When you just don’t know

I’m interrupting the ASTM A 484 conversation to bring you this:

When you don’t know, you just do not know. And, that is OK. Let me explain.

So. At about 3:00 in the afternoon, it was brought to my attention that a LOT (several thousand pounds) of material was “in quarantine.”

In my world, quarantine is unsaleable material. As in, THIS CANNOT BE SOLD AS IS.

Yes. All caps.

Yes. Oh Damn.

I have a great end of the day happening right here. Right now (to take a phrase from Van Halen / Van Hagar depending on how you wish to interpret. – Oh, and a shout out to my East Coast Short Timer that is a HUGE Van Halen fan. Yep, you know who you are.)

In my line of work, we have specific part numbers created for customers for a variety of reasons. Those reasons could be finishes, conditions, tolerances, mills or even none of the above. If the material falls into the “none of the above” category, its usually because their demand exceeds the norm and we just gotta have it in stock to make the sale.

All of this is just fine if, as the buyer, you know the history.

Welp. You guessed it. This buyer (specifically me) didn’t know the history.

Material comes in over standard tolerances. Like 0.297″ (yes, of an inch) over tolerance.

Material was rejected by customer.

Oh well, damn. Why, oh why, now after four plus years?

So, I put on my over thinking it cap (remember, I just like to be thorough, I have more time in a day for this kind of shyte than I have budgeted). I make a call.

Then another.

And another.

The standard OD tol is 0.0030.

The material is +/- 0.30.

Wow.

Most would say, “Insignificant figure(s)!!!”

But when machining… those insig’s are time. And money.

At first, honestly, I thought -“it’s a typo” as we went from a legacy system to an ERP system. Maybe an error on the flat file upload.

Nope. That would have been awesome if that were the case.

After the calls, this material “part” was created using a hot finish OD tolerance, way before I got here.

During the downturn of oil and gas, I brought this in for this customer using a standard part (just to make my life easy at the time), with the normal standard OD tol of 0.0030.

Oil and gas began its increase in demand for specialized material last fall, and I freaking suggested to order to specific parts to make sure we had the material to supply demand (Thanks Econ 2301 for explaining that curve).

So Sales did as asked.

I didn’t know that when the part was created in the ERP that a hot finished tol was used. I cannot “see” that when I input.

I did not ask to see the PO from the customer.

Is it a big deal? Yes. I mean, as in “Hell yes!”, it is a big deal.

That overage is time. That overage is money. When a bar, whether it is a straight pull (guys just grab inventory and measures the length, pack and ship) or if it is a cut length (pull the bar, input a set up on the saw for a cut length, file down the roughs, pack and ship) there is time and/or processing on our side as the supplier. I’ve not begun to touch on what happens at the end user, but I would imagine it goes as this:

Receiving gets the cut pieces or bar and mics the OD. Since the OD is over tolerance, the piece or bar is rejected.

Time spent: 1

The rejection goes to quality.

Time spent: 2

The QM goes to buyer.

Time spent: 3

Buyer sends to Engineering.

Well. If you know engineers like I know engineers……..we can’t measure that time. When engineers (gawd love higher education, really) look at material, most of the time, there is a bill of materials (BOM) involved, then a drawing, then the project, the the finished piece. And then evaluation of purchased cost, correction cost of time and materials vs finished part.

Well. I may be on the bad side of that final evaluation of what most view as insignificant figures.

Hello, Quarantined material.

Let me just say that I have an awesome relationship with the inside sales rep that is working hard to save my ass.

There is a first time for everything I suppose. Since I have now, I know, I mean I KNOW as a new(ish) buyer, you may encounter this same problem in your day. Someday. Maybe.

So. What have ya learned?

I leave you with this….

“Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something” Unknown

Let’s chat about finish ASTM A484 Part 2)

Well, let me be brutally honest with you. Years ago (seems like a lifetime to me), I began my career in purchasing in the valve business. I was voluntold for the position. The company I worked had gone thru an acquisition. A pretty positive thing for sure. But the Gent that was the purchasing guru of the “high end valves” (Monels and Titaniums), wasn’t keen on learning a “new system”. My job was to take an email that he sent to me with the quote request in the body, and attach drawings so that the manufacturer or vendor could produce the valves, by pouring or casting.

Yep. Attaching docs in an email is pretty difficult. Thank you Microsoft Engineers for drag and drop feature/function today.

This guy tho, pushed every button I had. He made me laugh. He made me so angry I couldn’t see straight. He made me cry tears of anger and frustration. I walked out of two meetings because he was a jackass. A total jackass. But he taught me much about purchasing and most importantly how to read a standard. His advice – “Peg, print it, mark out the BS, hilight the important words. Read the highlighted part. You’ll get it.”

I smoked (shudder, I have since quit) lots of cigarettes over this guy.

Let’s fast forward almost twenty years. Pete, I love ya, Bud, but it is just a skosche more than that.

Where I come from, my early days days in my career, finish wasn’t something that was taught to me. Hell, standards weren’t taught to me, really, until I landed where I currently sit. Oh, the standards have always been there, but within an internal material specification. My mill contacts knew those standards, and held my hand more times than not when I had to ask a question of said standards for the sales team (remember to utilize resources- can’t stress that enough. Mill reps and mill contacts are huge, BIG resources in your day).

It worked. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy (cred to Douglas–hope all is well with ya, Darlin).

Oh! But then I landed here. And honestly, up until about eighteen months or so ago, A484 made my eyes cross and glaze. You know what I’m talkin’ about? Deer in headlights. Times a bazillion.

A downturn in the primary economy in which one works will force one to learn it, ask questions, use it, rinse and repeat. Not to mention a co-worker that reminded me regularly, “Peg, dammit, you know this!!!”

Sometimes, one just needs affirmation. Ya know?

So I am going to explain as I understand it. Let me repeat that

As I understand it.

If you, Dear Reader don’t understand it, call a lifeline (5 minute rule exercised here).

If you, Dear Reader think I’m wrong, please comment (nicely- no haters here, please) because I am the keeper of keys and grounds here and I can edit.

The above statement is my sort of disclaimer. I have a mill rep that is absolutely awesome and I can already hear his eyes roll. Then there’s my immediate supervisor. He has forgotten more than I know on this subject. More actually, and he will be mentioned in future posts, I am sure of it.

So. What are we talking about? Oh yes. Finish. ASTM A484.

Technically, the standard says that finish is pretty much the surface of the metal and tolerances when that stainless steel bar ex mills (jargon for shipping from the mill). One knows the finish by the thermomechanical process used in producing the stainless bar (see the previous post).

Ok. Reading that again makes my head ache. But the Reader’s Digest version, as I understand it – the tolerances of the diameter of the bar (remember, my world is round).

Oh, there’s all kinds of finishes. Here’s a few: pickling (deleted for clarification in previous post), rough turned, centerless grinding, straightening, polished, peeled and polished, and the one that caused me lots of grief to wrap my head around, the infamous “cold drawn (or working) but not to increase mechanical properties” – (ASTM standard A484, 3.1.3.2)

Note on cold draw not increase properties – It is my goal to be able to explain that one so that it can easily be understood. I am so not there yet. Sorry Kids.

Really, tho, in day to day ordering of stainless bar, I can make it super simple.

Remember these three:

Cold finished (usually abbreviated by CF)

Hot Finished (usually abbreviated by HF)

Rough Turned (usually abbreviated by HF and is basically the same as HF. Made ya look).

Oh, there’s lots of jargon in the biz. I have found that the jargon is usually used when creating a description because ERP systems/ programs have a field for “description”. I have to tell you honestly, those descriptions helped in the early learning of stainless because for me, I didn’t have to know numbers. Going thru doc review (shout out to my qual guys), I am surprised at what I didn’t think I knew but did know because I have read it a bazillion times.

