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Corus & Niton UK

Added 01-05-2007
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You might not know which bar or billet your landing gear or rotor mast came from just by looking at it - but that's exactly where CES's world class identification processes come in.

With more increasingly complex, products than ever it is vital that materials are identified and tracked throughout the process. Indeed, these are the standards customers demand of us.

"When any product leaves CES it is identified with cast and order numbers corresponding to the individual grade and process state of the material," explained Kate Crowther, technology systems manager.

"It's essential because many of our products are used in safety critical parts for the aerospace, automotive and oilfield industries, with customers such as Boeing, Airbus, Rolls Royce, Scania, Volvo and Ford. Appropriate strength and toughness are key for products such as rotor masts and gears in helicopters, jet engines rings and casings, landing gears, brakes, automotive gears and drive shafts."

And the consequences of any errors could be huge.

"If one material is inadvertently substituted for another, for example non heated treated instead of heat treated material, the results could be catastrophic. It could certainly mean a product recall and, at worst, it could mean loss of life or serious injury. Imagine the aero plane landing gear failing as you arrive on holiday, or an oil rig breaking free from its mooring chains during a storm," Kate added.

Its exactly why CES works so hard to ensure traceability - and is one of only two companies worldwide that are able to in-line hard stamp bar codes onto products.

There are three main aspects to the identification and tracking of the products within CES:
  • Physical identification of material
  • Material tracking systems
  • Material Identification and anti-matrix techniques

"We've come a long way in identifying our products, 30 years ago it was chalk marks and metal tallies, now we can computer track right through the process with bar code scanners," said Kate.

"Recently , we have also had a number of CI initiatives looking at mapping material movements and associated material identification, aiming to introduce mistake-proofing into systems of work where possible.

"However, even with all the improved techniques and the training, the vigilance of operators, together with a willingness to question something that isn't quite right, is key to ensuring the correct material is delivered to customers."

Trigger Happy at the Aerospace Service Centre

It sounds like a prop from a sci-fi show, but in fact the Niton instrument is very real and proving very useful in the process of monitoring materials.

The instrument has been used at the Aerospace Service Centre for a year now, with eight more having since been rolled out. It is a portable x-ray device that enables type testing of materials at the touch of a trigger.

"They are absolutely great, we use them every day," said Andre Boudin, quality manager.

"We have a library of alloys programmed into the machine, based on our stock profile, and the instrument can recognise them without even touching the steel. It's particularly good because it doesn't need any calibration at all, so it saves a huge amount of time. In the past we used spectrometers, where the set up time alone for each different metal took around half an hour.

"It's made a huge difference and we have now tested 100 per cent of all our items in stock. Being portable, it also means we can take it to customers, subject to simple radiation controls being in effect, which adds to the service we offer."

Scan-tastic at Bright Bar, Rotherham

Bar codes and scanners have made a huge difference to tracking materials and recent improvements have enhanced that, all ensuring the right products get to the right people.

"We have used bar codes for a number of years in CES and greater flexibility means that now more items can be scanned in the process," said John Pease, quality manager at Bright Bar Rotherham.

"In Bright Bar alone we now scan the majority of material, so it removes the possibility of us picking up the wrong material and delivering it out. A number of our customers also use our labeling system to scan their items, so it ensures consistency.

"When a bundle is scanned, it is not only a fail safe to ensure we're sending the right material out, it automatically modifies the stock levels on the manufacturing systems and in some cases even notifies the customer that the material is on the way."

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