January 30, 2014 / continuous improvement, training
Like every other U.S. manufacturer, industrial metal-cutting companies have spent the last few years focusing on mere survival. Most companies have been forced to run “lean” and, in turn, have had to make some changes. However, a few organizations have risen above the fold and emerged as industry leaders. The question is how? While your goal may not be to make it onto IndustryWeek’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame, the fact is that today’s competitive market will continue to weed out companies that remain stagnant. In other words, “getting by” just isn’t going to be enough.
So what does it take to be an industrial metal-cutting leader? Below are a few of the common traits found among best-in-class companies:
Industry leaders understand the importance of continuous improvement. Experts like consultancy McGladrey continue to find that thriving manufacturers have a “relentless focus” on continuous improvement. According to McGladrey’s latest Manufacturing & Distribution Monitor Report, this is especially true as the economy emerges from the recession. As stated in the report, industry leaders are starting to realize that continuous improvement is vital because “increased profitability will likely need to come as much from productivity improvements as it will from revenue growth.”
Industry leaders invest in training. Investing in the right machinery is an important aspect of every metal-cutting operation; however, leading manufacturers know that productivity starts with the operator. All three of the industrial metal-companies featured in this series of case studies from LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) have thorough training programs for both new and seasoned operators. Metal Cutting Service, Inc. (MCS), for example, offers an intense 40 hours of training when operators are first hired, as well as ongoing training at least once or twice a year. According to MCS president David Viel, “You are no better than your employees.”
Industry leaders work closely with key suppliers. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of an increasingly competitive market is that many suppliers are offering value-added services to differentiate themselves—a trend that is especially beneficial for smaller manufacturers. Support in areas such as preventative maintenance, troubleshooting, and even software tools can help improve productivity and, ultimately, save costs. As stated in this article from ThomasNet, suppliers possess deep knowledge about the products they produce, and manufacturers should tap into this expertise and use it to their advantage. Global manufacturing giants like Unilever have even established long-term supplier partnership programs to help achieve specific company goals. To read how this can work in an industrial metal-cutting environment, check out this white paper from LIT or this case study on Aerodyne Alloys, a leading metal service center.
January 25, 2014 / Cost Management, resource allocation
Strategic allocation of resources is critical in today’s competitive marketplace. As customers continue to demand tighter tolerances and faster turnaround, operations managers need to be tactical with their existing assets while also knowing when it is time to make some upgrades. The challenge, of course, is making the right call by investing in the areas of your operation that will bring the best return.
While there is always an element of risk to any strategic decision, the following are a few best practices today’s managers should consider as they allocate resources in their operations:
- Proper allocation requires measurement. One of the first steps in proper resource allocation is identifying where improvement is needed, and the only way to do that is to measure your processes. In other words, you need a baseline for comparison. As described in a recent white paper from LENOX Institute of Technology, this can be done with sophisticated software or manually. In a metal-cutting operation, for example, managers can use software to automatically track the number of square inches processed by each saw and each blade. This allows managers to easily track trends and quickly detect problem areas. The same procedure can be done manually with a stopwatch. Regardless of your method, the goal is to measure productivity. Once a baseline is established, managers can start to effectively evaluate equipment, tooling, and operators.
- Think beyond cost. The term “investment” doesn’t always refer to money. In the aforementioned scenario, tracking software will require financial investment, while manual measurement will require time and human capital. While at face value the financial investment of software may seem high, there are “costs” associated with the manual strategy as well. The goal is to think long-term while also being realistic about the capabilities of your workforce. As demonstrated in this article from Manufacturing.net, the choice to automate (or not) takes careful consideration. For example, if you take the plunge to automate, what type of training will your workforce need when the new system is installed? Successful managers look beyond the initial benefits and the price tag of an investment and weigh the long-term pros and cons as well.
- Consider all of your options. At the end of the day, budget constraints are a real issue. However, just because you can’t afford a specific piece of equipment or technology doesn’t mean there aren’t alternative solutions out there. Perhaps used machinery is an option. This article from Forge Magazine provides some great reasons to contemplate second-hand machinery, as well as ten critical factors to consider before making a purchasing decision. Managers also shouldn’t underestimate the benefits of investing in human capital. Upgrades in areas such as training and safety can provide huge gains in efficiency and quality. Like any strategic decision, resource allocation requires an open mind. In the spirit of continuous improvement, best-in-class managers need to explore all of the ways they can save their operation time and money.