Some of the jargon you may see: CFA – Cold Finished Annealed condition

CDA – Cold Drawn Annealed condition

HRART – Hot Rolled Annealed and Rough Turned

HRRT – Hot Rolled Annealed Rough Turned

CG – Centerless Ground

And the completely explanatory

Peeled and Polished.

Gotta give a high five and fist bump to my mill guy, Kev. You know who you are.

I will discuss tolerances that result from the finishes in the next post.

For now tho, I leave you with this:

“Quality in a service or product is not what you out into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” Peter Drucker

** Comments are appreciated and welcomed. Please tho- this is a no hate zone and intended to assist those coming behind me. I had and still have awesome resources that have struggled to help me understand. Because of those individuals, I am better than I really am.

Tolerance. In steel, it’s called ASTM A484

Tolerance is in short supply with me, especially lately. Traffic, people that drive the speed limit in the “fast lane”, airport security lines Oh! and waiting for Whataburger to deliver to the driver’s side window…

You get me. These are real struggles.

Oh wait. I’m not talking about the willingness to put up with something before driving yourself crazy, I’m talking about TOLERANCE as in the allowed variation in dimensions.

My world is round, especially in bar. I have remarked over the years that I do not subscribe to that flat world theory, but I have had to play the part a few times in a pinch (insert big shout out to my Cali and Dallas sales gals that have held my hand repeatedly when I had to brave this road less travelled). In my world, those tolerances are governed by ASTM A484.

ASTM A484 is all about bar conditions and finishes. Today tho, its just conditions. I’ll get to finishes later.

Conditions are determined by the last part (or parts) of what happens when bars are made that gives an idea of what the metal will be when it leaves the mill. The big word to describe this “part” is thermomechanical processing.

Wow. That’s a mouthful. But all it means is that the bar has had some sort of temperature put to it (the thermo part) with a machine or some sort of machinery shenanigans (the mechanical part).

And here’s that laundry list of things that are considered thermomechanical processing:

Hot worked, hot worked annealed, annealed, cold worked, hot worked quenched and tempered, normalized and tempered.

EDITED… pickling is not a condition. It is a finish which is discussed in ASTM A484 part 2. My apologies for having used that in this post. I have removed it for the purpose of staying within topic.

Why’s it important to know this? Well, in a word, because conditions influence the mechanical properties of the material — hardness, yield, tensile. The widgets of the world are manufactured knowing that a specific grade of metal will hold up to the stresses of the job– whatever job that widget has to do. Think of the widgets in your life. Screws, handles, espresso machines, cars, click pens – metal has to hold up to the repetition of use.

I leave you with this–

“Success is a science, if you have the conditions, you get the result.” Oscar Wilde

Back to the ol’ routine of things

Hey!!! Yup. It’s been a bit. Why? Well, I could go on and on about this or that with a sprinkling of that also, but nope. Just haven’t made the time.

What’s the line from the Steve Miller Band song (shout out to my dino rockers!) “Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future!”

For me, time doesnt slip. It hauls ass.

Today’s post is a recognition of time is a precious commodity that demand far exceeds supply.

Two weeks ago school started for Thang 3. He’s a junior this year. Wow. How’d that happen and why did I let this baby grow up so fast? Mom’s know how crazy back to school can be. Clothes. Supplies. More clothes. Supplies exceeding anything I ever used in school. I thought I was going to be ahead of the game this year (see previous post of my attempts of planning).

Thursday before school is to start the following Monday, I’m reminded of my epic fail at this when I receive an email from 3’s counselor- “Can’t wait to see you Monday!”

Wait. What?!?!

For those that don’t know this already, Amazon (I do not receive monies for this plug), is a time saver. Over lunch, soon after reading that email, clothes and supplies ordered, arriving in 24 to 48 hours (it pays to be Prime sometimes).

Kid dressed to the 9’s, Day 1 of school – check.

