VOL. 24 September ISSUE YEAR 2023

Cover Page

in Vol. 24 - September Issue - Year 2023
Engineered Solutions for Blast Cleaning and Shot Peening Challenges Yield Best Results and Return on Investment
Mark Warren, General Manager at Clemco Industries

Mark Warren, General Manager at Clemco Industries

Indexing blast cabinet with load/unload robot for complete end-to-end processing solution

Indexing blast cabinet with load/unload robot for complete end-to-end processing solution

i2R process

i2R process

Shot peening cabinet with recipe system and precision turntable for quick changeover and process flexibility

Shot peening cabinet with recipe system and precision turntable for quick changeover and process flexibility

Aerospace cabinet with compact part handling equipment to fit space requirements for cleaning sensitive components

Aerospace cabinet with compact part handling equipment to fit space requirements for cleaning sensitive components

Off-the-shelf equipment purchases alone no longer provide entire solutions for specialized surface preparation challenges requiring abrasive blast cleaning and shot peening. Today’s solutions must incorporate the entire spectrum of upstream and downstream process considerations, including design, fabrication, project management, and production capabilities, so as to ensure that increases to productivity and profitability of the entire manufacturing operation are achieved and maintained. Today, we talk to Mark Warren, General Manager at Clemco Industries, about his experience with developing and implementing engineered solutions.

(?) MFN: Hello, Mr. Warren, thank you for taking the time today for this interview. Can you first tell us about your responsibilities at Clemco Industries?

(!) M. W.: I oversee the company’s industrial products business unit, which provides surface preparation solutions from basic cabinets to rooms with full recovery. We provide solutions to customers in a wide variety of industries ranging from aerospace, medical and firearms, to name a few. We are the global leader in advanced surface preparation blasting and shot peening, and I am responsible for leading the development of comprehensive solutions to improve a wide variety of steel, metallic, and other surfaces for customers worldwide.

(?) MFN: Today, we want to talk about what goes into an engineered solution for abrasive blast cleaning and shot peening challenges and why engineered solutions are so important. To begin with, what exactly is an engineered solution?

(!) M. W.: An engineered solution is a customized surface preparation system that considers factors such as productivity, reliability, and compliance of the cleaning or peening operation as well as integration into existing production processes, specialized part handling or movement, how much automation is needed and even robotics.

Engineered solutions go well beyond the user simply choosing and purchasing what they think will be the right equipment to meet their needs from the available inventory of an equipment provider. Engineered solutions are based on the premise that there are numerous upstream and downstream factors that can impact a customer’s surface preparation challenges which must be identified and considered before a good solution can be developed. These factors are unique for each individual customer’s needs and situation. 

(?) MFN: Why are engineered solutions needed?

(!) M. W.: In some cases, customers may not consider all of these factors, or they don’t know how to solve them. Others may not be thinking about how their blast cleaning or peening operations can impact or be impacted by their entire production process, upstream and downstream. They do not think that these factors will make much difference on the equipment they purchase. Instead, they rely on quote-it, deliver-it, and forget-it vendors of equipment and hope for the best.

Manufacturers in the aerospace, firearms, medical device, and other critical industries rely heavily on automated shot peening to boost the performance and service life of their high-strength metallic products and parts. By not considering all these factors, they are making investments in new equipment that may not result in the maximum benefits to their bottom lines. They need to fix the problems on all levels and manage the project every step of the way so that they get a true long-term solution that delivers a verifiable and desirable return on their investment.

Engineered solutions uncover the true root cause or causes of blast cleaning and shot peening challenges, wherever they may be, even upstream or downstream of the surface preparation operation. Solutions may be discovered that the customer had never conceived of and that may be less expensive to implement. Engineered solutions dig deep to not only address the obvious issues, which often are symptoms of the underlying causes, but also find a solution that solves problems beneath the problem.

(?) MFN: What results can be expected from engineered solutions?

(!) M. W.: Engineered solutions are designed to deliver the highest levels of productivity, performance, reliability, return on investment, versatility, safety, and compliance with the latest environmental and safety regulations governing abrasive blasting activity.  In short, engineered solutions are best for the customer’s bottom line.  

(?) MFN: How is an engineered solution developed?

(!) M. W.: The best engineered solutions require a great deal of experience and collaboration between the solution provider and the industrial user/customer. This means approaching the challenge by asking lots of questions about lots of things the customer never considered and then working together at every stage of the process to design, build, deliver and monitor the desired solution.

Clemco has developed and refined its solution-design methodology into a six-step process called Ideation to Realization. Called I2R™ for short, we have even trademarked this unique approach.

The first step to developing engineered solutions is to assess the customer’s unique needs. Clemco’s engineers apply a system-based approach to understand how a customer’s blasting applications integrate upstream and downstream in the process flow, which helps clarify goals for cost savings, quality improvement, regulatory concerns, and increased productivity. This discovery also explores options for overcoming the challenges - perhaps some that the customer never considered that might even be less expensive. All this discovery with the customer occurs virtually and/or at the customer’s site.

