Equipped to Win a Gold Medal in Manufacturing
Last month’s Winter Olympics had the world enamored with all of the attributes that comprise a worldclass athlete—speed, agility, flexibility and, perhaps most important of all, commitment. These same attributes can be found among worldclass manufacturers. The lean-manufacturing article featured in this issue (contributed by Salvagnini executive Ricky Hanson) discusses this very subject, and offers descriptive definitions of these terms as they relate to manufacturing. Here’s my take:
Speed—to quickly move from quote to order to ship to cash. And, speed also means outpacing your competition when it comes to scaling up to handle new work.
Agility—market demands change on a dime. Lead time from a key customer can suddenly get crushed, from perhaps 10 weeks to 10 days on a critical project. Planning, scheduling and execution separate gold-medal winners from bronze.
Flexibility—Hanson calls this “the ability to make any part, any minute.” It allows companies to adapt rapidly—and cost effectively—to evolving market needs.
I’ve just completed interviewing incoming PMA Chairman Jody Fledderman, president of automotive stamper Batesville Tool & Die (BTD), for next-month’s cover article. And no one seems more committed than Fledderman to leveraging technology to accomplish all of the aforementioned goals.
“In the end,” Fledderman says, “we don’t have a lot of options to improve profitability. Either we reduce material content or we run faster. And that’s where technology comes into play.”
Hanson concurs, writing: “Time has become the key performance driver of manufacturing strategies for worldclass companies. Every company’s goal is, or should be, to increase shareholder value. And the only way to succeed with such a task is to shorten the elapsed time between order and payment.”
Many metalformers are thinking like Fledderman, ready to invest in technology. FMA’s recently released 2014 Capital Spending Forecast predicts upticks in nearly every equipment category. This on the heels of AMT’s year-end report for 2013, noting a “strong finish to 2013” says AMT president Douglas Woods. Woods adds that “the average age of corporate fixed assets is at almost 22 years, and interest rates are historically low. This one-two punch is creating a ripe atmosphere for investment in capital equipment.”
At the top of the shopping list of most metalformers and fabricators is automated welding equipment. This makes sense, since the quickening flow of parts generated by upstream processes requires added assembly and welding capacity to prevent catastrophic bottlenecking. Note: Welding shares this issue’s stage, with an article on troubleshooting of aluminum welding.Finally, while author Bob Dobrowsky notes in his Best Practices column that “owners may be reluctant to put more money into play,” metalformers have other options. One is described in our article on stamper/fabricator Tenere, Inc. Learn here how Tenere created press capacity rather than purchase it, by updating its press controls.
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