Thang 2 is getting married in November. To stay in touch with that date… handy dandy app for that countdown

As the mother of the groom, I have to wear something more appropriate for this formal affair than shorts, my favorite rock concert T shirt (right now its GNR-thanks to my best gal pal for scoring that one for me) and flip flops. Part of that requirement is just the event and venue itself, the other part is the bride. She is a doll BTW. She firmly but gently reminded me I need to go dress shopping. And soon.

So Friday before the holiday we went. First shop, two dresses, selection and purchase made. All I can say is “HURRAY FOR MY SIDE!”

This evening I had full intentions of a blog worth reading for those in steel, especially for those up and coming, curious to learn and to apply knowledge when possible. Instead, I planned.

I’ll say it again.

I planned.

My direct supervisor would be pleased as punch to hear me say that! (Creds to ya, Pops, I have heard and heeded some of your wisdom.)

In the blogs coming, I hope to bring some organization (that word again) to the page that will be helpful. Its a big hope, I know. For those following, send me a note and tell me what you may like to see. As time hauls ass into the future, the site may change a bit for clarity and organization (oh damn, that word), so please be patient.

I leave you with this….

“Time is not measured by the passing of years, but by what one does, what one feels, and what one achieves.” Jawaharlal Nehru

F899. Doesn’t apply to everything

Today, post is short but just a smidge under hill airy ess (those that know me, that’s hilarious).

Balancing goods received to invoices is the bane of my exisitance (a favorite phrase of a dear colleague that has moved onward and upward). Recall the blogs post regarding material specifications? Um yeah. This is related to that.

F899 is typically a material specification for medical stuff. You know, knee replacements, hip replacements, joint pins- ya get me- stuff that makes our toes curl.

Steel like stainless and titanium and chrome molly stuff has to be certified to ASTM F899 or it’s a big no can do. And usually small diameter stuff- less than 3.00 inches diameter stuff.

Look at your cell phone and think smaller than that width, but a round. Yeah. Medical. Surgery. The human body.

Yeah. So I have an invoice from a vendor that had to evaluate an MTR. The material the invoice referenced is 17-4 large diameter (like over eight inches diameter) round bar.

Welp, I would argue and say there’s not a surgeon willing to use an over eight inch diameter anything for either a surgical instrument or a replacement for anything.

I could be wrong, and I would stand to be corrected, but in this particular instance I don’t need this bar to be to F899.

I’m not going to pay it until I get further clarification from those who know way more than I.

Buyers in any industry are not sales folks. I have a healthy respect for inside sales and outside sales in any industry, and especially steel. The objections that those cool cats have to overcome in a day totally get an “atta way to go” and many times over a high five from me. I could not do it.

But it has been my career to know as much as I can about my industry to know what mill to go to provide the best material and in this case, know a smidge of a material specification to keep the costs reasonable.

When I don’t know, I take advantage of my resources to find out.

Remember:

Dumbledore told Harry that “help will always be given at Hogwarts for those who ask for it” (JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Book 7).

Surround yourself, regardless of your career path with those more than willing to help you while you are on your journey. I have been more than fortunate to have have several mentors in my career-those people that have forgotten more than I will ever know.

Project (as in tackle something) or Project (as in outward of something else)

In my professional and personal self, regardless of which meaning chosen, I pretty much suck at both. I have endless lists about with all sorts of projects from New Year Resolve to Be’s (a project always under construction) to Readying for the Holidays.

In case you didnt realize, that pretty much captures anything and everything in the year.

And I have lists to better organize my day(s) personally and professionally. I have to admit, as much as I attempt, I have one internal list that trumps them all, and I do as I’ve always done – the relaxing 30 minutes or followed by the mad dash to get out the door to the officiana. On the drive in, I am a spur of the moment kinda gal-stop for coffee or don’t, take this route or that one, stop for snacks at the office for later, well, okay, that one is determined by a real need as in “will I snack on what I already have or not?”.

BTW- I can project things- tho I am a girl, I don’t throw like a girl.

