Numerical laser metrology brings productivity gains for Quebec manufacturer

April 02, 2013— Saint-Jérôme, Quebec

DTAPP support helped Produits de Métal Vulcain adopt numerical laser metrology to measure the large steel frames it manufactures, leading to higher sales and new markets.

With 125 employees, Produits de Métal Vulcain Inc. (“Vulcain”) is an established manufacturer and assembler of high-quality, intricate steel, aluminum and stainless steel components and sub-assemblies for the truck, industrial, construction, recreational and transit vehicle markets.

Known for its ability to manufacture high-quality parts and components for original equipment manufacturers, the firm maintains a broad range of integrated manufacturing capabilities supported by full-service engineering and program management, and is constantly challenging its own operating practices to deliver cost reductions to customers.

In 2012, Vulcain pushed forward with a plan to produce large metal frames for use in massive utility vehicles for Prinoth, one of its new customers. Taking on this new job would require Vulcain to measure complex structures longer than 15 feet with a high degree of precision—a significant challenge for the company, which until then had not dealt with structures of that size.

A digital solution

Vulcain began by using a Faro arm—a coordinate-measuring machine that uses a portable arm—to measure the larger frames. But the arm was designed to measure parts up to about eight cubic feet in size. Using it to measure the utility vehicle frames was slow and not accurate enough.

Enter the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP), an initiative of the National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). DTAPP is designed to help small- and medium-sized enterprises enhance their productivity by adopting digital technology.

“The Faro arm wasn’t the ideal equipment for measuring a frame approximately 15 by 5 by 3 feet in size,” says Hamid Ould Brahim, an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) with NRC IRAP. “The result was a lack of accuracy, a larger risk of error, and a turnaround time that was much too long to be economically viable.”

The solution: numerical laser metrology, a computer-assisted technique that offered a far more rapid and accurate way to measure the larger frames. The company had the resources to invest in the technology, but needed support from DTAPP to train staff in its use.

“The adopted technology really helped the firm to substantially increase its measuring capacity,” says Ould Brahim. “It reduced the measuring time per frame from five hours to just one, with an accuracy of 0.008 inches per 15-foot dimension.” Aside from the speed improvements, the accuracy gains are also significant because the cost of a scrapped frame is estimated at $10,000—a steep price tag for a measuring error.

Jocelyn Roireau, the firm’s vice-president, says Hamid was instrumental to the project’s success. “He validated our choice of technology in terms of return on investment and payback,” says Roireau. “He also helped us structure the DTAPP project, identify obstacles and develop strategies to overcome them, and encouraged us to do some benchmarking before adopting the technology.”

“Without the new device and DTAPP support, we could not have created the new markets that we now have. The project was both relevant and efficient, and our ITA helped ensure it was the right solution for our company.”
Jocelyn Roireau, Vice-President, Produits de Métal Vulcain

Measuring the value of DTAPP

  • Thanks to the project, Vulcain expects to see its sales increase $2 million a year in the next few years
  • The firm expects to increase its market share by at least 5 to 10 percent
  • The payback period on Vulcain’s investment in the new technology is expected to be less than two years based solely on its contract with Prinoth
  • The ability to measure larger components will allow Vulcain to attract new clients

Vulcain also expects the adopted technology to help it control the reliability of some of its other machines, resulting in better productivity and growth potential overall.

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