High Specification Inspection Cell Investment Creates 3 Key Benefits

The volume of high specification work at Stainless Foundry & Engineering (SF&E) has continuously increased. So much so, that high specification nondestructive testing (NDT) was creating a bottleneck in SF&E’s newly improved commercial production line, which prides itself on 4-6-week lead times. The solution, up until now, has been to enlist verified third-party inspection houses that could perform NDT, specifically liquid penetrant inspection (LPI).

Earlier this year, SF&E invested $150,000 to build an internal high specification inspection cell that would circumvent commercial production, reduce lead times, and make castings more cost-effective for everyone involved. Three key benefits were realized as the project got underway: lead time reduction, cost reduction, and employee development.

We spoke with Scott Schwulst, SF&E Director of Manufacturing, to learn more about these benefits.

Lead Time Reduction

SS: Roughly 20-30% of our business is for nuclear or military specifications (high specification). When parts go into our high specification inspection cell, they need initial penetrant testing (PT), repair, PT of dig outs, and PT again after each repair. We have seen a bottleneck with our high specification and commercial work, so we outsourced PT and to a third-party inspection house. Each round of testing would require a turnaround between two and five days.

Our operators can now perform each round of NDT, within one hour, as opposed to the multi-day turnaround. We’ve reduced our lead time, in most cases, from nine days to three hours the entire process.

High Spec Cell

Cost Reduction

SS: Cost reduction goes together with lead time reduction. The less SF&E needs to rely on outsourced partners, the faster the part can pass quality inspections and be ready for shipment.

The same SF&E operators are fully trained to take the raw casting, perform their own dig out, PT their own dig out, weld repair their own dig out, PT the repair, and blend the repair – they are working on the part from start to finish and all work is performed in one specialty area – our high specification inspection cell.

For the $150,000 investment in equipment, training, and certifications, we expect a payback in one year. In addition, we will have the ability to increase capacity as the demand in the nuclear and military markets continues to grow. We are targeting a 10-15% increase in high specification requirements within the next few years.

High Spec Test Cell

Employee Development

SS: In order to make the high specification inspection cell possible, SF&E operators were provided additional training and certification for PT testing. They are now responsible for PT, excavation, weld repair, and final PT and visual inspection (VT) to Level I and II. High specification operators are more experienced operators, with our welders specifically being certified in various alloys and have clearance for electronic signoff for nuclear and military high specification work. Adding these skills and responsibilities means career advancement and pay increases for our employees. For SF&E, it means we have more senior employees with demonstrated skills. A win-win we are happy to invest in. All operators at SF&E have the opportunity to become certified because as high specification requirements grow, we will have the ability to add a second shift and additional personnel.

Our people are the backbone of our business. It can take years to acquire the skills required for high specification and NDT work, so we prefer to invest in our employees to bring them up to that level and provide a career path if they want it.

The inspection cell is made up of weld booths dedicated to high specification work, a PT cell, and a blast station. By bringing the high specification inspection in-house, SF&E can control lead times, costs, and guarantee quality assurance. If you are looking for a reliable high specification partner, contact us today at sales@stainlessfoundry.com.

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