When considering a viable production process for a project, companies across all industries ask the same question:
How can we cut cost without sacrificing part quality or performance?
Some manufacturers will choose the lesser of the two evils and produce their parts with a discount supplier at the expense of part quality and production longevity. Others will choose a supplier who simply produces the part design as-is without regard to efficiency or repeatability, which can lead to costly secondary manufacturing and longer lead times.
Fortunately, these aren’t your only options. You can adopt a practice dedicated to identifying hidden costs that can be eliminated to make manufacturing more efficient—without compromising performance.
Balancing design with cost-effective production
In order to avoid the cost and quality paradox, companies have to relentlessly pursue innovation all the way through their production supply chain—from the drawing board to the delivery of the complete part.
Companies that have not successfully balanced design with cost-effective production get caught in an innovative “two-step,” where they concentrate their innovation solely in product design and sourcing stages.
In the first stage, companies will pour innovation into their new product designs. They try new technologies, new materials, and new ideas, in an effort to make groundbreaking advancements and a big ripple in the perceived market.
Then, once the product’s been in production for one or more generations, with its design continually proving itself in the marketplace and supplier processes and relationships firmly in place, the second stage of the cycle begins. This is when sourcing teams take over with a desire to procure less expensive parts, and global supply managers scrutinize the bill of materials with an eye toward line-item reductions. It’s the design procurement two-step.
While innovation in any form is advantageous, these are not the only stages of the production process that can benefit from a little extra ingenuity. In order to break out of the two-step rut, companies must learn to engineer value into their part through the entire production cycle. Here are six key approaches to finding and incorporating hidden value into your production processes:
Exploring material options for parts can return great value, as various alloys with equivalent strength attributes can be employed in manufacturing given the appropriate testing. By exploring alternative alloys that you may not have considered, you can significantly lower the overall cost of your production.
Choosing the optimal process
Sometimes, taking a different manufacturing path is the answer to realizing major results. Even if your current manufacturing process is functional, there could be a more effective process that reduces or eliminates secondary operations, increases your speed-to-market, or can produce more shots per minute.
Extending die life
An area of impact during mass production is the durability of the die. If the part is designed such that the die wears easily, it would need to be replaced more often, adding both cost and delays to your project.
Eliminating secondary operations
If components have been designed with geometric features that are toleranced in ways that are impossible to mass-produce traditionally, they require multiple operations. In certain manufacturing processes, these secondary operations can account for huge waste, representing as much as 80% of the component cost. Casting a net-shape or near-net shape part would reduce the need for these costly secondary operations.
Taking multiple components that are adjacent to one another in an assembly and combining them into one piece is a cost saving that can be easily accomplished. Advancements in manufacturing methods like die casting eliminate the need for assembly—providing savings by consolidating those two fixed parts.
Preventative maintenance reduction
There are some cases in which specific features in the component can be easily cast, but because of the part’s design, the tool wears down quickly and needs to be replaced often. Downtime on machines in the manufacturing plant is costly, and so it’s important to engineer solutions to maintain problem areas before they fail.
The benefits of engineering hidden value
Certainly, the most tangible result you can realize from value engineering is that there’s no longer a compromise of quality for cost. Value engineering is purely cost reduction, not a discount: value is engineered in, expense is engineered out.
The difference that value engineering can make ranges from changing material on the smallest of parts to optimizing entire tooling setups and part consolidation—resulting in ROI that you can realize in a year, and that can last the life of a product. In truth, the only way you won’t see benefits in your business is by not implementing the practice of engineering value at all.