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.