January 20, 2014 / lean manufacturing, planning, preventative maintenance, productivity
Recent data continues to confirm that business is on the upswing. In fact, according to latest Business Conditions Report from the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA), metalforming companies can expect a spike in incoming orders during the next three months. In a recent press release, PMA president William E. Gaskin said shipments could increase three to six percent thanks to strong auto production and the general sense that fundamentals are improving.
As the economy continues to recover and customer demand increases, industrial metal-cutting operations need to be sure they are ready. Productivity will be more critical than ever, leaving no time for unnecessary bottlenecks. The question is—what are you doing to prepare?
While the nature of a machine shop makes it difficult to adjust for a sudden in-rush of orders, there are some strategies managers can use to keep production moving and reduce the number of potential bottlenecks. Here are a few best practices to consider:
- Preventative Maintenance. Machine downtime is perhaps the greatest threat to any cutting operation, especially those with a limited maintenance staff. Machine shops like Fort Worth, TX-based D&J Technologies rely heavily on preventative maintenance (PM) to address this issue. The machine shop, featured in this white paper from LENOX Institute of Technology, says its PM program is “highly important in keeping the machines running” 10-14 hours a day, six days a week. This involves weekly checks of equipment fluid levels, as well as greasing and oiling all of its saws when necessary. To prevent premature belt and drive wheel wear, the shop also does a quick daily maintenance check by running each saw from low to high a few times (as opposed to starting them cold and running them all day at one speed fitting).
- Planning Ahead. Production planning and forecasting is critical to keeping operations running smoothly and on time. Many leading industrial metal-cutting companies are implementing aggressive planning schedules that are 4 to 6 weeks in advance and, as a result, are seeing benefits such as reduced scrap and fewer errors. However, many managers find this to be a challenge in a machine shop, where last minute and specialty orders are common. In these cases, an automated solution such as scheduling software can help. This Buyer’s Guide from www.softwareadvice.com provides a good reference of the different software options available for automating many of the tracking and scheduling duties within a shop.
- Get Lean. There is no question that lean initiatives take both time and commitment. However, even simple changes like the 5S tool can help reduce bottlenecks by eliminating hazards and creating a more organized work environment. More ambitious managers may want to consider additional lean methods such as value stream mapping and the Theory of Constraints. This web site explains these methods and other popular lean tools that are being used by today’s leading machine shops.
Of course, bottlenecks are an inevitable aspect of any metal-cutting operation. However, as demand increases, so does the negative impact of downtime. One misstep can lead to a domino effect that can throw off an entire production schedule. By taking proactive measures, managers can reduce the chances of unexpected events, eliminate potential bottlenecks and, at the same time, improve productivity and quality.
January 15, 2014 / costs, root cause analysis
Let’s paint a possible scenario in an industrial metal-cutting environment: After reviewing monthly costs, a manager notices that tooling costs are up. Upon further investigation, the manager discovers that operators have been replacing blades more frequently than usual. In other words, a blade the company has been using for years is now failing. What does the manager do?
A. Contact the supplier to complain about a bad shipment
B. Research new blade options
C. Check equipment settings
D. Evaluate operator performance
In most cases, the answer is likely going to be A or B. When a problem happens on the cutting room floor, most managers want to fix it and move on. And if the problem appears to be mechanical, the natural instinct is to blame the machine. However, these issues can also be symptoms of larger, operator-based problems such as improper blade usage, lack of training, and poor maintenance.
When a performance issue arises on the cutting room floor, managers should have procedures in place that help determine the underlying causes of the failure. This will not only solve the problem at hand, but can also weed out any “hidden inefficiencies” that could be negatively impacting the bottom line. In the aforementioned scenario, for example, premature blade failure not only increases tooling costs, it also creates bottlenecks and decreases quality. If the real source of problem is a poorly trained operator, a new blade isn’t going to solve any one of these issues.
