 80 feet long, and 12 feet tall. With the construction of mill one, they displayed the capabilities of that mill by machining a putty pattern for a Marine industry application. Previously, the pattern-making was done by a team of people over the course of weeks. The shape of the mould was able to be machined over the course of a weekend, notable improvement in that duration. So, they shifted focus from designing and selling machines to selling the service of the machines itself. And since then, we’ve grown into an innovative and successful supplier of tooling and production parts for the aerospace industry, wind energy, and commercial aerospace. At the moment, we’ve got several buildings in the Skagit Valley area with five or six milling machines and then we have a facility in Layton, Utah as well with very focused group of machining applications there.

BK: Excellent. Quite the progress. That’s cool. It’s just neat to see how the company’s really grown.

ZB: Yep. With the diversity of sectors that we dive into, we’ve been able to sustain a number of things through the early two thousands to now.

BK: That’s neat. Well, and good to see that growth continuing too, especially with everything that’s been going on. I love it. Well, what’s your relationship with Hexagon?

ZB: So, Hexagon, kind of early in the business development of Janicki, we purchased laser trackers through Hexagon, and those were initially brought on board to satisfy customer requirements for deliverable tooling surfaces. Back then, our metrology department was a handful of people using relics like the LTD 500 and 600, which are very old trackers at this point, basically obsolete. Since then, we have upgraded to the AT901 trackers and then the latest AT960’s and we’re excited to see what Hexagon comes out with next. Our current fleet of laser tractors is 26 strong and that’s across multiple facilities and between our Washington and Utah sites. So still Hexagon does all of our equipment calibration and servicing and then with the acquisition of New River Kinematics, they also support our software needs with SpatialAnalyzer®. Initially, when we started out, we were using a different analysis software back in 2010, but we had a few seats of SpatialAnalyzer® to satisfy project requirements on a long-term project for a customer. They were using SA, so they were requiring us to use SA as well. When the time came to make a decision on upgrading the old software, we decided to just go wholesale with SpatialAnalyzer® and we haven’t really looked back since.

BK: Love it. All right. Correct me if I’m wrong here, you were featured in mould-making technology, correct? You did an article. Tell us about the article.

ZB: So, they were talking about or asking about how we integrate metrology into our production processes. And we really have infused the technology and the skill sets, not just in the final verification or final inspection aspect of production, but we do that all across our production process. So, a few examples of that. We have in our matte and metallic tooling division, we have a large format press bay, where we have to take complex three-dimensional shapes and make them out of thick steel, organic curvatures, and figuring out how we do that. We started with wood templates, gauging the shape of the plates with wood templates, and then moving that onto the next stage for fit-up and welding. But we were seeing a lot of discrepancy between what was coming out of the press bay and what was expected at the next stage. In order to improve that process we dedicated a laser tracker to that space. We trained the press operators on how to use the trackers as well as SpatialAnalyzer®. And then with the conjunction of wood templates, operator experience, laser tracker, and data analysis being a closed feedback loop. We were able to improve the surface condition of these plates from about plus or minus half an inch to plus or minus an eighth of an inch, which for us is fantastic. A lot of our thresholds are in that plus or minus an eighth of an inch, and we can manage that at the next stage. So that was a pretty notable process improvement that we deploy early on in the production life cycle for that specific sector. Another example is in our pre-machine processes, we do what we call a stock cheque on things that are going to get machined. That data collected, with the laser tracker and then analysed, we feed that to NC so that they can inform their programming tool paths for efficiencies. And that also allows us to locate the tools in the mill space coordinate systems pretty accurately. So, it doesn’t matter where the tool is in the mill. We can tell the mill exactly where it is, and that is also done offline on interchangeable pallets so that we can keep spindle time up. And that’s used pretty extensively through all of our mills. Most things go through a stock cheque with data collection of that manner. In the final assembly stage, if we have features that are very high tolerance that have to get adjusted into place, or we can’t rely fully on determinate assembly, then we’ll use planned gaps and planned adjustment features to adjust features to very tight tolerances plus or minus 5,007 inch for position or surface profile 10 thousand on surfaces at that final verification stage. And then we also utilise the technologies for accuracy cheques and compensation for our mill space. So, we’ll do a full volumetric compensation with the mill we’ll collect data points at many thousand points in the mill, analyse that against the nominal point sets, process through SpatialAnalyzer®, and that informs the position and compensation for our mills. So really through the very beginning to the very end and then monitoring equipment. Accuracy.

BK: No, that’s fantastic. Good.

ZB: So, it’s great by setting our targets and then we can monitor the process throughout and then react to either environmental or equipment degradation and we can make adjustments there and make sure that we’re monitoring our processes.

BK: It’s impressive to see that increase, that’s cool. So now I’m curious about some of the problems though that SpatialAnalyzer® is solving.

