The Hidden Costs of Mechanical Contact-Type Encoders
Over the years, we’ve encountered organizations that still look at the initial cost of purchasing a measurement system as a key determinant to selecting a solution – only to realize later that they’ve been giving away profits. For example, measurement systems such as wheel tachometers and other contact-type encoders look very appealing because of their low, initial price point. While they do an adequate job of measuring the length and speed of products during production, most mechanical contact-type encoders only provide a measurement accuracy of 0.5% or higher; greater than 1.0% error is common. This is because contact-type measurement systems make physical contact with the moving product. And when this occurs, there’s bound to be slippage, debris build-up on wheels and mechanical issues. In addition, contact-type encoders require frequent calibration. It’s common for organizations to check contact systems two to four times per year to improve the accuracy. This degree of inaccuracy carries many implications which directly impact your production efficiencies and bottom line. The ideal length and speed measurement technique is a non-contact method, such as LaserSpeed Pro, that directly tracks the material length and speed.
Non-Contact Measurement Paves a Better Path to Enhancing TCO and Delivering ROI
Understanding the savings and cost structure of why you should move from a contact-based measurement system to a non-contact length and speed solution is critical if you are to accurately project improvements and realize total cost of ownership (TCO) and investment returns. To help you with this process, we’ve outlined some direct and indirect benefits you can expect by implementing the LaserSpeed Pro non-contact length and speed measurement system.
Direct Benefits of Non-Contact Length and Speed Measurements
- Reduce Product Shortages and Overages – since tachometers or wheel encoders make physical contact with the product, they are prone to slippage due to dirt, debris, lubricants and bounce on the moving surface. This causes the measurement device to report that there is more (or less) product being processed than there actually is. The LaserSpeed Pro directly measures product length and speed with better than ±0.03% accuracy and ±0.02% repeatability to effectively control production processes. Since LaserSpeed Pro can be used at any point in the production process, its high measurement capability enables manufacturers to accurately track the exact product length to significantly reduce any shortages and give-away.
- Decrease Product Waste – measurement inaccuracies with mechanical contact encoders can cause a number of in-process issues with certain production and finishing operations. Because of the high accuracy in measuring product length and speed, the LaserSpeed Pro enables manufactures to tightly control various aspects of the production process, such as continuous length at the slitter/rewinder station, differential speed control during lamination operations, cut-to-length operations, product positioning, part length tolerancing, printing and coating application control. This level of accuracy ensures the product is being processed to exact production requirements for ultimate customer delivery. It also means fewer manufacturing issues that require costly rework and ultimately less waste.
- Increase Product Quality – contact measurement systems can mark or damage the product. Because LaserSpeed Pro uses a non-contact approach to measure product length and speed, it does not touch the product. This eliminates any marking or damage to the product, enabling manufacturers to control quality and ensure product is not deviating from production requirements designed to meet customer quality expectations.
- Cut Down Maintenance – contact encoders are mechanical devices with moving parts that requiring regular servicing and recalibration. Common issues include wheel wear, debris build-up and mechanical failure. The LaserSpeed Pro is factory calibrated and has no moving parts to wear out. It uses 100% solid-state digital technology, minimizing the need to regularly replace parts and recalibrate the system.
- Minimize Downtime – when a mechanical contact encoder requires servicing for parts replacement, cleaning, recalibration or another issue, this translates into production downtime. Depending on your operation, the shutting down of your production line for servicing a piece of equipment can cost you significantly. Since the LaserSpeed Pro uses laser-technology to perform measurements, there is no potential for mechanical failure. Factory calibration also ensures high dependability to maximize production uptime.
- Lower Overall Cost of Ownership – when compared to mechanical contact encoders, LaserSpeed Pro delivers the following TCO benefits: improved system reliability from consistent and reliable performance, increased productivity from dependably measuring more product over the long term, lower operating costs from reduced set-up time and calibration requirements and lower maintenance costs due to the non-contact design and no moving parts.
Indirect Benefits of Non-Contact Length and Speed Measurements
When calculating the ROI of implementing LaserSpeed Pro into your production environment, it’s just as important to consider indirect benefits as direct ones. Companies that overlook indirect benefits when calculating the ROI could end up forgoing a competitive advantage, since indirect benefits can provide real business value.
