PRODUCING LOTS FROM 500 TO 5000 PIECES: THE WINNING STRATEGY

lottiToday, 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”.

LARGE VOLUMES: SMALL

VOLUME TRANSFER MACHINES: MACHINING CENTERS

 

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.

 

ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS THE WORLD OF LARGE VOLUMES…

A vast majority of these large volumes have left first-world countries in favour of developing countries, which are specialised in the production of extremely large volumes, especially for simpler products with irrelevant tolerances.

For large volumes as in the automotive sector, the first world still manages to do well, thanks to very hi-tech TRANSFER machines, featuring extremely high production rates and in-process checks as well as de-burring operations included in the work cycle.

Developing countries are unable to compete armed with low labour costs because the quality of their products is not constant compared to products made with TRANSFER machines. All this will work until the day that developing countries also start investing in this type of machinery.

 

IN EUROPE, AFTER THE MACHINERY, THE CHALLENGE CONCERNING WORK METHODS HAS BEGUN….

 

In Europe, the challenge has switched from the type of machine to the type of organisation; in fact, one of your competitors can easily “copy” you by purchasing the same machine tool; however, it would be very difficult for this competitor to also copy your organisation, the way you work.

The introduction of LEAN MANUFACTURING, a concept developed in the automotive sector, specifically by the TOYOTA company, is totally changing the work method of manufacturing companies.

Here are the seven types of waste that need to be eliminated in order to become more efficient:

  • STOCK ON HAND
  • EARLY PRODUCTION
  • HANDLING OF MATERIALS
  • IDLE TIMES CAUSED BY BALANCING BETWEEN PHASES
  • MOVEMENTS OF WORKERS
  • UNNECESSARY PROCESSES
  • RE-WORKING OF PIECES

That being said, on-time production has many advantages, as we were able to see. However, if this is implemented in a typical manufacturing company, it is likely to place a great deal of stress on the organisation and on inter-personal relationships, generating frustration and loss of motivation, because you may change how you do things, but if the available instruments are outdated and inadequate, the situation can only get worse.

 

HERE IS HOW CHAOS AND STRESS IS GENERATED AT A COMPANY THAT IS NOT EQUIPPED WITH THE PROPER INSTRUMENTS

 

  • EVERY DAY, THE SALES OFFICE IS FACED WITH A CONSTANTLY CHANGING MARKET
  • WITH THIS DATA, IT IS UNABLE TO MAKE LONG-TERM FORECASTS
  • WITHOUT ANY LONG-TERM FORECASTS, THE PRODUCTION MANAGER TYPICALLY HAS TO DEAL WITH THE PROBLEM WITH LOTS FROM 500 TO 5000 PIECES
  • BECAUSE OF QUANTITIES THAT CHANGE FROM ONE MONTH TO THE NEXT, THE PRODUCTION MANAGER IS CAUGHT BETWEEN THE MARKET NEEDS AND HIS PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT
  • THIS SITUATION FORCES THE PRODUCTION MANAGER TO COME UP WITH PARALLEL PRODUCTION CYCLES (EITHER IN-HOUSE OR OUTSOURCED) IN ORDER TO SATISFY THE DEMAND
  • THESE PARALLEL CYCLES STATISTICALLY GENERATE SIGNIFICANT LOSS OF EFFICIENCY AND MANY NON-CONFORMITIES WITH REGARDS TO THE FINAL PRODUCT
  • ALL THESE SITUATIONS DO NOTHING BUT INCREASE THE TENSION AT THE PERSONAL LEVEL BETWEEN THE COMPANY’S SALES OFFICE AND PRODUCTION DEPARTMENT

 

THUS TRIGGERING A COLD WAR BETWEEN THE VARIOUS COMPANY UNITS

 

With these lots and this level of variability, if a TRANSFER machine is used, the job that takes longer is the tooling of this machine. This activity takes up 70-80% of the time. During the remaining time (20%), 2500 pieces are produced.

With this method, the TRANSFER machine is being tooled most of the time and therefore it is not producing. In order to speed things up, many tool fitters are needed precisely because tooling, and not production, is the activity that takes up the most time.

When tooling is finished, the shipping date requested by the final customer has already been and gone.

On the other hand, with machining centers, the tooling time is much shorter, only 20%, with production taking up the remaining 80% of the time. This results in long delivery times to the final customer, to the point of not being acceptable from the market standpoint, often causing the logistics department to be overloaded with work as it has to arrange for small multiple shipments in order to keep the customer happy.

The typical MISTAKE made in the world of machining centers is to install 3 or 4 machines in order to deal with production requests, thus falling into a hellish trap.

