Don’t throw out that old folding machine just yet

New technology hits the market every day

Remember the thermostats of old? I could never clearly figure out what was the temperature based on the red needle that seemed to dance around over unclear tick marks. And when you adjusted the temperature setting, it always ended up either too hot or too cold. Getting what you wanted was a test in trial and error, and lots of patience.

Digital thermostats have helped us get a better handle on the exact temperature of our living area, and also exactly how many degrees hotter or colder we would like our rooms to be. Technology has given us more control on our lives. But advancements have not stopped there. I remember an acquaintance who I would call an early adopter of new technology bragging to me about upgrading his HVAC systems maybe a decade ago. He boasted about how he could control the temperature of his home at all times. To prove it, he whipped out his cell phone and showed it to me. At first I just thought it was boastful posturing and shrugged him off. But as he talked, he shared how he saved utility dollars by lowering the thermostat before leaving on Christmas break, and then 20 minutes prior to his arrival home, he raised it to a comfortable level so that he was greeted home with warm and comfortable temps. Green with envy, I bemoaned my 20-year furnace and its old technology, wishing I could take advantage of all the conveniences and savings afforded by this technology. Little did I know my old hardware would not have prevented me from enjoying all the benefits of this new system. A simple retrofit kit would have given me access to the same technology. But fear of the new and plain old jealousy kept me from going any further.

Folding machines meet new technology

Schechtl Folding MachinePerhaps not at the same clip, folding machines have also experienced several evolutions: the addition of controls, ability to bend up and down, graphic displays, laser guards, automation and so much more. And similar to my old (albeit working) furnace, while folding machines of old may no longer look shiny and new, they still perform and can accomplish the task for which they were designed: to execute accurate profile bends.

And similar to my dilemma, owning an older folding machine does not necessarily mean you are prevented from taking advantage of new technology. By way of retrofit kits and controller updates, new technology can now merge with old, to add new life to folding machines. Manufacturers can reap the benefits of these new advancements of improved efficiencies and reduced operating costs with their existing folding machines.

Increase efficiency

When it comes to folding machines, manufacturers worldwide face several similar issues:

  • Idle folding machines whittle away profitability. The more time operators spend entering profiles or figuring out bend sequences, the less time operators are running parts.
  • The diminishing pool of qualified operators means the need to hire untrained personnel and train on-the-job.
  • More inexperienced operators mean higher expenses in time and money for training, and also reduced efficiency and a higher rate of mistakes. All of which equates to lower profitability and higher probability of customer dissatisfaction.

Technology has provided manufacturers the opportunity to improve their workflow. By building links between ERPs and their folding machines, fabricators can now move the task of profile entry from operators to CSRs. This allows operators to do what they do best: run parts, and keep the production floor running smoothly.

With less time spent on administrative tasks, operators also have more time to impart their wealth of knowledge to a younger generation. And, with many other advancements such as auto sequencing and step-by-step graphic instructions, newer and less-skilled operators can also be productive while receiving on-the-job training.

Improve communication and reporting

It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to question the profitability of their trim shops. As they focus on larger more pressing issues, it’s easy to neglect the operations of their trim shop. Over time, this neglect could spiral into chaos and doubt. Reporting is suspect at best, and the manufacturer no longer has a clear and accurate picture of operations, production and profitability.

Expanding on the ERP integration that can improve efficiency, this integration can include accounting, shipping, materials management and more. With a nod to Industry 4.0, the introduction of controls and IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) has given the manufacturer visibility into all aspects of the business as never before. These new reporting tools allow manufacturers mission-critical insights into downtime, productivity, inventory, scrap and much more. With a clearer picture of how things are actually running, manufacturers can make better informed business decisions.

Improve accuracy, reduce errors and operating costs

PathfinderSimply put, by eliminating the need for multiple data entry points, manufacturers reduce the opportunity for errors. Technology has also given rise to useful tools such as manufacturability testing and crash detection for folding machines, which helps manufacturers catch design problems before they hit the production floor. Common mistakes such as incorrect dimensions or parts folded with paint on the wrong side can be eliminated. Plus, with the production of consistently accurate parts, labor and scrap costs can be reduced.

As an added bonus, technology has made it possible to produce accurate parts consistently, regardless of who is running the machine. By way of guided step-by-step instructions, even a novice operator can produce good parts.

Are you ready for an upgrade?

Just as technology upgrades to our HVAC systems developed over time, evolution happens in stages, and definitely not overnight. Acceptance of new technology also happens in stages, and should include consistent training and support.

If you are considering a folding machine upgrade but are unsure if it’s the right decision for your business, we’ve created a quick guide to help you with your decision making.

Download Guide

About AMS Controls
AMS Controls provides a complete production management system and machine controls for manufacturers of panels, purlins, trim, studs and more. Since 1977, AMS Controls has sold 12,000+ controllers worldwide.

Industry leaders have chosen AMS Controls’ complete production management system to optimize the manufacturing of panels, purlins, trim, studs and structural products. Our controllers have been used with multiple leading folding machines including: Jorns, Schechtl, RAS, Roper Whitney, Bradbury and more. For more information on AMS Controls, visit