Rick Kerbow, VP of Manufacturing Engineering & Operations

“We Make Great Things so You Can Build Great Things” – How?

We recently rolled out the new Evans brand, including a new logo, new tagline, and a firm statement of our corporate values. Our tagline – “We Make Great Things so You Can Build Great Things” – says what we do (metal stamping, tool & die making), but not how we do it. So, we sat down with Rick Kerbow, our V.P. Engineering / Operations, to give you a first hand understanding of our manufacturing process: how we do what we do.

Just a day after his 26-year anniversary at Evans’, Rick Kerbow walked us through what is a “typical” customer engagement process at Evans. At a high level, we walk our customers through five major steps. The result is the most accurate, reliable, and cost effective manufacturing design for the part the customer requires. Here are those steps. In this case, we assume that the end part will be a stamped part, rather than a machined part. We’ll cover our machined part process in a future post.

1. Metal Stamping or Machining?

The first determination that we make is, can the part be stamped or does it need to be machined? The answer comes from two criteria.

  • First, we must learn the required tolerances of the individual part.
  • Second, we must have an understanding of the production volume that our customer requires.

Regarding tolerances, Rick uses a simple example: “You wouldn’t want to build a space shuttle out of stamped parts.” In other words, stamping parts can deliver a high quality product, but only to certain tolerances. Putting people into outer space requires very high tolerances, which would not be achievable using stamped parts.

Regarding volume, it’s a matter of time and labor. Machining is largely a manual process, whereas stamping is largely automated. Of course, one can do anything with enough time and budget; however, if the production runs are large, it makes economic sense to stamp the part, assuming the required tolerances can be met.

2. Prototyping

If we cannot be exactly sure whether or not metal stamping can meet the required tolerances, we will build a prototype and test it. The results of the prototype testing reveal whether or not the part can be stamped to meet the required tolerances. If it can, then we begin production of the tool. However, if we determine that the part cannot be stamped to meet certain tolerances, we move forward by determining the exact tolerances that can be achieved with a stamped part. The question is, will those tolerances satisfy the requirements?

Quite often, the available tolerances will suffice. Rick notes, “In the past, the designers were very familiar with each product’s technical details, so they would apply proper and necessary tolerances in the initial design. Today, relatively new engineers design parts with which they are not familiar, so the resulting design is either over engineered or the part cannot be built as designed. Only from experience can we determine what the actual required tolerances are. That starts with one question: ‘What will this part do?’

3. Design Engineering

Our collective decades of experience save our customers time. We make suggestions to make the manufacturing process easier, less expensive, and more sustainable, especially when our toolmakers can see an early design.

Most of time, our design process involves three of our engineers. In our collective 100+ years of manufacturing experience, we’ve built thousands of tools and dies. About 95% of the time, we already know what it’s going to take to make a part, because we’ve built a similar tool or a tool for a similar use. For the other 5%, we have a solid understanding of the necessary tolerances. However, we still prototype the process to make sure it will work.

4. Building the Tool

Once we determine that the part can be stamped, we design and build the tool. We’ve built thousands of tools in our 70 year history. All our work is guided by our commitment to quality, as exemplified by our ISO-9001 certification.

Once we’ve built the tool, we test the results of the tool by creating several samples of the part stamped from the tool. We repeat this stage of the process until you – our customer – are satisfied that all required tolerances are met using the tool we created to stamp your part. Each time, we adjust the tooling, conduct another test, and analyze the critical tolerances until we get the tool right for your part.

5. Manufacturing Production

Prior to going into full production, we do what is commonly known as “PPAP” (Production Part Approval Process). PPAP involves the analysis of critical tolerances on a certain number of parts out of 100 parts produced. The name and the process comes from the automotive industry. Way back in the day, we used to produce just one pre-production sample. Today, it’s industry standard to produce a number of parts to determine the repetitive manufacturing quality of the tool that will produce the part.

Once the customer approves the part, we run the production. Alternatively, we can send the tooling to you to run production of the part. Approximately 80% of the time, we do the production. However, there are certain parts for which the tools or dies are so complicated that we must run production in house. Sometimes, we agree to build a tool for a customer to run production, but, in the end, the customer trusts us to do all the production for that tool.

Every Evans customer and future customer receives this same level of personal attention throughout all your projects. Do you have your part designed? Send us the CAD drawings, and we’ll begin this process for you.