ZB: Absolutely. So, I’ve got a couple of good examples there. We have a specific part that is susceptible to, or sensitive rather to wrinkles in the laminate and these wrinkles manifest in radius features in this part. Due to the geometry of the part itself, it can be very difficult to accurately locate and quantitatively evaluate these wrinkles. So, our QA team has spent an inordinate amount of time finding these wrinkles and dispositioning. So, my predecessor, worked on a script within SpatialAnalyzer® that takes data collected from the laser trackers, goes through an algorithm, and is able to effectively identify and quantify these wrinkle defects and determine if they are intolerance or out of tolerance. And that’s done all exclusively within SpatialAnalyzer®. Another improvement that we’ve seen on a part recently is a very large part about 20 foot in diameter, disc shape that we’re machining that has a very complex GD&T structure. It’s both kind of this very layered thing. And it’s also repetitive in a pattern. The first few parts of this, we had done manual data analysis and initially five days was allotted for just the data analysis. So that’s a big chunk of the schedule, at least a third of the schedule that we were dedicating to just that. So, we decided to utilise the GD&T toolkit within SpatialAnalyzer® to build a file ahead of time with all of the appropriate relationships and surfaces associated so that when we picked up the data points, we could quickly associate them to the different relationships, hit the go button, and it would evaluate all of the analysis that we needed. A few hiccoughs with the first one and then we had to deal with the geometry change, which caused us to rebuild the file, but that’s just part of doing business. But this last go around, we were able to complete the same analysis in a day and a half. So pretty notable reduction in analysis time. Enabling us to hit the ship date that we wanted to. So that was a pretty successful, and that was just last week that we accomplished that. We’ve got a few more of these things to make. So, I’m hoping we can get that into maybe like a two-shift turnaround. Go back through the file, probably build it from scratch to make sure we haven’t lost anything, and then see where we can go from there.

BK: Great. All right. Excellent. No, that was great examples. I appreciate that. So, what kind of support do you think that we can expect when working with Hexagon now from a partner, from a manufacturing expert?

ZB: So, quality support is definitely key. And I think our experience with Hexagon has most certainly delivered. In our experience, the responsiveness from the reps on both the equipment side and the software side go a long way towards maintaining our business relationship. To now we’ve been interfacing with the same people for years. And so, we know exactly who to go to get in touch for basically any given issue. In the past, we’ve been able to lean on Hexagon for solutions ranging from equipment utilisation and troubleshooting, to complex scripting in SpatialAnalyzer®. If there’s something that we are running into on a repeated basis or something that we would like to see in an update, we are really not shy about reaching out and we’ve had some good response in that arena.

BK: Excellent. All right. So, looking ahead to 2023, what is Janicki’s main focus in the manufacturing space?

ZB: So, I anticipate at least one of our main focuses will be trimming out waste and removing roadblocks related to parts production and for me specifically inspection. Over the last five years or so, we have experienced continual growth in the production parts sector and 2023 will definitely be no exception. To that effect, right now we are laying the foundation for building ten and our Hamilton site and we are hiring to fill many engineering and production roles to support that expansion. In Janicki’s past truly reboot work has been a small portion of what we do, but that’s continuing to grow. So, the opportunity to dial in the production processes is a new and exciting challenge for us.

BK: Very nice. Awesome. Well, I’m curious about, last question I want to ask you is any advice that you’d want to pass on to others throughout your careers. You’ve learnt a lot, I’m assuming. What do you think?

ZB: I think it’s continue to, or strive to find the next kind of technology equipment, something that can disrupt the ideas or the process flows in a positive way. You know, it’s cliche to say think outside the box, but do that and always ask the questions. Is this really necessary? I am continually surprised that when we actually ask that question, is this necessary or what is actually important on this part or drawing? It’s not always what is actually presented on the drawing. So, understanding does this GD&T scheme make sense? Is this really necessary? The answers are consistently surprising to me. And that informs, we ask those questions early and often. Their facing directly with the customer to make sure that we’re delivering exactly what it is we need to be.

BK: Do you find that the customer is very forthright with how much they’re wanting and then you’re kind of pivoting as you go along then?

ZB: Yup, or they’ll realise, we maybe didn’t do the best job of detailing this in the first place or these things are actually what we care about, these other things you can ignore or, treat a little bit less sensitive to these other features.

BK: Love it. All right. So, ask the question and then also listen to the customer. Absolutely. Pay attention, I guess would be the word too. Cause yeah, you can listen all you want, if you’re not paying attention. That’s another thing.

ZB: Staying curious.

BK: I love it. Cool. Well, Zach, thank you. That was great. I appreciate your time. And thank you for sharing all this information.

ZB: My pleasure. Glad to be here.

BK: Any further thoughts? Where can we go for more information? All that good stuff.

ZB: www.janicki.com. This is our website and we’re always looking for business.

BK: Love it. All right.

Well, thank you very much. Zachary Brown, Director of Metrology at Janicki. Thank you for joining us here on HxGN radio to learn more and also to listen to additional HxGN radio episodes, head on over to iTunes, Spotify, or SoundCloud. And of course, you can visit hxgnspotlight.com for more storeys from Hexagon. Thank you so much for listening. Have a wonderful day.