Forward-thinking managers know the key to optimal performance is identifying the root cause of failure so that it never happens again. Below are a few strategies managers can use to uncover the source of operational issues:
- Ask why. While this strategy may seem a bit simplistic, it is actually a lean manufacturing concept. According to online resource Lean Production, a common problem-solving approach within lean manufacturing is to ask “why” five times. The idea is that every time you ask “why,” you are moving a step closer to discovering the true underlying problem.
- Work with suppliers. No one knows your tools and equipment better than your suppliers, and many offer value-added preventative maintenance (PM) and troubleshooting services that can help you determine whether or not the issue is truly mechanical. They may also offer documents and online tools that can help aid in troubleshooting. Reference guides like this one from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT), for example, can help managers identify whether or not the source of premature blade failure is due to user error or machine error.
- Evaluate your operation. This includes everything from inventory levels and safety scores to cut times. As pointed out in the white paper, Accounting for Operator Inefficiencies in the Metals 2.0 Environment, high scrap rates, excess inventory, and low safety scores are often key indicators of operator-based inefficiencies. Cuts times are also critical to identifying the source of error. This, however, requires a baseline for comparison. If your facility hasn’t already undergone a time analysis to measure operational efficiency, this article from thefabricator.com gives a great overview of the process and how you can get started.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for failures to occur to start looking for inefficiencies. Implementing proactive management strategies such as PM programs, formal training procedures, and lean techniques within your industrial metal-cutting operation can ensure that your equipment, operators, and processes are running at optimal levels. In essence, the more undesirable effects you can take out of the equation, the faster you can identify and respond to problems when they occur.
January 10, 2014 / customer delivery, quality
Delivering on time and without error have always been the two key principles of customer service. However, most fabricators would agree that “on-time” now means “in half the time” it took just 5 years ago. Quick turnaround is not a trend—it is the new reality.
While automation and lean manufacturing strategies are helping fabricators complete jobs faster, it is important that shops don’t forget the other side of the delivery equation—quality. Maintaining accuracy is critical to gaining and maintaining customers, especially as they continue to demand tighter and tighter tolerances. Slow and steady may no longer win the race, but neither does fast and sloppy.
Today’s managers need to have a balanced focus on both efficiency and excellence. If your shop is sacrificing one to achieve the other, it is time to take a closer look at your operations. Below are a few strategies that can help keep your processes balanced:
- Schedule Ahead. A recent white paper from the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) suggests that forecasting and production scheduling are important strategies for both meeting delivery requests and maintaining quality. This not only ensures that orders are filled on time, it also creates an organized, controlled production environment that is less prone to errors. According to the paper, managers may want to consider appointing certain staff members to focus solely on production planning. Schedules can be completed up to a month in advance and should leave some “flex” time for parts inspection and to account for last-minute orders.
- Standardize Processes. Standardization is one of the key aspects of lean manufacturing. However, experts believe it is often the “missing link” within many so-called “lean factories.” By taking the time to standardize manufacturing processes, fabricators can keep production moving smoothly while also maintaining consistency. This is especially true for shops that run multiple shifts. In a metal-cutting operation, for example, managers can create standardized cut charts so operators know the right blade to use for every process and type of job. Procedure checklists, sign-off sheets, and training reference documents are additional tools managers can use to maintain quality throughout the production process.
- Consider ISO Certification. One way to ensure that quality is under control is to have your facility undergo ISO 9001 certification. This has certainly helped Metal Cutting Service, an industrial metal cutting specialty shop based in City of Industry, CA. The company, featured in a series of LIT case studies, estimates that quality has improved 20 to 30% since the company became ISO certified. From process control to increased sales, studies have shown several reasons to consider certification. However, as with any strategic decision, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, according to a recent column in Quality Digest, ISO registration needs to be a top-down commitment to be successful.
December 20, 2013 / human capital, maintaining talent, training
While finding “good help” seems to be an age-old management challenge, it has become a critical issue for today’s manufacturing industry. It’s no secret that a large percentage of skilled manufacturing workers are facing retirement in the coming years, while only a small percentage of younger workers have an interest in filling those roles. What may be surprising, however, is that most manufacturers are doing nothing about it.
