Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Broken links in forged tooling supply chain could cost industries millions

USA: Forged metal parts play an essential role in a wide range of products, spanning markets including automotive, medical devices, and aerospace and defense. However, the loss of dies used for creating forged parts is a problem that can cost billions of dollars to the defense industry alone, as systems age and the supply chain disintegrates.

With a forging die costing an average of as much as $18,000 to create, and a single aircraft platform containing upwards of 3,100 unique forged items, global defense equipment manufacturers could spend as much as $3 million per platform recreating tooling. All told, the U.S. defense forces have $3.6 billion in 200,000 forging dies, according to data from the IHS Haystack Gold parts and logistics management solution.

“When a new product or system is created, all participants in the supply chain come together to design, procure, and ultimately manufacture goods with forged components, “ said Greg Jaknunas, senior product manager, supply chain, for IHS.

“However, as time passes, and the product lifecycle for these goods matures or production entirely ceases, the information flow between the downstream manufacturers and their upstream forge shops disintegrates. Because of that, when a replacement forged part or tooling is needed but cannot be found, it can cost thousands of dollars to produce a substitute.”

Defense industrial base especially vulnerable
The problem of lost dies is particularly acute for the aerospace and defense industry, which must grapple with maintaining the supply of short-lifespan components to support complex military equipment, such as weapons systems that can be in service for several decades. This creates obsolescence issues for replacement parts dependent on a multi-tier supply base, in which critical links are susceptible to supplier failures or diminishing manufacturing sources.

Such issues could be exacerbated if future defense cuts or a looming US fiscal cliff exerts any additional insurmountable duress on such supplier links, separating an otherwise healthy forging industry and its downstream customers. “Supply chain links compromised due to a shrinking defense supply base, or pressures like an economic downturn, can cost millions,” Jaknunas noted.

“However, with an estimated 200,000 records included in the National Forging Tooling Database (NFTD), defense suppliers stand to save billions by tracking and locating lost dies.”

Real facts about forged metal parts
Forged parts are metal components that have been pressed, pounded or squeezed under great pressure into high-strength parts. The process is usually performed by heating the metal to a desired temperature before it is worked. Forged parts are strong and reliable, and therefore are employed in critical applications.

Use of forged metal parts is widespread. For example, a single car may contain 250 forgings, and 40 percent of all truck axle assemblies are made up of forged components, according to the Forging Industry Association (FIA). Earlier in the year, the association noted how forged items are key components to a wide range of market sectors, including automotive, aerospace and defense, as well as the power generation, wind energy, oil and gas exploration, mining and medical markets.

In the aerospace industry, structural, engine and landing gear parts of commercial and military aircraft are forged. In terms of defense, a single tank can contain more than 550 separate forgings. The 120mm gun tube on the M1A2 battle tank is forged. The U. S. Navy’s Aegis Class guided missile destroyers are steered by two forged rudder stocks approximately 20 feet in length and weighing 35,000 pounds each.

Do or die
The cost to replace lost forging dies can be substantial. Furthermore, it can take several weeks or months of production lead time just to locate and, if necessary, reverse-engineer the tooling. Delays can result in substantial costs due to equipment downtime while waiting for parts, and downed equipment can adversely affect mission readiness.

Finding a die in a haystack
To help companies locate lost dies, IHS has captured data into the National Forging Tooling Database (NFTD), which is integrated into its IHS Haystack Gold parts and logistics management solution. The NFTD is a critical obsolescence management tool designed specifically to help organizations quickly and easily search, identify, locate and procure forged metal items, including finding the location of forging dies.
Thousands of tooling identification numbers in the NFTD are linked directly with Haystack Gold’s extensive parts and logistics data, including manufacturer’s part numbers and U.S. Government National Stock Numbers (NSNs).

Organizations that benefit from the NFTD offering in Haystack Gold include:
* US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) supply centers
* US DOD and DOD suppliers
* Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
* Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers
* Machine shops
* Forge shops.

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