Many manufacturing companies have traditional manufacturing processes that have been refined over time. A metal processing company manufactures by machining (turning, drilling, milling, grinding), non-machining (casting, stamping, bending) or joining (screwing, welding, riveting, gluing) or combinations thereof. A plastics processor may employ extruding, injection molding, turning, milling, drilling or joining – depending on the history and product and customer requirements that have been met by the company up to that point.
The acquired technical expertise ensures the mastery of the applied processes, but also limits the possibilities of the company. Because of the specific investment and expertise, other, maybe better ways of realizing the product are rarely considered. However, markets change and technologies evolve; new manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing, may challenge existing processes. Keep an open mind to processes that are outside your organization’s core competency to avoid being surprised.
It is not a given that the traditional production processes used in your company will lead to the best and most cost-effective results. Customer requirements may change. You may then reach your limits with existing processes. To achieve further improvements, you would trigger a disproportionately high degree of time and effort. Processes that have so far delivered sufficient results sometimes have to be questioned.
Customer requirements can often be met in different ways. Often, you only become aware of this when previously used processes no longer meet the requirements. Put your known production processes to the test again and again and when it comes to new customer inquiries, necessary new developments or extensive modifications, also think carefully about the make-or-buy question.
Do not necessarily stick to the tried and tested. Do not let customers force you to make investments. New production processes do not necessarily have to involve high investments. Courage for new things and a certain degree of creativity can help to introduce and implement suitable manufacturing processes. To support this development, use creativity techniques.
Example: A large plastics processor, successful on the market for some time, manufactured all products in a certain category using only injection molding. This was what the company specialized in. Processes, machines, tools and personnel were tailored to this production method.
A very lucrative but low-volume request was therefore rejected because a new injection molding tool with an investment volume of >?100k would not have paid off for the implementation of this order. Only after repeated, persistent requests from the customer did the company leave the familiar path and develop a new manufacturing process for the requested products at short notice.
For an investment of 40k, existing semi-finished products were cut to size and joined by trained personnel using a mirror welding process. The product, created in a completely new way for the company, was presented to the customer.
The customer subsequently placed these orders and similar orders again and again and was extremely satisfied with their now innovative and problem-solving partner at their side.
For well-founded and comprehensible decisions on alternative realization options, there are proven methods and calculation models that can be handled pragmatically and make possible alternative processes systematically comparable with each other. This provides the necessary information to make a decision in favor of a new process comprehensible, resulting in process optimization, a holistic product development and a subsequent product development.
When selecting manufacturing processes, you have a unique opportunity to include environmental aspects in the decision criteria. Opt for sustainable management.