Nothing can be won without a strategy, not pretty much a glorious win, at least. How can rules be any different for sheet metal fabricators?
Metal fabrication industry relies greatly on fabricators’ shop floor processes and their efficiency. Efficiency comes from their accurate and error-free fabrication drafts generated in CAD and ability to read them. However, efficiency for fabrication is a sensitive topic of discussion since in some industries such as building products fabrication, renovating the existing components. For instance, an old beam span made of sheet metal which is now in sagging condition can be fixed by externally welding a T-shaped bracket to achieve the same performance time being. While on the other hand, handrails that have caught the corrosion have to be replaced to maintain their efficiency.
But one sure shot thing is that no matter what, productivity gains for any fabricator is termed as positive efficiency and are often achieved by optimizing CAD process. Optimizing CAD processes simply means that each line that is drawn, each groove that is made, PMI that is inserted in the CAD model or fabrication draft during the entire design development process is accurate and adheres to the fabrication shop facilities.
One of the core reasons that deviates CAD processes from being optimal is the fact that there are fabricators who aren’t aware of what is happening back at the CAD station and same goes for CAD drafters. As a result of this missing link between the two, CAD drawings for sheet metal fabrication and actual shop floor, final products go out of sync and efficiency is compromised.
The first step for them is to have an inevitably strong, strategized and synchronized work plan that puts the CAD design and the fabrication shop floor setting and availability, are coherent. Fabrication drafts and 3D CAD models prepared by the CAD shop once released for fabrication shouldn’t be returned for RFIs and non-capabilities of the shop floor. There is a dire need of understanding the gap between CAD environment and real shop floor environment in order to prepare designs that suits fabrication.
Allowances, guidelines and other machining errors have to be compensated for while designing. It should be ensured that CAD generated drafts undergo a stringent set of quality checks to before they are released for fabrication.
Additionally, with the changing wear and tear of the tool, the time taken for fabrication may also change. CAD drafts, models and time allotted for fabrication can always be amended and adjusted to the changing tool setting. Besides, the BOMs and work orders generated by fabrication shop floor, centralized planning can be refined with changing times.
But all in all, if the CAD shop and fabrication shop work orders and work plans are in sync; gaining on efficiency shouldn’t be a major concern for fabricators.
Strategizing to synchronize CAD processes and fabrication seems to be a smaller and unimportant task, but it involves an immense amount of planning and important decision-making before any actions are taken. It may come as a surprise to some of the readers that about 30% of the time for typical CAD operator’s day is spent in non-productive activities. The result is that the engineer is not being able to utilize his abilities to design better fabrication drafts. Having said this, it is apparent that when engineers do not have strategized work plan, fabrication efficiency is going to hit the lowest.
On the other hand, an offshore mechanical design service partner who understands your shop floor tool setting capacity can essentially help you optimize CAD processes for profitability and not just outsourced design support.
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