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What is a Recreational/Military Ammunition Manufacturer

Company Again Aims for Olympic Gold with Updated Quality System 

This Midwest manufacturer is a supplier of ammunition for the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team, and also has numerous government defense contracts. Although 100% in-process inspection would be impractical in its high-volume production plant, the company has instituted sophisticated data collection of SPC information for each type of ammunition (shotgun shells; .22 caliber rim-fire; and high-caliber, center-fire rifle and pistol cartridges) and “load” made. Twenty SPC workstations, running Quantum SPC software from DataMyte, gather data from extruders, die machines, and loaders, which add the actual shot and gunpowder to the cartridges.

Problem

Although length, diameter, and sidewall variation are critical measurements for ammunition, the most important quality factor is shot and powder weight. An ever-increasing number of setups to cover the varying sizes of ammunition loads in different shells required a sophisticated SPC data collection and analysis system. The company began using DataMyte 953 data collectors and TurboSPC software in the early 1990s. But the company wanted to update it’s in plant network and databases at the same time it switched from DOS the the Windows operating system.

Solution

The TurboSPC network was replaced with DataMyte Quantum SPC/QA software. In addition, as new data collection stations are added, desktop computers run Quantum SPC/DC at the data collection point. Eventually, all the DataMyte 953 workstations will be replaced by computers running Quantum software.

“Powder and shot weight checks take place throughout a typical shift, and the data are collected via PC and distributed through a PC local-area network,” said the company’s senior quality control engineer. “Our quality philosophy is zero defects, and we’re trying to keep our misfire rate in the low parts per million,” he added. “Our government contracts also specify a misfire number that we can’t exceed. If too much shot or powder is added, the gun could explode. Not enough, and you’ll have ‘bloopers.’” 

In-process measurements are a larger part of the company’s plan – to integrate SPC information with computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) and CAD data throughout the plant. “Our goal is to build a perfect shell every time, with no scrap, and to use the minimum of raw materials, said the company’s network systems analyst.

With the help of data-collection software, they are already tracking real-time good vs. scrap rates for each ammunition loader. The company’s goal is to establish system-wide tracking for shot shells, .22 caliber cartridges, high-caliber, and center-fire ammunition.

“Eventually we want to get to the point where real-time quality measurement, CAD specifications, and the raw material used in each design can be tracked in case of recalls or other liability problems,” the analyst said. “We want to be able to track incoming shot, powder, brass, etc. so that we’ll know from SPC data what lot of raw material was responsible for any bad ammunition – that’s not easy when you’re talking about millions of shells and cartridges manufactured each day.”

Faster, better measurements are allowing manufacturers to check quality in small working quarters, over a wider range of products, and with more data distribution capability than ever before. Although the carefully collected and analyzed data are a life saver it defects occur downstream, most manufacturers see in-process gaging and data collection as a way to help produce better quality in the here and now.

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