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.


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

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