With any new metal fabrication project comes plenty of planning, challenges, critical decisions and efficiencies to strive for.
Before you budget your next fabrication project, it’s important that you have a full grasp on the different manufacturing factors to consider, and how you can optimize each step of the process for cost reduction, timeliness and efficacy.
To help narrow down the field of many, we’ve listed the four main factors of your metal manufacturing project and tips to optimize each:
To roll or to stamp—that is the question.
Your mission is to source a high quality, custom steel part to be manufactured efficiently at a relatively low cost.
As you well know, there are a variety of different metal forming techniques when sourcing a new project. But how do you choose between two popular methods, roll forming and stamping?
How you will manufacture your custom steel part is an important decision that requires you weigh and prioritize a variety of factors.
To help, we’ve listed five main factors to consider when making your metal sourcing decision:
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
- Steve Jobs
In some iteration or another, you’ve heard of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
The KISS principle was developed in the mid-1900s by Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, a former Lockheed Martin advanced aircraft development engineer, who believed that systems performed best when they had simple designs rather than complex ones.
Maybe Mr. Johnson was onto something. Many years later, the KISS principle is still used by manufacturing engineers and software designers, where the threat of scope creep can make projects unmanageable over time.
Image Credit: Brennan via Flickr
There are many different factors that can affect your part or product design, including cost, material, project scope and time to market. Below are three rules based in simplicity to help manufacturing engineers reduce design complexity.
Designing for roll forming is in many ways a different process compared to other metal fabrication design methods. Roll forming removes some of the challenges other fabrication methods present, creating design opportunities for:
- Products requiring edge conditioning,
- Parts with complex geometry,
- Long parts,
- Redesigned aluminum extrusions and more.
When designing, or re-designing, a metal fabricated product, engineers strive to keep it simple, lightweight and cost-effective while still maintaining strength and integrity.
In order to achieve those goals, you may need to challenge traditional notions about how things should be done.
Knowledge is like a muscle. You have to focus on and exercise it if you want it to grow.
When knowledge plateaus, it can negatively affect output. An engineer’s knowledge is his or her greatest asset. Engineers who lack knowledge of alternative production methods can inhibit a product’s cost efficiency, and in turn, hinder profitability.
When prioritizing products or parts for a redesign, consider:
The weight of the part or product. If a product is heavy, there is probably an opportunity to reduce weight, and with it, production, inventory and shipping costs.
The complexity of the part of product. Evaluate the part’s design complexity and whether it requires multiple steps to fabricate, or to assemble.
Overall production costs. Is the part or product is expensive and inefficient to produce? Flag it for a redesign.
Once you have identified the components to be evaluated, there are multiple ways to approach the process. For engineers, this is a step in the process that allows us to flex our design muscles and create a more efficient solution.
Before a manufacturer makes a large investment in tooling a new project, engineers must make sure the new designs they propose work perfectly. The best way to test and ensure new designs work as desired is through prototyping and product refinement.
As sections become more complex and tooling costs increase, it is more important than ever for engineers to get prototypes right before production begins. How can engineers make the most of the prototyping and product refinement phases of production? That’s the big question this post sets out to answer.
Do you work to live or live to work?
I imagine many engineers struggle with this question. We’d like to work to live, but external forces such as rapidly evolving technology, shorter product lifecycles and new product capabilities have us living to work.
Engineers across industries are stretched. Forced to do more with less time and money, and pulled in different directions by competing priorities. Because of this, work-life balance can quickly become an illusive dream rather than a reality.
When you hear or see the word “valuable,” what comes to mind?
We tend to look at the Merriam-Webster definition of valuable and view it as something or someone who is:
- Very useful or helpful.
- Important and limited in amount.
A valuable engineering partner is useful in creating effective production solutions and important to the overall strength of your business. Below are an additional five key characteristics every engineering partner should possess.