According to ThomasNet.com’s Industry Market Barometer, the manufacturing industry continues to be heavily populated by Baby Boomers, the post-World War II generation that is at or near retirement age, while workers ranging from 18-32 remain completely untapped. According to the recent survey of more than 1,200 manufacturing companies, three-quarters of respondents report that 25 percent or less of their workforce are in the Generation Y age group. And while 29 percent of respondents say they will increase employment of Generation Y workers in the next two years, 49 percent expect the numbers to stay the same. In fact, ThomasNet believes the manufacturing industry is up against a “biological clock” that is rapidly winding down when it comes to recruiting and training the next generation of workers.
An article from ModernMetals.com echoes the same sentiment, stating that “a dearth of workers will cause the manufacturing industry to hit a wall in the future.” This, the article says, is the main reason why industrial metal-cutting companies need to consider strategies that will help them cultivate future talent—and fast.
Of course, one way to address this workforce issue is for managers to actively hire a new generation of workers. However, the real challenge will be finding ways to ramp up their skills and knowledge base so that both quality and productivity are comparable to that of seasoned workers. As described in the white paper, The Top 5 Operating Challenge For Metal Service Centers, there are two key tactics managers can use to encourage a high-quality workforce, regardless of experience level:
- Establish ongoing operator training. This can be done either internally or with a supply chain partner. By requiring training, managers can balance the level of skill on the shop floor and across different shifts. There should be a formal program for new employees, as well as ongoing programs to keep seasoned operators up to date on new cutting techniques and advancements. Many service centers are finding that their training programs are most effective when they are merged with the quality control system and audited accordingly. When instituted as a formal procedure, operators understand the expectations upfront and, in turn, can be held accountable when performance isn’t up to par.
- Encourage employee ownership or “buy-in.” Even the best-trained operators won’t be successful if they don’t care about the work they are doing. The so-called “magic” happens on the shop floor when an operator or process area becomes committed to their operation and, more importantly, takes pride in hitting productivity and quality goals. One way to instill this type of work ethic is to actively include operators in improvement initiatives. To foster a more team-centered environment, managers should ask operators for ideas to make processes safer and faster and, when appropriate, brings those ideas to fruition. This strategy not only improves operational efficiency, but shows operators they are a critical aspect of the company’s success. Bonus and incentive programs can also help boost employee morale.
There is no doubt that today’s industrial metal-cutting companies need to make hiring a new generation of workers a top priority. Indeed, the workforce issue can no longer be ignored. However, hiring “good help” isn’t going to be enough. To be successful, today’s operations managers need to make sure they are also training and maintaining that help.
December 19, 2013 / agility, predictive management
With increased competition and uncertain economic conditions, today’s operations managers have to be more than just good problem solvers. Yes, they still need to be able to handle unforeseeable crisis on the fly; however, now, more then ever, managers also need to have strategies in place that predict risks. By using a more proactive approach to management, industrial metal-cutting companies are finding they can actually reduce the adverse effects that can happen in a manufacturing environment.
In a recent market research report, Aberdeen Group details a predictive, more agile management strategy called Operational Risk Management (ORM). According to the firm’s research, best-in-class manufacturers are taking a risk-focused approach for three main reasons:
- the need to reduce the impact operational risks have on the bottom line and brand image
- the unpredictable global economic environment/market instability
- the need to grow the business without increasing risk
Put simply, these leading companies are using ORM to improve operating performance. Aberdeen says the goal of this type of management is to create “a framework that helps executives, employees on the plant floor, and maintenance personnel understand and manage the risks impacting their organization, establish processes to effectively address these risks, and implement procedures for corrective and preventative actions.”
Several leaders in the industrial metal-cutting segment are finding ways to use proactive operations management. In fact, data from the LENOX Institute of Technology’s Benchmark Survey revealed that companies with high machine uptime are benefitting from investing in smarter, more predictive and agile management operations approaches. For example, 76 percent of industrial metal-cutting operations that followed scheduled and planned maintenance on their machines also reported that their job completion rate is trending upward year over year. In addition, more than half of organizations that “always” follow preventative maintenance (PM) plans reported that they can “always” or “mostly” predict blade failure.
By having this “predictive downtime” information, managers can plan for downtime and actually use it to their benefit. This is quite different than “interruptive downtime,” which can negatively impact performance, customer delivery, and equipment and material costs. Steel of Carolina LLC, a fabricator, featured in this case study from LIT, has said that weekly PM checks have become critical to keeping its saws operating as much as possible. To keep production running smoothly, the company schedules PM checks for the weekends (when equipment isn’t running) and also keeps specific wear parts in stock for quick replacement.
