2012 STATE OF THE INDUSTRY:
Metal Forming & Fabricating Software
Forecast: Look for more intelligent solid CAD models, design automation and direct flow through to manufacturing, where more agile software supports mass customization throughout the new breed of fabrication machines that perform first and second operations in a single step.
CURRENT STATE OF BUSINESS
It is our sense that manufacturing as a whole is finally stable and again growing after several years of turmoil. Steel service centers, construction, agricultural, and mining equipment manufacturers all seem to be ramping up activity to meet growing demand. At the same time oil, shipbuilding, transportation, sheet metal fabrication and other industries are also experiencing measurable growth. We expect that manufacturing activity in fabrication will continue the recent positive trend into 2012.
System integration will continue play a critical role. Enterprise-wide integration of business systems, engineering and supply chain management systems is constantly evolving to provide seamless and reliable flow of information regardless of type, source, or destination. This area must continue to keep pace with demand and spawn practical and reliable applications in order to ensure that an infrastructure exists to support current and future trends.
Manufacturers are making significant investments in state-of-the-art equipment as they position themselves to increase production and compete for new business. However, in order to maximize and leverage this investment fully they also need to take a close look at the software used to drive these machines and processes. Nowhere is this more evident than with CAD/CAM nesting software, where a relatively small investment can yield such tremendous payback.
Part nesting efficiency, waste reduction, improved cutter path planning for better part quality and reduced machine cycle time all add up to serious (and sustainable) bottom-line improvement. For example, a five percent part nesting efficiency improvement can result in significant savings when projected over the course of a single year.
The bottom line is, has been, and will continue to be the bottom line. The pursuit of profitability is increasing pressure for continued improvement and waste reduction. Manufacturers are scrutinizing every aspect of the business like never before, especially tools and processes, to boost profitability. The shop floor is certainly no exception.
It seems that manufacturing and related jobs once destined for other countries are returning to the U.S. All of this is culminating in tremendous opportunities for growth and gain – but at the same time must be part of an orchestrated plan harnessing the best resources, technologies, and practices available.
Advancements in technology are significantly impacting the way our customers compete. The industry recently introduced fiber laser cutting machines that lower cost per part while improving quality via “a sharper knife”. There is new and improved plasma, waterjets, routers, tube cutting and other technologies designed to automate manual processes, increase productivity and enable users to expand their offerings while more agile software allows mass customization throughout.
Today’s new breed of fabrication machines can perform first and second operations in a single step – quite a leap over what was possible just a few short years ago. At the same time, automated material handling is enabling unattended production and allowing for continuous manufacturing. We are also seeing the ability to quickly and accurately estimate job costs. These and other capabilities provide a real competitive edge to those who choose to take advantage of what is currently available.
Our industry is very progressive; it is exciting to see what lies ahead! But this is only the tip of the iceberg. As companies invest in the latest and greatest equipment, there remains the real need to take a hard look at the software that is driving these machines and processes. Choosing software on price alone is equivalent to putting cheap retread tires on a high performance sports car – it’ll never achieve maximum performance.
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