Department of Mathematics

Jet Engineering


Scheduling a Precision Forge in a Lean Manufacturing Environment *

Jet Engineering, Inc. is one of the few companies in the world capable of producing precision, near-net shape forgings (near final part dimensions) from what have come to be known as the "super-alloys" --- titanium, cobalt-chrome, and other non-ferrous metals, as well as a number of types of stainless steel. These materials are ideally suited where high strength, light weight, exceptional durability, or non-corrosive-ness are required; this includes such wide-ranging applications as orthopedic implants, aerospace, automotive, and sports equipment.

Consider, for example, the production of a typical orthopedic implant. A billet of super-alloy is cut to shape (cylindrical, prismatic, or other simple solid), then precision forged, finished, and packaged. Our concern is the precision forging process, which consists of heating and forging the billet.

Currently, the detailed operation of a forge station is determined by the experience of the operator. The operator intuitively determines how many billets are placed into which furnace, for how long, and how this activity is coordinated with the operation of the forge which involves loading a heated billet, striking the billet one or more times (in the vernacular, one or more "blows"), and extracting the forged part.

The project is to analyze and optimize the detailed operation of the forge station in the context of a lean manufacturing environment. This means developing a lean schedule for the station processes so as to ensure that the lot in question is produced in the least amount of time. (For more information on lean manufacturing, see www.nwlean.net.)

The completed project deliverable would be a recommendation for the detailed operation of the forge station for a given part (to be specified by Jet at the start of the project). Ideally, the recommendation would be derived from a computer model (implemented as an Excel spread sheet for example) that would allow Jet engineering personnel to perform what-if analyses of the recommended schedule as well as develop similar lean schedules for other parts.

The manager for this project will be Eric Torng, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering.

*This summary prepared by R. E. Svetic with the assistance of J. E. Thomas, Safety, Health & Environmental/Training Manager, and B. E. Leyrer, Vice-President, Manufacturing Director, Jet Engineering, Inc., Lansing, MI.

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