Of course, PM and parts inventory is only a small part of predictive management. Aberdeen outlines an entire roadmap for manufacturers that want to establish a formal ORM framework. You can download a copy of the report here and read information on technology enablers and a great case study on Coca-Cola.
In the end, there is no crystal ball. However, by implementing predictive strategies that go beyond simply reacting to crisis, operations managers can minimize risk, increase agility, and perform smarter in today’s volatile market.
December 15, 2013 / Employee Morale, Output, Safety
In an industrial metal-cutting environment, safety is critical. Everyone knows that. In fact, most managers would probably list it as a top priority. However, in practice, most of those same managers treat safety more like a necessary evil than a business strategy. In other words, their safety initiatives are built around simply meeting OSHA requirements, not as a means of maintaining—or better yet, improving—the bottom line.
The truth is that most managers need to shift their mindset when it comes to safety. Randy DeVaul, author of Performance Safety: A Practical Approach and Performance Safety: Lessons For Life, argues that safety should be viewed as a value, not a priority. What’s the difference? According to DeVaul, priorities change depending on the circumstances; however, a value is maintained, regardless of the circumstances. In other words, safety should be a constant, and it should be integrated into every aspect of your industrial metal-cutting processes.
The concept is actually fairly simple: Injured operators can’t be productive.
If your best operator is constantly calling off because of a bad back, someone else needs to be trained to take his place. This not only takes time away from production, it could also affect quality. And, of course, there is the cost element.
There are several ways safety can have an impact on overall business operations, but here are three key points today’s managers should consider:
- An unsafe environment is expensive. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “businesses spend $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses—expenditures that come straight out of company profits.” In fact, a 2012 workplace safety study by Liberty Mutual says that overexertion, which is defined as “injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, or throwing,” cost businesses $13.61 billion in direct costs. However, by establishing safety and health management systems, the Department of Labor says that workplaces can reduce their injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent. That’s pretty significant in today’s challenging marketplace.
- Low safety scores can indicate poor workflow on the shop floor. Constant injuries can be the symptom of larger operational problems. If an operator has to transport a piece of steel halfway across the facility to perform the next process, both safety and productivity are at risk. The less an operator touches a piece of material, the less likely he is going to get injured and the more efficient he can perform. According to LENOX Institute of Technology’s recent paper, Tackling the Top 5 Operating Challenges in Industrial Metal Cutting, simple changes like strategic equipment placement, adjustable “scissor” tables, and elimination of trip hazards can make your shop safer and, in the meantime, eliminate bottlenecks and improve productivity.
- A workplace built around safety can improve employee morale, especially if operators are included in safety initiatives. No one knows the production process better than an operator, which makes his or her input extremely valuable. Managers should be consistently asking production employees how they can make the metal-cutting process faster and safer, whether that means repositioning the saw at a certain angle or adding a table on the backside of the saw to save a trip after each cut. The key is to not only ask for suggestions, but to also follow through and make adjustments. This increases safety and also empowers employees to be a part of the company’s overall success. It’s a win-win for everyone.
While an operator’s wellbeing should always be the top concern, the value of safety goes beyond employee health. A safer environment is more productive; a more productive environment provides more output; and more output provides more money. Really, it’s that simple.
December 10, 2013 / continuous improvement, quality, training
Over the last few years, the industrial metal-cutting industry has invested heavily in technology to ramp up productivity. While this is certainly moving industrial metal-cutting forward, it has also exacerbated the workforce challenge that has been threatening the industry for years. As confirmed by a joint report from Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, skilled production workers are one of the largest workforce segments facing retirement in the near future, which will clearly have an impact on the number of experienced workers on the shop floor. This does not bode well for an industry that just ramped up its need for advanced skills.
The good news is that the solution is quite clear: You need to invest in your workers. While having the right tools for the job is important, it is perhaps even more critical to have people with the right skills operating those machines. In a band saw cutting environment, for example, an operator running a saw at the wrong speed and feed settings will drastically reduce blade life, increase the chances of maintenance issues, and create potential quality issues, all of which add up to wasted time and money—the exact opposite of productivity.
