Flexibility provides opportunities to pursue new industries
Manufacturers around the world have strived to find ways they can help support the healthcare industry during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Most have opted to shift their focus to the medical sector to help meet the rising demand for critical medical supplies like face masks and ventilators – but many shops are apprehensive about the work it might take to pursue a new industry. Rather than pay attention to the major manufacturers who are spending weeks to retool entire production lines for face masks, however, the best way to transition to the medical industry for most manufacturers starts by examining another industry altogether: general engineering.
Often known as “job shops” or contract manufacturers in America, the most capable general engineering firms often switch between industries five times a day. In the morning, they may be cutting vanes for jet engines. In the afternoons, they’ll produce molds for food packaging. And before they leave for the evening, they’ll set up a medical job to run overnight. The best of these companies also handle these transitions on a day-by-day basis. An order will come in the morning, and the part will be shipped that afternoon.
This style of high-mix/low-volume (HMLV) production doesn’t require exotic technology. In fact, most companies seeking to move toward contract manufacturing already have the kind of multi-tasking machine tools and flexible tooling necessary for a high mix of jobs. Production agility comes instead from the arrangement of machines. Flexible cells linked together with simple, versatile automation solutions that enable several machines to be handled by one operator are ideal, but general engineering firms around the world handle a wide range of jobs with a handful of high-performance multi-tasking machines.
Of course, advanced technology is meaningless without skilled engineers and operators to make it work. In a HMLV production environment, manufacturing professionals must be just as flexible as the machine tools they use, so cross-training and technical education is key. A shop’s management should also consider seminars like Seco Masterclass, where business owners and executives have the chance to learn how Seco Tools achieves operational and machining excellence at its own production facilities.
The Seco Technical Education Program (STEP) Masterclass covers the fundamentals of manufacturing right through to today’s Industry 4.0 capabilities and high-mix/low-volume strategies in a two-day event. A human resources investment in manufacturers’ futures, the STEP Masterclass coursework provided through Seco Manufacturing Transformation can even be customized to manufacturers’ unique needs. Manufacturers can apply this knowledge to achieve greater optimization and immediate results in high-mix/low-volume production facilities.
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