Quality management is a vital ingredient for business success. Regardless of the industry, product, or service, an organisation must maintain a level of excellence in order to flourish. A large part of quality management is centered around balancing consistency with efficiency and productivity. For this reason, quality assurance managers place great value on comprehensive solutions that can address all their needs, and which they can implement throughout a facility or across various sites.

The search for a suitable supplier is not always straightforward, but for Thai machine shop MRP Engineering, the journey to identifying a trusted partner was relatively smooth. Established in 1991, MRP provides a comprehensive range of machining and fabrication services such as welding, hard facing, sandblasting, painting, turning, milling, shaping, grinding, drilling, boring, simulation assembly, and machine installation. The company offers made-to-order products and turnkey projects, and provides repair services for all kinds of machinery.

Today, the ISO-certified company is the proud owner of several portable co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs), which it purchased to cope with new customer demands. Prior to that, the team at MRP had relied on handheld tools such as vernier calipers, micrometers, bore gauges, height gauges, tapper gauges, and dial gauges.

Commenting on the search process that had taken place a few years ago, Krissarakorn Thainoi, QA Division Manager and Assistant QM Representative at MRP, says: “It was quite clear back then that our existing tools were becoming insufficient for our measurement needs. We were using hand tools to measure various dimensions of a workpiece, such as height, length, plane, size, perpendicularity, runout, and straightness. The hand tools were not sufficient when our customers started requiring tighter tolerances from us. We also felt a general need to increase our capabilities to support geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T).”

Quality management across MRP’s full suite of services became a complex affair, as it involved multiple stages of production and various applications across its 320,000sqm factory. To maintain consistency throughout the organisation, the team was keen to have one solution that could adequately address all their measurement needs.

“Our measurement needs are quite varied and spread across the incoming, in-process, assembly, and final stages of production,” says Thainoi. “Application-wise, the measurement work usually involves inspection, alignment, dimensional calculations, calibration, and installation. In addition, our team also requires support in the reverse engineering and design phases of production.”

The objects that MRP work with typically measure 1-4m in length, and weigh anywhere between 20kg and 50 tons. For assemblies and turn-key projects, measurement distances range from 20-30m. The implicit challenge for the QA team was that the solution they selected must be flexible yet accurate enough to handle various types of measurements.

Driven by a sincere desire to improve, the team at MRP scoured the web to find the most suitable solutions available on the market. Their search eventually narrowed, and MRP requested a product demonstration with FARO in 2010, which then led to them progressively investing in FARO solutions over the next five years — an eight-foot FaroArm Platinum in 2011, a FARO Laser Tracker ION in 2013, and an eight-foot FaroArm Prime in 2015.

Since implementing FARO’s solutions, MRP has enjoyed a number of benefits and seen improvements in quality and efficiency levels. Thainoi explains: “Our team now achieves higher levels of accuracy and repeatability. We can confidently tell our customers that measurements are within tolerance levels of 20 microns and 2mm. This change in technology has increased our product quality and consistency across the board. In addition, measurement times have decreased as it’s easier and quicker to acquire data with the FaroArm.”

The FaroArm is an articulated arm – one of the most common portable CMM devices available – equipped with several articulating joints, which allows it to determine and record the location of a probe in 3D space, and to report the results through software. Resembling the form of a human arm, the articulated arm ascertains the position of a probe with the proprietary glass discs called encoders in each joint, and these encoders calculate the probe’s position as the arm moves freely throughout its workspace.

The portability afforded by the FaroArm also meant that MRP could deploy the measurement tool anywhere on the shopfloor, right where production takes place. This is especially useful for the team when working on large, bulky objects that are laborintensive to move, and difficult to position. Thainoi adds: “In fact, we used to spend a lot of time in setting parts up ‘correctly’ for measurement on a machine. With FARO, we’ve managed to gain 50% time-savings, cutting measurement times down from four hours to a mere two hours.”

With turn-key projects and large assemblies, MRP makes use of the FARO Laser Tracker ION to conduct inspections and alignment checks. Laser trackers like the ION offer extremely accurate measurements over long ranges, as they are designed to handle larger working volumes.

Each time it takes a measurement, the device establishes the precise location of a target in spherical space by measuring two angles and a distance. It does so by sending a laser beam to a retro-reflective target, which must be held against the object being measured. The return beam re-enters the laser tracker where the distance to the target can be determined using interferometry or phase shift analysis.

As MRP switched to FARO’s portable CMMs, the company gained access to the world of digital data, which it had not previously possessed. The team can now use computer-aided design (CAD) data for production, from the design phase right through to final product. This capability also enabled MRP to easily provide its customers with reports, generated by the PolyWorks software that helps to process the data.

Today, the FARO devices have become such an integral part of MRP’s production process that the team uses them every day of the week. From Mondays to Saturdays, the team performs measurements the entire day, for up to 10 hours each time. The devices are in use even on Sundays — for four-hour shifts — and on public holidays as well.

“We’ve been using FARO solutions for seven years now and they work well, providing us with exactly what we needed to satisfy our customers,” concludes Thainoi. “FARO stood out from everyone else that we were considering — about seven other companies — mainly because of the rapport we felt with the sales team right from the start. The sincerity, warmth, and genuine desire to help was very evident, and we look forward to a lasting partnership with FARO in the years ahead.”