Beyond Speed: Technology in Chain Manufacturing | Laclede Chain

December 4, 2020

Beyond Speed: Technology in Chain Manufacturing

Manufacturers everywhere understand the benefits of technology like automation in improving speed, accuracy, and efficiency. The OEM and tiered suppliers we serve are always improving operations with robotics and equipment enhancements. And while any technology that increases efficiency will benefit our business, Laclede Chain has also been leveraging innovations to enhance our products’ safety and the transparency of our process. 

Providing our customers visibility into the chain making process has always been important to us. Before the 2020 pandemic, we welcomed hundreds of visitors each year to our plants in Maryville, MO and Vicksburg, MS. Then, like businesses everywhere, after spring 2020 we had to find a way to provide our customers with the value of an onsite visit while also keeping them and our team members safe. 

We’ve also perceived a need in the markets we serve for increased traceability in supply chains as businesses everywhere work to insulate themselves against risk. The more transparency we can offer, the more confidently people can use our chain and fittings. 

At Laclede, we’ve implemented and improved two critical pieces of technology to help us deliver greater safety, visibility, and traceability: Hololens mixed reality devices and our proprietary Chainspection software.

Hololens Mixed Reality

When you hear the terms “augmented reality” or “virtual reality,”  you might think of teens playing the latest video games. The Hololens mixed reality device is certified protective eyewear made to withstand industrial environments, and it does something a lot more useful than entertain.

Laclede Chain team members use the Hololens in several ways. First, the Hololens allows them to access documentation and specs when performing maintenance on our manufacturing equipment. While wearing the headset, team members can pull up machine configurations in the viewing field that they can easily reference during repairs. Having documentation at hand helps them work more efficiently to keep our equipment performing for the maximum amount of time at its peak performance, which means accurate tolerances on your chain and shorter turnaround times.

We have also implemented the Hololens in our quality inspection process. Laclede inspectors can access product drawings using the headset, allowing them to reference your chain’s specifications quickly when checking measurements.

Finally, the Hololens is equipped with video recording capabilities and virtual conferencing integration. This means that you can get a firsthand look through the eyes of our inspectors in real-time when they are examining and testing your chain—without ever having to leave your home or office. We recently demonstrated this capability live with one of our customers at the AWRF virtual trade show. You can see the technology in action in the video of our presentation below!

Chainspection: Advancing Chain Data

Chainspection is a proprietary system that tracks our chain throughout the manufacturing process and collects and stores all its relevant data. We developed this system in-house based on the needs of our team and our customers, and we’re continuously making updates and improvements as those needs evolve.

At Laclede, every sixth link of chain is stamped with a unique trace code, and all of our testing data is tied to that code within the Chainspection system. We also attach data from the raw material supplier to each batch of chain’s trace code in the Chainspection system. 

After the chain is made, we test every link of chain twice: once after welding, then again during proof testing. We store all the critical weld data for each link and the force at the proof tester for every pull of double the chain’s working load limit (WLL). All of this data is saved and archived and can be easily referenced using the chain’s trace code in case of an inquiry.

The availability of chain data provides greater transparency in your supply chain, allowing us to support you in identifying root causes should any issues with your product ever occur. 

Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Transparency

The Hololens and Chainspection system are just two examples of how Laclede Chain uses technology to improve our products and your experience working with us. To learn more about our capabilities, or to request a quote for your next order, connect with your Laclede Chain representative online or by phone at 800-325-2699 today!