In the second step, i.e. the solution development phase, project managers and engineers from Clemco analyze possible solutions and then ideate with the customer’s engineers and/or team members to develop possible approaches. They continue to collaborate “engineer-to-engineer” until the best solution is identified. This investigation assesses whether new discoveries have altered the scope of the project, and then determines the best concepts to further evaluate, which may include blasting sample parts to gather data in Clemco’s in-house sample processing R&D lab. After analyzing all the data, the Clemco engineering team will recommend the solution that best satisfies the customer’s criteria, in addition to clarifying timelines and costs.

In the third step, Clemco utilizes its in-house fabrication, welding, assembly, automation integration, and manufacturing expertise to build the engineered solution. Clemco’s engineers integrate the electronic controls and diagnostics, automation options, and even robotic technologies where applicable that have been selected for the engineered solution. Then, the blasting solution is rigorously tested and refined at Clemco’s in-house manufacturing and engineering facility.

The fourth step involves validating the solution’s design in a run-off test with the customer at Clemco’s manufacturing facility to ensure the equipment meets all design requirements and identify any issues to resolve. If modifications are required, Clemco makes the required changes and retests the equipment to ensure that it operates per the customer’s specifications, keeping the customer in the loop during the entire process.

In the fifth step, a Clemco’s technician travels to the customer’s facility to supervise the equipment’s initial startup. A technician inspects the completed installation of the engineered solution, then supervises the startup of the engineered solution and instructs supervisors and operators on proper maintenance, operation, troubleshooting, and proper settings for the equipment.

Finally, Clemco provides end-to-end support for the custom-engineered abrasive blasting solution, assuring that the customer’s capital investment delivers the expected results and payback. This includes monitoring the solution’s deliverables, measuring output and costs, and collaborating with the customer to evaluate other key criteria.

(?) MFN: How many engineered solutions has Clemco developed, and have these solutions delivered desired results?

(!) M. W.: Clemco began implementing the I2R solution design methodology in 2021, and since then we have developed more than 100 engineered solutions for customers of all sizes and with a wide variety of needs and budget constraints. From simple modifications to complex designs, we have helped all these customers get a better understanding of their needs and then deliver solutions with consistent results they desire.

For example, an aerospace company needed to save time and put more parts through manual shot peening as part of their engine rebuilding process. These critical parts were also very heavy for workers to lift into place for blast cleaning. Using data from existing process, we designed and installed a customized cabinet to fit the requirements of the customer’s space that also included an automated crane placed on top of the cabinet with a frictionless pivot to lift the heavy parts into place consistently and quickly. The crane is supported by the structure of the cabinet and can lift up to 500 pounds of material. This protected worker’s ergonomic needs while meeting the need for greater efficiency. To develop this process, we visited the customer’s site and observed their operators, space constraints and time logs. Utilizing our engineered solution, the customer now enjoys a strong return on investment and realizes that they can invest more than they previously thought into their surface abrasive blasting operations. They were able to expand their operations for the long term while recouping their investment in the first year.

Another customer in the firearms industry needed a better process for blasting handgun parts. As we began to understand their pain points and needs, we developed an indexing solution that automated components of the process. Although this customer had labor and budget constraints, they began to see that the solution footprint would allow them to invest more because the productivity and the outcomes would justify the capital investment and achieve the production goals they needed while addressing some of their labor challenges.

(?) MFN: How do you define and measure the success of engineered solutions?

(!) M. W.: Return on investment is the big measuring stick, and many things go into determining return on investment. Things like productivity improvement, better scrap metal efficiency rate, better consistency, and other things unique to each customer’s situation.

Most of our customers can improve their productivity output by 200 – 300 percent and improve their scrap efficiency by 50 percent.  They also typically recover their investment within the first year, and then go on to double or triple their investment return in the next couple years. These numbers are validated with the customer in the months and years after the engineered solution is put into operation.

(?) MFN: How do you introduce the concept of engineered solutions to customers when all they want is off-the-shelf equipment?

(!) M. W.: A distributor recently said to us, “why do you ask so many questions when we already know what we want?” The answer is that asking questions is the first part of learning where the real problems and challenges lie with their situation. We walked this distributor through several real time applications and noted the issues that only affect the choice of equipment. Then, we expanded those scenarios involving upstream and downstream issues and asked them what they would do. At that point, the light bulb went on and they understood that the piece of equipment alone would not solve these problems. They were forced to think about things they had not previously considered. Once they get to that point, the value of engineered solutions and the process of developing them becomes important. That is when the customer becomes the hero of the story.

(?) MFN: This is a very impressive process with even more impressive results. Thank you for your time sharing this information with us today.

MFN would like to thank Mark Warren for this interview!

For Information: 

Clemco Industries Corp.

One Cable Car Drive

Washington MO 63090, USA

Tel. +1.636.239-4300

E-mail: custserv@clemcoindustries.com