The only way to increase skills is to provide training. Unfortunately, this is not always as simple as it sounds. A good training program should provide new employees with a solid foundation, while also making sure seasoned employees know the latest techniques. Below are some suggestions that will help take your training program—and your workforce—to the next level.
- Create a Formal Training Program. If you don’t already have a formal training program in place for new employees, it’s time to implement one. Having a seasoned operator casually show someone the ropes creates a casual attitude toward the job at hand. A formal, organized approach will stress the importance of quality and will also make it easier to hold operators accountable. A recent editorial in Modern Machine Shop magazine provides a good overview of how to develop a formal training program. The article focuses on CNC training, but the general principles could certainly be applied to any production area of a machine shop.
- Define Training as an Ongoing Process. As highlighted in the white paper, Accounting for Operator Inefficiencies in the Metals 2.0 Environment, operator training needs to be ongoing. This is especially important in a machine shop, where there can be multiple shifts and an unequal level of talent on the shop floor. By instituting regular operator training, managers can level the shop floor talent and add consistency to production procedures. This also encourages a spirit of continuous improvement among experienced operators who often resist change.
- Make Training Part of your Quality System. While instituting formal training programs can be challenging, the real challenge is making them actually work. According to the white paper, The Top 5 Operating Challenges Facing Today’s Machine Shop Metal Cutting Operations, many industrial metal-cutting shops have found that the only time training programs became effective is when shop management merged training with their quality control initiatives and auditing processes. This elevates training from a well-intentioned priority to a standard operating procedure that is both effective and measurable.
December 10, 2013 / benchmarking, Cost Management, LIT
In an ideal world, a fabricator wouldn’t list cost management as a challenge. If production is running smoothly, maintenance is under control, operators are trained, and customers are satisfied, then costs should be relatively stable. However, at a time when the industry hasn’t fully rebounded and uncertainty about market conditions remain, cost is a concern for even the most efficient industrial metal-cutting operations.
The question, then, becomes: How can today’s fabricators better manage their costs? When many companies are already “running lean,” what other measures can they take to keep costs under control or, better yet, save money?
Unfortunately, there are no “one size fits all” answers when it comes to cost management, but the LENOX Institute of Technology (LIT) was able to find a few strategies currently being used by industry leaders. Below are some of the ways top performers are approaching cost:
- Weigh long-term benefits against short-term costs. Whether a hard cost or an opportunity cost, fabricators should weigh their cost expenditures against the benefits or detriments of dollar-allocating decisions. Managers need to make sure they are not shortsighted by upfront costs and, instead, consider the long-term benefits. For example, would investing in a new piece of equipment improve productivity? Would it increase quality? Will it help reduce maintenance costs? This was certainly the case for O’Neal Steel. The company, featured in a white paper from LIT, found that spending $40 more per band saw blade saved the company about $600 a week—a total of $30,000 in annual savings.
- Focus on improving the order-to-cash cycle. An industry study from the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International (FMA) says top-performing fabricators are focused on increasing the order-to-cash-cycle. The study, covered here by thefabricator.com, says that best-in-class companies are scrutinizing and improving every process in the order-to-cash cycle, including sales, quoting, engineering, customer communication, part flow, packaging, and delivery. According to the article, this shortens the cycle, which improves a host of financial metrics. When employees are able to process more jobs in less time, sales per employee increases and costs per job decreases, all of which outpaces downward pricing pressure from customers and rises earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).
- Set cost-cutting targets using external benchmarks. If your company is focused on reducing costs, make sure you are not setting arbitrary goals. According to a survey from Bain & Company, the problem with many cost-cutting initiatives is that they are based on internal benchmarks that ignore market trends. According to the consultancy, successful companies develop cost-cutting goals after taking into account what their competitors are doing. For example, cutting costs by 10 percent means nothing if all of your competitors are using new technologies that reduce costs by 30 percent. Managers need to make sure their cost-cutting goals are both realistic and relevant.
All three of these methods suggest that successful cost management in today’s marketplace requires managers to look at cost from a high level before implementing any initiatives. In other words, gone are the days of “quick fixes.” By taking the time to approach cost strategically, fabricators can make improvements that have a long-term—and more importantly, sustainable—impact on the bottom line.