- Leverage LaserSpeed as Competitive Differentiator – With today’s highly competitive landscape, every profit-minded organization needs to take advantage of technological opportunities that provide a real competitive edge for the long term. Employing LaserSpeed Pro in your production operation communicates to customers that you’ve invested in the most advanced technology for accurately measuring product length and speed. This is a key advantage that you can use to market your production capabilities and services over competitive producers. Implementing LaserSpeed Pro also communicates that you place a high priority on quality control to ensure the customer receives the highest quality product that meets their specified dimensional and performance requirements.
- Meet Customer Procurement Requirements – Customers demand that manufacturers and converters meet or exceed production, quality and delivery requirements as specified in the procurement order. Anything that deviates from the customer’s expectation can cause considerable problems in the vendor-customer relationship – if not corrected. To remain a preferred vendor, it’s to your advantage to closely control expectations and the outcome of produced goods. Implementing LaserSpeed Pro on your production line ensures you precisely control the length and speed of product for a range of applications.
- Increased Worker Productivity – The use of LaserSpeed Pro can also have a positive effect on productivity. LaserSpeed Pro is a very dependable measurement system that delivers repeatable, high-quality performance and requires very little employee interaction on the production floor. It's also easy to setup and operate, and offers expansive connectivity enabling communications with a wide range of process equipment. This translates into certain worker and production efficiencies. Increased worker productivity means that employees are doing their jobs in less time, enabling the company to avoid overtime conditions and the cost of hiring additional employees.
What Does The Business Case Look Like in Financial Terms?
Now that we’ve looked at the direct and indirect benefits that the LaserSpeed Pro can bring to your production operation, let’s look at how to calculate your savings and ROI. The formula is simple and requires the following information:
- Current encoder accuracy
- Current line speed
- Cost per unit length of material
- Hours of operation per day
- Days of operation per year
Accuracy x Line Speed x Product Cost x Operation Time per Year = $ Cost Savings
Calculating Your Savings with LaserSpeed Pro
The following case study walks you through an example savings calculation.
Case Study -- A manufacturer of rolled goods needed a more reliable way to control the speed of its trim line and reduce scrap while producing sheets. The line speed measurements were used to set the appropriate cut length of the product. The contact wheel encoders were producing numerous errors due to mechanical wear, tension changes caused by friction, slippage, web breaks and downtime from calibration. Errors ranged from 1% to 2%. The production parameters are as follows:
- Current encoder accuracy – 1.5%
- Average line speed – 210 ft/min
- Operation 22 hours/day, 355 days/year
- Product cost – $0.06/ft
The cost of measurement inaccuracy to the manufacturer is:
0.015 x 210 x 60 x 22 x 355 x $0.06 = $88,500/year (Total give-away or scrap per year)
The manufacturer implemented the LaserSpeed Pro and achieved a higher cut-to-length accuracy from direct laser measurement, reduced a significant amount of scrap and decreased costly downtime due to encoder recalibration. With a measurement accuracy of ±0.03% and repeatability of ±0.02%, LaserSpeed Pro offers the manufacturer a potential savings of $86,794 per year.
(0.015 -.0003) x 210 x 60 x 22 x 355 x $0.06 = $86,794/year (Total savings)
The manufacturer’s return on investment is realized in less than two months.
In the current fiscal economy, organizations find themselves evaluating all conceivable means to increase productivity, improve quality and gain a competitive advantage. Implementing the LaserSpeed Pro non-contact length and speed encoder in your production operation is one of the key ways to accomplish these goals. LaserSpeed Pro is the best long-term investment you can make at your plant. Its high-precision product length and speed measurements will help you effectively reduce waste during production and increase capacity which ultimately improves your productivity and product quality. You’ll quickly realize a return on your investment in a matter of weeks. Don’t settle for costly measurement inaccuracies anymore and try LaserSpeed Pro today. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll be on the road to higher profitability.
Click here for more information on LaserSpeed Pro.
If you're trying to measure small, bouncing and unguided moving cylindrical products such as wire, rod and tube, check out our LaserSpeed Pro M Series gauge.