For many manufacturers, a certain amount of scrap is considered an inevitability, something that just happens as a natural consequence of the manufacturing process. While some scrap is inevitable, your company shouldn’t put up with more wasted time and money than it actually needs to.
Scrap is, at best, a physical manifestation of wasted time and effort. At worst, scrap production can actively detract from your company’s bottom line.
How so? Some scrap, such as metal shavings or debris, is nearly inevitable when cutting and shaping products. However, the scrapping of whole parts part of the way through production means that much of the materials you spent money on procuring, and all of the labor used, is flushed right down the expense column of your ledger without so much as a chance to produce a return on the investment.
So, how can your company reduce scrap in its manufacturing process and save money? Here are a few ideas that you may be able to employ in your own production line:
#1: Minimize Manual Handling of Delicate Parts
Marlin Steel’s manufacturing team use factory automation for a great number of reasons, including safety. Not just for the workers themselves, but for the parts that are being assembled.
Machines don’t get sick or tired the way manual laborers do. A machine doesn’t get a muscle spasm because of a repetitive motion stress injury or a sneeze and drop a multi-thousand dollar load of small, delicate, cannot-afford-to-have-a-single-scratch-on-them parts all over the floor. Humans do.
If you can set up a machine to handle a given task in a way that doesn’t risk damage to the parts you manufacture, then automating that process is often the best option. Not only will you save money on reprocessing your parts, you’ll improve your time to market by getting parts right the first time.
This is often easiest when your production process uses specialized steel wire baskets to hold parts from one phase of your process to another, which helps to limit physical contact with your delicate manufactured parts.
#2: Use the Right Metal Forming Tool for the Job
It isn’t always enough to just make a cut into a piece of metal if you want to avoid creating excess scrap. The tools and techniques you use to shape metal forms go a long ways towards reducing the amount of excess scrap that is created during your manufacturing process.
For example, here at Marlin Steel, we use a number of different machines to cut and shape steel sheet metal, including:
- A CNC Metal Punch. With the Trumpf CNC punch, Marlin Steel can both cut and make bends in sheet metal forms. For large work pieces, the ability to make bends at the cut site can help to conserve materials and production steps for more complicated sheet metal forms.
- A Cutting Laser. Laser cutters such as the Trumpf TruLaser 1030 allow for incredibly precise cuts to be made in sheet metal with very smooth edges. When cutting shapes out of a sheet metal plate, laser cutters can make cuts incredibly close to one another, maximizing the number of forms that can be made from a single plate of sheet metal and minimizing leftover scrap.
The choice of machine to use depends on a number of factors, such as whether or not the sheet metal needs to be bent into specific shapes. By choosing the right tool for the job, scrap can be kept to a minimum.
Other tools that you might want to take a closer look at include the containers that you use to hold your parts through the production process. Inefficient container designs contribute to part damage and scrap production during late-stage production processes such as ultrasonic parts cleaning or heat treating.
Sometimes, eliminating scrap may be as simple as revising the design of your parts cleaning baskets for better handling of parts.
Tip #3: Keep Employees Trained and Motivated
No matter how heavily you’ve invested in factory automation, your people are still key to your company’s success. It’s your workers who set up, operate, and maintain the machinery that you use to meet your production goals. Keeping their skills up to date while motivating them to find ways to improve efficiency is a key part of eliminating scrap.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario:
Say that you have a part that you need to produce, and want to optimize the process to eliminate scrap and save money. You hand the task of creating the part to two teams of workers, team A and team B.
Team A consists of workers who have trained with all of your manufacturing equipment and have detailed knowledge of manufacturing processes and the mechanical properties of the materials you work with. Team B has no such experience or training.
Which team would you expect to be more successful at eliminating waste in the production process and staying on task?
The team with the greater knowledge and training will naturally be better equipped to find opportunities to reduce scrap and other forms of waste that cost your company money. They’ll make smarter use of your resources, and not have to go through nearly as many “trial and error” experiences to find out what does and does not work.
Finding ways to keep these employees motivated to reduce scrap is another challenge altogether.
One method that Marlin Steel has had success with is the use of a performance-based bonus program that rewards employees for meeting aggressive production goals. These goals are difficult, if not impossible, to meet with wasteful processes, so employees are motivated to seek efficient solutions to production challenges that reduce scrap.
Need More Ways to Reduce Scrap?
Consult with a mechanical engineer from Marlin Steel today to learn how you can further improve your production process to make it ultra-efficient and reduce scrap production. To see how Marlin Steel has helped other manufacturers reduce scrap and improve efficiency, check out the case study at the link below: