How Industry Has Changed--
Stamping Company's View of Then and Now
People associated with a business that has been around a long time are often well positioned to describe the changes that have taken place in industry over the years.
Seventy-five years in business is a long time.
The 75th anniversary of Banner Die, Tool & Stamping Company was celebrated in September 1996. The Ohio-based company has a long tradition of excellence in stamping. In recent years, the company has added fabrication, subassembly, and finishing services to its offerings. They can stamp parts in high volume in sizes from a few ounces to several pounds. They also do heavy gauge stamping from either coil, plate, or bar. Included among Banner's modern and efficient equipment is a press capable of exerting 1200 tons of force.
At the anniversary celebration, John E. O'Brien III, Banner's President and CEO, talked about the industrial changes and challenges faced by companies in 75 years and looked ahead at what the future might hold.
"Because of our 75th anniversary," says John E. O'Brien III, Banner's President and CEO, "1996 was a year with considerably more reflection than years past. I remember the transition of company leadership from my grandfather to my father when I was very young. Then, in 1981, my father passed the baton to me. In hindsight, it was a thoughtful process that was respectful of my knowledge, experience, and decision-making maturity.
"Through the years, some things about Banner and the way we approach our customer relationships have not changed. On the other hand, especially when it comes to technologies and quality processes, changes have been considerable."
Increased Technical Assistance
O'Brien pointed out that products and parts have traditionally been designed by engineers who are expert in mechanical engineering and product design. He asserted, "Naturally, their knowledge about the manufacturing and cost consequences of their designs is limited due to their focused expertise.
"Banner people have always been available to serve as an extension of customers' product design teams. To those who have chosen to involve us at this level, we've been able to supply problem-solving manufacturing quality insights, cost-saving ideas that preserve product function and quality, and feedback to improve product designs.
"Through the years, some customers have solicited our technical assistance in product design. Their positive experiences kept them coming back for more of our technical services to get desired product quality at less cost."
O'Brien indicated Banner has seen much more of this kind of customer relationship in recent years. He attributes this increase to the acceleration of changing industry attitudes and practices.
He said, "In the 1990s, it's more common to see design engineers working closely with manufacturing engineers and production people. Some companies have even leaped beyond simultaneous and concurrent engineering teams to form complete product design and development teams consisting of representatives from all company functions, including marketing and finance.
"They work together to consider all implications and tradeoffs of various design alternatives before settling on the optimum solution. Now, more companies are truly 'partnering' with their suppliers in the preliminary stages of product designs prior to making final design decisions. I applaud this open sharing of expertise and ideas to improve product quality and lower costs. Banner will continue to become increasingly involved in such product design programs and be a valued extension of customers' product design teams."
The Quality Evolution
According to O'Brien, "When considering the quality evolution over the past 75 years, there have been more favorable developments in the last 15 years than the combined 60 years that preceded them." He claims the evolution from SPC to TQM to ISO 9000 and QS 9000 has created a much broader perspective of quality. "We now approach quality with a wide-angle lens. Production control with computerized on-line inspection sampling to monitor and verify quality processes using statistical analysis is only the beginning. With the help of programs such as QS 9000, we now eagle-eye all activities in our organization that have a bearing on product quality, affect services to our customers, and contribute to their satisfaction. These activities include machinery maintenance, personnel training, purchasing functions, vendor compliance with quality practices, order entry systems, job scheduling and tracking, and accounting practices."
O'Brien believes that quality and process improvements really take root when viewed as valued priorities by people at all levels of the organization. "Improvements are minimal when the quality control practices and process modifications are viewed skeptically or resented. I appreciate the attitude of our people and their desire to excel in all we do. Efforts to improve quality are welcomed, embraced, and earnestly applied.
"And my responsibility extends beyond giving our people encouragement and appreciation. I need to give them the tools and training required to make substantial quality goals achievable. For example, I know quality can't be 'inspected into' a manufacturing process. There's no substitute for rugged machines, precision tooling, and expert processing to produce close accuracy parts on a consistent basis. But the most important strategy for producing excellent quality is the up-front quality planning that proactively addresses all aspects of the process. When this occurs, the use of SPC during production is a strategy to verify the process is in control as we planned."
Growing Customer Expectations
For the better part of Banner's life, most customers bought stampings. They took responsibility for most secondary operations and absorbed the task of configuring sub-assemblies that were needed for Final product assembly. O'Brien reports a new trend. "Now, more than 50 percent of our customers count on us to supply secondary operations such as heat treating, plating, painting, and sub-assemblies, along with stampings. Many of these need to be shipped just-in-time to mesh with their production and assembly schedules. Increasingly, we have more in common with our customers, most of whom are contract parts/products manufacturers that supply large OEM companies.
"We are as good as our supplier base. Since a chain is as strong as its weakest link, it's no longer enough for us to produce excellent stampings. We must align with quality suppliers, and work closely with them to ensure the finished parts and sub-assemblies that we supply consistently meet the high expectations of our customers.
"Our best customers are those who have high expectations, treat us professionally, and pay a fair price for our services. We respect them and they, us. We try to establish the same professional relationships and expectations with our supplier base. In this way, our best customers have taught us a lot and helped us establish mutually profitable partnerships with our suppliers."
One recent trend that O'Brien welcomes is industry's embrace of ISO 9002 and the 'Big 3's' QS 9000. "At one time, quality audits with each of our customers was a significant cost to us and was also an expensive personnel allocation for our customers. Now, with a universally accepted quality audit, we can assure all our customers that our company meets or exceeds the quality objectives of credible programs that align with their quality expectations. This is a welcomed win-win scenario for us and those we supply," attests O'Brien.
O'Brien's forecast of the future represents an evolution of current trends. "I see an environment that encourages and rewards continuous quality improvements, faster response to customers' requirements and on-going modifications, closer involvement in customers' product design and development processes, and closer relationships with customers and suppliers. Banner will continue to be progressive, poised, adaptable, and ready to satisfy customers and their evolving requirements in the years ahead.
"This business forecast is in harmony with the Banner attribute of honest candor that began with my grandfather 75 years ago and was an integral part of my father's business practices," asserts O'Brien.
"Looking ahead, we have all the ingredients for success and growth," says O'Brien. "We have customers who are demanding, yet fair; we have competent and conscientious employees; we have effective quality processes implemented company-wide and we're still improving; and we have capable and service-oriented suppliers to assist with our efforts on turnkey projects. I feel our future is very bright and we've only just begun to realize our true potential."
This technical information has been contributed by
Banner Metals Group
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