 

THE 8 CRITICAL POINTS DURING PRODUCTION WHEN MULTIPLE MACHINING CENTERS ARE USED:

  1. YOU ARE FORCED TO TOOL 3 MACHINES
  2. YOU ARE FORCED TO HAVE A TRIPLE SET OF TOOLS RIGHT AWAY
  3. YOU ARE FORCED TO CHECK PIECES PRODUCED BY 3 DIFFERENT MACHINES
  4. YOU ARE FORCED TO OCCUPY MORE SPACE AT THE PLANT
  5. YOU ARE FORCED TO SPEND MORE FOR AUTOMATION
  6. YOU ARE FORCED TO ACCEPT HIGHER ENERGY COSTS
  7. YOU ARE FORCED TO SPEND MORE FOR TOOLING
  8. YOU ARE FORCED TO EMPLOY MORE OPERATORS

 

LET’S GET RIGHT TO THE POINT. WOULDN’T IT BE NICE TO HAVE A FLEXIBLE MACHINE WITH FAST TOOLING AND PRODUCTION TIMES?

 

The analysis of this new need resulted in the creation of a new market segment positioned between the TRANSFER MACHINE and the MACHINING CENTER.

This new machine combines the POSITIVE characteristics of the two worlds.

The machine is based on TRANSFER technology. In fact, the 4-station pallet shuttle rotates like a TRANSFER, consequently it is fast; but, instead of simple transfer units, 3 actual independent MACHINING CENTERS were used, with tool change and pallet rotation B axis This is to guarantee flexibility.

 

THE MULTICENTER IS IDEAL FOR THE PRODUCTION OF LOTS FROM 500 TO 5000 PIECES

 


THE MULTICENTER ALLOWS YOU TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU WORK

 

Below is a summary of the strengths of this machine, in line with the new processing methods of LEAN MANUFACTURING:

  • VERY FLEXIBLE, IT CAN BE ADAPTED TO ALL KINDS OF PIECES TO BE PROCESSED
  • SUPER FAST TOOLING: PIECE CHANGE IN 15/20 MIN.
  • FAST PRODUCTION: 3 SPINDLES ALWAYS IN OPERATION
  • LOWER TOOL COSTS
  • LOWEST INVESTMENT COST IN ITS CATEGORY

 

This machine can be metaphorically connected to the sales office telephone and QUICKLY produce lots from 500 to 5000 pieces, with tooling times of 15/20 minutes, a dream that will make the relationships between your managers simply idyllic.

In addition to this, you will gain a competitive advantage by meeting your customer’s request in RECORD time, beating the competitors that insist on working with TRANSFER machines or with the traditional MACHINING CENTERS! And that is my explanation. But, obviously, you could say that I am biased. If that is the case, keep reading below, as I have provided an account from a user of the MULTICENTER.

 

TESTIMONIAL …

 

“Before purchasing the MULTICENTER, I had to produce the piece in multiple steps, and this resulted in the following problems:

  • PART DAMAGE
  • CRITICAL TOLERANCE
  • PROBLEM WITH THE BURRS

Thanks to the MULTICENTER, we were able to optimise the cycle in order to solve problems associated with quality and cycle time. Moreover, the machine can be retooled from one piece to another in just 15 minutes, thanks to the large number of available tools that are always in stock. In fact, retooling only consists of changing the part clamps”.

Giuliano Pintossi
Production Department Manager
Cavagna Group (Ponte San Marco, Brescia)

 

Since 2005, in other words for a period of 10 years, we have been gradually introducing this new product on the market, opening up a new segment that is precisely positioned between the traditional MACHINING CENTERS and the TRANSFER machines.

Today, we can boast the largest machinery fleet installed in this category, with over 100 centers sold both in Italy and abroad. In addition, the advantage of producing these machines as standard, has made this possible:

 

THE MULTICENTER HAS THE LOWEST COST IN ITS CATEGORY!

 

Now it’s your turn! Try to answer the following three questions; take 10 minutes of your time and try to jot down your answers immediately: it is very important to write them down instead of just thinking them, since writing requires concentration, that concentration that we often do not have for lack of time, and that however makes us make the WRONG decisions or, even worse, not make any decision at all.

 

WHAT WOULD CHANGE AT YOUR COMPANY IF YOU INSTALLED A MULTICENTER

FOR LOTS FROM 500 TO 5000 PIECES?

.. AND WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF YOU CARRY ON INSTALLING TRANSFER MACHINES OR MACHINING CENTERS?

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOUR COMPANY IF YOU DID NOTHING AND SIMPLY POSTPONED YOUR DECISIONS?

 

AND I REMIND YOU THAT…

 IT IS NOT THE STRONGEST OF THE SPECIES THAT SURVIVES BUT THE MOST ADAPTABLE!

 

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Maurizio Porta
Expert in Flexible Production