Today’s hyper-competitive fabrication market demands that more product be machined and manufactured in a shorter time, using fewer resources. One way shops achieve this efficiency is to rely more on automation to gain a competitive edge. Profitable manufacturing relies on a single CAD/CAM solution to solve a wide range of needs. With material costs often the largest expense in manufacturing, the latest CAD/CAM nesting software configures optimal nests for part machining to yield the top results from raw material with minimal waste. Users can save an average of five percent in material. The most advanced nesting engines deliver tighter nests in a fraction of the time.
But the best nesting software suppliers go beyond that by dedicating developers to stay ahead of industry trends and keep pace with the latest fabrication machinery and best practices. This is where the true power of CAD/CAM nesting software is evolving for plasma, laser, punch, oxyfuel, waterjet, router, knife and combination cutting operations, as shops realize their greatest process benefits in the areas referred to as the “5Ms”:
- Material Utilization
- Motion Optimization
- Manpower Efficiency
- Management of Data
- Manufacturing Automation
The following examples show how process automation is expanding its impact in the 5Ms through advanced nesting software that is being used in a variety of shops that serve different industries.
MATERIAL UTILIZATION: WASTE LESS, SAVE MORE
As a supplier to the sensitive nuclear power industry, VeriForm Inc. (Cambridge, ON) is a fabrication shop that requires a nesting solution for yield optimization, strong part data management, sheet tracking, automated handling, and remnant inventory and utilization. The shop uses advanced CAD/CAM software that has the ability to maintain material records, sort and track separate jobs on a single sheet, and ensure part integrity and ISO compliance. Because new customer orders require parts with improved cut paths, VeriForm relies on their CAD/CAM software for simple and accurate new functionality. During the company’s first year of using the nesting system, cost savings in material utilization exceeded $100,000. The tightened nesting of sheets helped further reduce costs by 15 percent and the number of unused drops by 50 percent. Company president Paul Rak stated, “This system is always responsive to our needs and makes us far more competitive with its flexibility in terms of scrap efficiency, part placement, and inventory tracking.”
MOTION OPTIMIZATION: REDUCE CYCLE TIME, INCREASE PRODUCTION
At Pratt & Miller Engineering (New Hudson, MI), which designs and builds some of the world’s highest performing cars in the motorsport industry, work must be fast, accurate, and responsive. They use a single software solution for programming all their cutting machines to address motion optimization. “The nature of our business dictates that we must be able to change on the fly,” says design engineer Mike Kurylo. “Most of our parts are one-offs and generally very intricate. Our system allows us to nest parts in the most efficient way and tab even the smallest and most intricate of parts while keeping track of stock.” By drawing on the experience of optimizing cutting paths, pierces, and other fabrication factors to increase machine capacity, minimize cutting cycle time, and optimize part quality, their nesting software manages common-line cutting and constant velocity cutting to produce dimensionally accurate parts and reduce heat distortion, enable improved edge quality, and reduce nozzle damage and wear by eliminating pierces.
MANPOWER EFFICIENCY: INCREASE PROFITS
When Liebovich Steel & Aluminum Company (Rockford, IL) replaced older fabrication machine tools with newer models, they updated their manufacturing software as well with an automated system that offered more than nesting. The software delivered a three percent scrap reduction improvement and has reduced material drops from 130 drops to 10 – and in some cases down to zero. Because of this success, Liebovich evaluated its entire production process and added an on-line data transaction management system that bridges nesting with ERP/MRP systems. By automatically and accurately tracking work orders and inventory, the shop saves more than two hours per shift in manpower efficiency and has realized a 30 percent to 40 percent increase in production without adding personnel or machinery. “These improvements are very evident and visual,” says NC programming manager Kennedy Chosco. “When the entire company can see cost savings and efficiency improvements, everyone gets excited.”
MANAGEMENT OF DATA: INTELLIGENT DATA INTEGRATION
T-Top Manufacturing (Bridgeport, TX) is a job shop that uses the overall functionality of its nesting software for more intelligent management of data, including windows-based navigation, easy part import and CAD/CAM integration that enables one programmer to be 75 percent faster than before and handle the work for multiple machines that was previously done by three employees. In addition, T-Top implemented just-in-time fabrication through an online data transaction manager that enables the shop to stock only standard sheets. With just-in-time fabrication supported by their nesting software and online data transaction manager, the company saves more than $100,000 each quarter. The nesting software reduced setup time with its easy-to-use programming interface, while boosting machine performance. It also integrated seamlessly with SOLIDWORKS® and other design tools.
MANUFACTURING AUTOMATION: TOTAL OPERATING FLEXIBILITY
Before Brunswick Boat Group (Knoxville, TN) automated their manufacturing process, they digitized and nested cutting operations for their wide variety of geometry of parts and materials by hand. They needed advanced nesting software to address manufacturing automation and transform the previous manually-driven series of steps into an automated concurrent manufacturing process. Now the shop can nest and automate a week’s worth of parts in minutes. Brunswick’s engineering and quality manager, Alicia Harris, says, “Our nesting software has delivered sustained improvements in terms of production efficiency, material variance, and quality.”
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