Even though the price of a blank sheet in the competitive sheetmetal industry has risen steadily in recent quarters, the clever operators have found a simple way to benefit in changing economies.
While many companies take the band-aid approach by buying machinery to cope with immediate increases in volumes as jobs come on board, the clever operators are taking one giant leap beyond.
These companies invest in machinery with capacity to cope with several times their current requirement, so as to maintain production capability for the months and years ahead.
According to Advanced Sheetmetal Technologies, although predictions have been made for incremental price increases for sheetmetal over the next three years there is a logical way to ensure company growth and profits from such economic conditions.
Clever operators understand the following important rule: do not panic and buy bits and pieces of automation to meet small growth in day to day output; consider how you want to grow in the years to come and set up the entire production line, so the business has ample room to feed the machines.
International market analysis has shown that in Australia and New Zealand, the investment in technology base ranks below other developed countries, a long way behind Europe and some improvements to be made.
US steel prices are a good indicator of steel price fluctuations across the globe. Recently, US-based Roland Berger Strategy Consultants forecast a steady rise from $US500 to $US550 a ton. Significantly, a return to the pre-2004 prices is not expected for at least three years.
This impacts on the price of sheetmetal and makes fabrication and profits trickier without technological adjustment.
Advanced Sheetmetal Technologies has worked closely with a good number of fabricators in Australia and New Zealand that have revamped their fortunes purely because they are now set up to feed the machine.
Setting up in this way allows far higher production outputs and frees the sales staff to take on more work without fear of choking the manufacturing schedule.
Yet at the same time, this higher capacity production line is technologically advanced yet simple to operate it uses raw materials, so economically that there is almost no waste.
Amazing efficiency, powerful software:
Often, a major contributor to efficiency drops in cutting, punching and shearing are complicated shapes and figures made in short production runs. These require a lot of setup time, hence they occupy inordinate lengths of time on fabrication lines.
Thankfully, machines have changed all that. It is this type of circumstance that profoundly illustrates how a production line can feed the machine.
Parts that need to be cut can be arranged on any angle on the blank. Many jobs can run simultaneously as they are strategically placed on each blank sheet.
And because punching, cutting and shearing can all be performed by one machine, raw material waste is a thing of the past.
But the changes are not due just to the emergence of high-tech machines. Powerful software is influential in the competitive advantage now enjoyed by new era automation.
Powerful software works out the optimum position for each part on a blank sheet. Its programs allow highly individualised processes for completely different parts that often lie only millimetres apart on the sheet.
Even before the first cut is made, this software provides such detailed real time on-screen data that production managers can see the job performed in a digital environment. This simulation is completely accurate and acts as a costless dry run.
The benefit of lights out manufacturing:
- Fabricators that have dreamed about having their own 24-hour operation but have not been able to afford night staff now have a solution, which only a few years ago would have been written off as fantasy.
- With new machines, production managers are scheduling the difficult, more complicated short runs during day shifts, as they require most supervision and some software interaction.
- But the much simpler and more routine higher volume long runs can now be left unattended during a night shift in a lights out scenario with the factory securely locked up.
- The advanced automation on the market does all the materials handling from start to finish, so all a plant manager needs to do is place blank sheets at the starting point and by the time he or she arrives in the morning the job is complete and sorted into batches for distribution.