Today, it is increasingly important to win the challenge of producing medium-small lots to order. In fact, if the technologies are clear for the two ends of the production world, in the “world in the middle” devastating mistakes can be made.
Let’s take a look at what happens at the two ends in order to better understand how to approach the “world in the middle”.
For the first family of the large volumes, the transfer machine will always be the machine of choice.
The larger the volumes, the more I can produce in parallel using many work units, in order to obtain a “Formula 1” cycle time!
The right solution for the second family, featuring low volumes, is represented by common machining centers where, in this case, there is only one work spindle, and the cycle time is the sum of all tools that process the piece, one after the other.
This methodology is well suited for lots from zero to 500 pieces. In the past, production volumes were split into these two large families.
In today’s industry, we can see a merging of the two areas towards the middle, with lots from 500 to 5000 pieces. This is due to various reasons, which are listed here below.
If you use machine tools, you are perfectly aware of the fact that sudden machine downtimes spread panic at the company.
I am sure that you have already experienced this situation, and that it certainly was not a pleasant one.
Why am I so certain that you have already found yourself in this situation?
All machines or mechanisms require regular maintenance to ensure their optimal operation. No mechanism in the world can continue to work without a good “servicing”.
Whenever a machine stops due to some malfunction, you can immediately feel the fear spreading through the company.
This fear comes from the fact that we know exactly when the machine stopped, but have no idea when it will start producing again.
This feeling of not knowing results in a deluge of phone calls within the company to the maintenance department and even outside the company, calling the machine manufacturer directly and begging for help in order to solve the problem.
Obviously, all this haste is caused by the fact that you have promised delivery dates to your final customers that you will not be able to meet if the machinery is not working.
Needless to say, in today’s with such a competitive market, where companies are constantly trying to steal customers from the one another, this situation makes it easier for competitors to seize the opportunity.
Nowadays, purchasing a machine tool is anything but easy.
I am sure that if you have ever been involved in this situation in any way, the memories you associate with the supplier selection phase do not bring back feelings of PEACE OF MIND and TRANQUILITY, rather quite the opposite.
For production machinery of a certain range (not the simple lathe or mill), where the value of the investments is high, the decision maker for the purchase is sure to feel high levels of stress.
When the management assigns a person or group the task of choosing a supplier at that precise moment they place a very heavy load on the shoulders of that person or group which, on a psychological level, is certainly significant.
This is a great burden.
First of all, different parties usually end up paying the consequences of a wrong investment, and no one is benefited; here is a list of the parties involved:
I am talking about STEEL and CAST IRON VALVES, where until today the traditional manufacturing process has been split into two phases:
I have visited companies where the first phase was usually carried out on a horizontal lathe for small valves or on a vertical lathe for larger ones. The valves then moved to a machining center of varying size, again depending on the dimensions of the valve to be processed.
These two phases are carried out with two types of machine tools, lathes and machining centers, but in order to produce large quantities I have also witnessed situations where the company was organised as follows:
• Lathe 1: Turning of first flange
• Lathe 2: Turning of second flange
• Lathe 3: Turning of third flange
• Machining centers 4, 5 and 6: Milling
• Drills 7, 8: Drilling of flange holes
• Drills 9, 10: Tapping of flange threads
• Valve manual de-burring department
It certainly would, since in the case of a production line where the machines are arranged in a series with each one executing a phase do you know what happens?