I have the best boss a gal could have. He shares his knowledge of the biz, he’s supportive but firm, and he knows I work best under hard deadlines. And he knows I really am fearful of projects as in PowerPoint sort of projects. He probably knows that right now, I am freaking out on this project that I have to have completed tomorrow (I have sorta started on it – I got the ideas at least), and I will get it finished. It will be fine.

But until it all comes together, I am going to fret for another oh, seven or eight hours. And try to catch some sleep during small fret breaks.

Which brings me to this- do not underestimate the value of a relationship.

I am successful at what I do because I work internally with some really great people. I work with externally really great people. While I am working at my position, I have relationships with folks that work in their positions. We work together like a finely oiled machine. Together, we achieve success because we know the capabilities of each other, and we know when to reach out, ask a favor and get the favor returned.

It’s that “You do me a solid, I do you a solid”.

My project is all about a solid being done for me and me returning that solid. Well, that’s simplified. I have to show the financial value of the solid, the ease of making the solid work if something changes, and the return of investment, and more stuff that really should have a few charts, graphs and a flow chart or two would be nice.

See, I have it in my head.

How do you put all that in a nice PowerPoint with a cool ass big bow?

I leave you with this-

“I speak to everyone the same, whether the garbage man or the president of the university.” Paraphrased Albert Einstein

Just the spec, please.

Ah yassss.  Specs — or specifically (no pun intended) material specifications.  Those requirements that material must meet before I can even think of inspecting and receiving into inventory.  Those tweaks of temperature in heat treating, those transverse and inverse charpy requirements and that hardness requirement that makes the audience of the market (and sales) sing praises of buyers and producing mills (a very rare occurrence, just so ya know, it doesn’t happen).

Today, I had a very past due invoice in my inbox awaiting to join me for coffee this morning.  And the world within my organization was in copy.   Those are always fun emails to read.  Really gets the day off to a phenom start.   By the time I finished reading  several “chimed in” and added to the growing email string.

Let me start out by saying — This would have been avoided if almost two years ago, I had ordered the  material to include a “spec” callout.

Material specifications, for lack of better words, are the recipe of how material is bought, and what requirements the material must meet.  The requirements serve to protect the integrity of the inventory.   There’s exceptions, sure but for the most part, not so much.

When I ordered this material, there’s not really a spec, and that material had to meet a min yield strength of 130 (more on MYS later).  I called a few of the mills that I knew could produce it, and went on my merry way.  I gave sales pricing and ex mill (when the material would leave the mill).  I was so freaking efficient, I got this done and done in a short time.  Sales offered the customer and bagged the sale.

I ordered the material.  18,000 lbs of material.  Long, pretty shiny bars were delivered about four and half months later.  I’m looking at the MTR (material test report — more on that later) and a pretty important test is missing off the MTR!  I mean, I’m talking so important that this can’t be sold without it — the freaking American Express of testing!!  All I can think is  “Did I ask for this on the quote?  Was it on the inquiry when it was sent back to me?  Please oh please tell me its there!!”

No.  It was not.  I didn’t ask for it.  What a rookie mistake.  But I wasn’t a rookie.  I’ve been doing this ordering steel stuff for about eighteen years.

This specific testing had to be performed at the producing mill or the material cannot be sold.  I have the equivalent of paperweights.  Hmmm.  Yeah.  Paperweights.

I ordered and received 18,000 lbs of worthless material, worth approximately $225,000.00 USD.  I tellya, I was over the moon excited to call my reporting supervisor and clue him in on my super huge mistake.  Fortunately for me, I was able to negotiate sending the material back to the mill for the testing, but at an additional cost.

So those that are new to buying steel — when you are told you need a quote for material and “there’s no spec”– argue with them.  While I was able to get the testing completed, it added another three months on the delivery to our customer.  Real positive move there.  And this time, it WAS the buyer’s fault.

In my world, there’s at least these:

ASTM A276

ASTM A479

ASTM A484

ASTM A582

I leave you with this —

“Have you ever found anything that gives you relief?  Yes, a drink.”  EB White, The Second Tree from the Corner