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 extrude, injection mould, turn, mill, drill or join, 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, presumably better ways to realise the product are hardly ever considered. However, markets change and technologies evolve; new manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing, may challenge existing processes.
Why it pays to choose new manufacturing processes
It cannot be taken for granted 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 disproportionately high efforts. Processes that have delivered sufficient results so far sometimes have to be questioned. Changing the production process may lead to significant cost savings. Therefore, keep an open mind about processes that are outside your organisation’s core competence.
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. Therefore, always put your known production processes to the test and also deal with the make-or-buy question in the case of new types of customer requests, necessary new developments or comprehensive modifications.
Possible improvements through the selection of a new manufacturing process
By selecting the right manufacturing process, companies can save on material costs by reducing material waste, for example.
In some cases, labour can also be reduced by optimising work processes and using automation wisely, which can lead to consistent quality and lower wage and labour costs.
New manufacturing processes do not necessarily have to trigger high investments. The courage to try something new and a certain amount of creativity can help to introduce and use suitable manufacturing processes.
Selecting a manufacturing process: an example
A large plastics processor, successful on the market for quite some time, produced all products of a certain category only by means of injection moulding. This was what the company specialised in. Processes, machines, tools and personnel were tailored to this production method.
A very lucrative but low volume request was therefore rejected, as a new injection mould with an investment volume of >100k EUR 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 EUR, existing semi-finished products were cut to size and joined by trained personnel using a mirror welding process. The product, which was created in a completely new way for the company, was presented to the customer.
The customer subsequently placed such and similar orders again and again and was extremely satisfied with his now innovative and problem-solving partner at his side.
How to compare different manufacturing processes
For well-founded and comprehensible decisions on alternative realisation options, there are proven methods and calculation models that can be handled pragmatically and make possible alternative procedures systematically comparable with each other. In this way, you obtain the necessary information to make a decision in favour of a new process comprehensible.
Even if the criteria for selecting the best manufacturing process do not change, essential parameters can change that suggest a change to another manufacturing process.
Example: A 2nd-tier supplier to the automotive industry produced outer rims for pulleys by sawing tube sections and then profiling them in CNC lathes. This process was significantly cheaper than cold forming the crowns in a stamping process. When, due to a massive increase in the demand for pipes for infrastructure (sewage routing), the procurement prices for pipes had suddenly risen significantly, punching and cold forming became attractive and the production process was switched to existing punching machines. The band saws and the turning centres became obsolete.
Environmental aspects also play a role in the selection of manufacturing processes. Include environmental aspects in the decision criteria. Opt for sustainable management.
Conclusion: This is what a change in manufacturing brings you
Choosing the right manufacturing process can have a major impact on the cost of production. If a company chooses an unsuitable process, it can result in higher material or personnel costs, which in turn lead to higher overall costs.
By implementing appropriate manufacturing processes, companies can improve the quality of their products while reducing costs, leading to greater competitiveness in the marketplace.