Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that sourcing custom parts will always be more expensive than selecting standardized, off-the-shelf components, but in many cases that is simply a myth! Several years ago Lutco was contacted by a company producing commercial rolling doors that had grown frustrated with a supplier constantly delivering late, overdesigned bearings. These bearings were a vital component in their rolling door systems; however, the cost per piece was not commensurate with the speed, service, or quality they received and their satisfaction with the supplier had declined. Lutco answered the call and became a trusted partner by developing an improved, higher-quality unitized bearing that resulted in a reduced overall production cost for the OEM as an added bonus.
New Bearing Supplier Rolls Out Opportunities for OEM
A well-known manufacturer of overhead rolling steel doors and closure products used in a variety of commercial and industrial settings was having issues with a supplier, experiencing inconsistent shipments as volumes were increasing. Shipments often arrived late due to a lack of inventory. Despite these issues, the supplier’s prices continued to rise, leading the customer to search for a new bearing supplier that could meet their expectations.
The application required two types of bearings. Thrust bearings are used inside the barrel or tube and mated to a spring, upon which the rolled door winds up – an integral part of the entire assembly. The customer combined off the shelf precision thrust bearings and two thrust races, with centerflange bearings welded to one end of the door barrel or tube. Another centerflange bearing was then mated to a headplate on the other end of the barrel. Finally, a ground bar was necessary to assemble the centerflange bearings. The bearings were installed over a ground bar that had to be cut to size and deburred before assembly to allow it to fit through the bearing bore smoothly.
Lutco’s aptitude for innovative engineering led them to recommend replacing this legacy design with banded thrust bearings rather than the three-piece design used previously, reducing assembly complexity and part numbers while resulting in a component that was better suited to this particular application. After reviewing the potential opportunities for the customer Lutco designed their centerflange bearings with a slightly oversized bore. This enabled the customer to reduce cost by using unground bar rather than the more expensive ground bar currently used. The customer was also able to eliminate the deburring on the end of the cut bar which also saved assembly time and cost.
Custom Bearings and Inventory Management Helps Rolling Steel Door OEM
With a long history of exceptional stock management strategies for customers, the team at Lutco knew they could definitely improve shipping times. However, delivering the parts on time wasn’t enough to meet Lutco’s exacting standards. By reviewing the rolling door bearing assembly, our engineers determined that they could develop cost-effective customized bearings with custom formed metal components, which would allow the customer to eliminate the secondary cutting and grinding operations on the shaft.
Lutco’s aptitude for innovative engineering led them to suggest a custom unitized bearing assembly that would simplify production and reduce labor costs. Instead of having to purchase a standardized part and then changing it, Lutco’s customized option reduced production time and cost for the customer. The new design was a single-piece banded thrust bearing, rather than the three-piece assembly used previously, reducing assembly complexity while resulting in a component that was better suited to this particular application.
Efficient Design and Innovative Engineering Leads to OEM Success
Lutco was also able to keep a dedicated inventory plan with stock available no matter what is needed, which allows the customer to rapidly respond to changes in demand. By keeping a stock of readily-available parts the customer can quickly order just what’s needed to complete urgent orders without relying on an inconsistent inventory or shipping delays from overseas.
This evolution has helped a business that is almost 200 years old to improve legacy products and provide more responsive service to its customers. After witnessing the success of their new bearing design and tailored inventory management strategy, the customer agreed to bring additional parts and assemblies to Lutco, initiating what would become a 13-year relationship of mutual growth and innovation.