4 steps to better press brake management

With the large increase in productivity fabricators have experienced with the advent of faster laser cutting systems, press brake operations have increasingly been considered a key bottleneck on production floors. Many shops are investing in newer press brakes that allow for faster setup times. If that isn’t yet an option for your shop, however, it’s still important to ensure your press brake is running at peak efficiency. Here are four ways in which you can make certain you are getting the most out of your existing system.

If you suspect you aren’t getting the most out of your press brakes, make certain with these four actions:

1. Measure your setup operations and average bending times.

The most basic consideration is ensuring that you know precisely where the most setup time is being spent and how long your bending processes take.

I recommend to people who say they spend 45 minutes setting up a press brake to figure out where that time is really spent. Is the team searching for tools, programming at the brake itself, or doing test pieces? There are answers for each challenge along the way, so it’s important to understand where the shop’s real pain points are before choosing a solution.

2. Apply 5S organization to the press brake.

For those who use lean principles in their shop, adopting 5S practices (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, sustain) at the press brake is the lowest of low-hanging fruit.

The more efficient shops might have pegboards right next to the control panel for all of their measuring tools like protractors and calipers so that they are all properly staged and they don’t have to go searching for them.

3. Organize your tool crib in a consistent manner.

Shops usually group their tools in one of two ways: by material thickness or type of job. The experts recommend choosing one approach and sticking to it. They also recommend that each separate brake has its own set of tools.

I see a lot of people who think sharing tools across a couple of brakes will be a savings for them, and it is a cost savings in the short term. Ultimately, though, I think it hurts them in the long term, unless they have special tools with special radii and lengths.

Stage setups for stage bending is a process that might be a best practice to speed up production and maintain quality part production. There are two advantages to this practice. First, it reduces your handling of the part, which reduces the opportunities for operator error. Second, you get into quite a few parts for which the blank size might not be absolutely correct, which means you have to massage your tolerances for the corners to close up or for the part to be aesthetically pleasing. If you don’t pick up the part and bend it completely in a stage bending setup, you can’t really do that.

Really good operators working with simple enough parts will come up with a setup they can bend multiple parts on, and most operators will lean that way.

That method doesn’t always lend itself to correct scheduling, however. It is becoming more common for one or two experienced operators to prepare setups for all the machines in a shop. However, this isn’t necessarily a good idea because you might have operators standing around waiting for setups. This is why we are getting more customers who are prepared to invest in more advanced technology today; it simplifies setup so you don’t need a skilled operator.

4. Program offline.

One low-cost way of managing setup time is to invest in offline programming for all your brakes.

Offline programming is the biggest low-cost improvement you can do. If you can do that you essentially make even a new job like a repeat job because all the information is there for the operator. Before offline programming we promote using a logbook that would give the operator information on tool setup, side gauges, and other special considerations. With both methods, it’s a matter of making it so the operator can readily repeat each setup so it’s not like reinventing the wheel every time.

Even if your brake can’t receive that information remotely, you still can create a setup sheet from the data. You can select your tooling and essentially create an offline program you can then manually put in the brake that already spells out your tooling setup, flange lengths, and your bend allowance. That beats having to do all your calculations of your bend allowance and ram height on-the-fly.

If you can’t send the offline program information to your brake’s controls because the brake is not equipped for that, it is useful to put an extra computer monitor either on or beside the brake so that the operator can see the tool setup there and repeat it.

Ultimately it’s about doing what you can to give an operator precisely what he needs to set up the job properly.

IMA information:

Italian Machinery Association offers a wide range of press brakes, which can be efficiently organized, like the article above says. Have a look at the Euromac and Vimercati products. Our catalog's range of press brakes from our members can satisfy needs of any manufacturing, from a small job shop to an automated multi-tasking plant.

  • If you are looking for other materials related to bending, please read:

Staged bending boosts bending productivity

Automatic bending operations improve press brake performance

How to set up an old press brake

  • In some cases, the existing machines boost their productivity when setup with new tooling of some of the most popular styles. Please go here to see what Italian Machinery Association can offer.
  • You also might need some repair, installation, re-launch or training services for your existing machines. IMA's maintenance team has enough skills and experience to solve any problem you might have.
  • Any other questions or inquiries? Don't hesitate to contact us via phone/e-mail or visit us in any of our offices.
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