CNC Machine Tools

Machine Tools are devices that are mechanical in construction and are powered by an external source. They are most commonly used to produce (fabricate) Machine Components by Machining… Machining is the removal of metal (selectively) from a material. The actual term machine tool describes machinery that is powered by an electrical source (or an external powers source) and not the manual use by humans. Although If the set up is done so appropriately there are certain machines that can be powered by people and are still referred to as Machine Tools.

Historians that focus on past technologies and their developments over time refer to Machine Tools as being truly born when human involvement was removed entirely from the stamping process or shaping process used to manufacture tools. It was back in 1483 when the first machine was manufactured that was directly controlled without the need for people, it was a Cutting Tool Lathe that was for cutting screws. This Lathe did not make the screws from metal though, it used wood and produced Screw Threads, it was a technological breakthrough that forever changed the was machinery worked.

It was much later around the 1800s when the first Machine Tool was actually produced for sale and was manufactured in England by Matthew Murray.

They have evolved so much over the centuries that they are now Computer Numerical Controlled and are referred to as CNC Machine Tools. Computers are used to plot out a process that the machine must take; it follows the steps and creates the desired product. They do not require any human assistance and are extremely precise and accurate.

The Advantages of Rapid Manufacturing

Manufacturers today are burdened by high labour rates, increasing raw material costs and the constant threat of global competition. Given the current state of the economy, manufacturers must adopt continuous improvement approaches that increase production throughput by reducing production and eliminating idle & lost time in manufacturing. To this extent, all aspects of this must be reviewed. From the initial design phase, to the prototype or pre-production phase, all the way to full scale production, minimizing cycle times at each operation is essential in reducing costs.

Rapid manufacturing is one tool companies use to reduce design cycle times by streamlining development of prototypes and pre-production units. Reducing the prototype phase means to reduce the time needed to work out design flaws and assembly issues in production. Shorten this time and companies are able to shorten the lead time on product development and market introduction. For those companies able to get their products to market faster than the competition, increased revenues and higher market share are guaranteed. So, what is rapid manufacturing and what is the most time critical tool to speeding up the design and prototype phase?

Rapid Manufacturing by Way of 3D Printers

3D printers provide electrical and mechanical design engineers with essential insight into a three dimensional view of new product designs. They can immediately assess the viability of the design from the point of view of ease of manufacturing, assembly time as well as fit, form and function. In fact, being able to see the design’s overall functionality at the prototype stage is essential in both eliminating design flaws, and reducing the incidence of high cycle times in manufacturing & assembly. When design engineers can reduce the incidence of errors in design, they can not only reduce the time needed to complete prototypes, but also save on valuable manufacturing resources that would otherwise be spent working through those design flaws. The best companies see cycle time analysis from the viewpoint of the entire product, and not just one single production operation. There are cycle times for each stage in production, and a total cycle time for the finished product. Taking it one step further, there’s a cycle time for product design and market introduction. 3D printers and similar rapid manufacturing tools allow companies to reduce these cycle times and costs, as well as improve lead times.

For any company involved in custom-made product designs or who need rapid innovation to deliver time sensitive products, being able to benefit from rapid manufacturing practices not only reduces the time needed to finish these designs, but also helps to grow a company’s gross profit. The automotive industry is one adopter. However, others include telecom companies in charge of large scale projects in satellite communications and terrestrial earth stations.

Service Industry Lean Manufacturing

Non-manufacturing industries have not followed lean manufacturing to the same extent as those that manufacture a product. Several service industries have found the same principles applicable, although the use of lean manufacturing tools is different.
For example, a value added analysis is just as easily conducted with a worker talking on the telephone as someone using one.

The 5S tool can be used to organize the surroundings in the telemarketing office. All materials the telemarketer uses should be organized and within reach without having leave the area. This 5S organization enables the telemarketer to continuously utilize any material in front of them as well as keep an eye on a computer.

The same SMED tools can be used with a administrative assistant as a machine operator. The process map and movement will show the waste in each. The assistant’s travel shows the motion waste. The waiting waste is often huge in any white collar or service job. For example, the waste from waiting on a colleague, manager, supplier, or anyone else can be eliminated. There are ways to minimize it by removing the root cause as well as finding activities to fill the time. These activities should be of short duration, such as data entry, filing, or printing.

Line balancing is easy in a service environment. The key is flexibility. For example, two tellers at a bank may be required 6 out of 8 hours per day, but the trained lean expert or industrial engineer is required to notice it. The additional two hours of waste comes in buckets of 1-2 minutes throughout the day. Again, this time must be filled with value added activities in a standard work format. If the job isn’t standardized, the two individuals may absorb the time and appear 100% busy. There are many other instances where job combinations are obvious.

The value stream map is an excellent tool for service industries. Rather than the traditional macro level view of the system, the value stream map can be used in a department or area of the business. An example would be the service desk at a department store. Begin with the information flow and trigger for activity, which might be a customer. Break the map into various segments showing the few activities that comprise 90% of the work, such as returned goods, request for information, or complaints. Standardized Operations should be utilized for returned goods to minimize motion and waiting, such as a decision flow diagram. If the manager is called a large percentage of the time, the decision flow diagram needs improved. Obviously the 5S and SMED tools are also relevant, as well as root cause problem solving to eliminate the complaints.

Service industries often use kanbans without knowing it, such as ordering supplies. The same pull systems can be used in service industries as the manufacturing sector. The supply distribution center is one obvious example. Inventory waste can be eliminated using pull systems beginning with the end downstream customer.
When implementing lean manufacturing in a service industry, it is important to tailor the training to the business. Most SMED (single minute exchange of die) training is developed using examples of setup activities for equipment. It is easier for people to understand and see the waste in their processes when the training has obvious applicability.

One of the best long term lean manufacturing tools to apply in a service industry is the kaizen event. Kaizen means “incremental improvement” in Japanese. The kaizen team is comprised of a cross functional team developed to quickly and substantially improve a business issue. For example, a kaizen might be developed to reduce hospital check in time for testing. The team might include the individuals conducting the check-in, a nurse, manager, an IT representative, and a couple customers. If the average check in time is 35 minutes (the elapsed time from walking into the building until seated in a private room), the kaizen objective might be to reduce the check in time to 20 minutes within 5 days.

Cellular manufacturing can be used in many service businesses. Rather than placing individual pieces of equipment such as the postage meter, copier, fax, and file drawer throughout the area for everyone to use (and wait on), consider placing these items together in a U shaped cell to minimize movement.

The “One Piece Flow” concept is a great tool for processing items such as quotes, bills, or mail pieces. For example, if four people must review a quote, and the first person processes 500 prior to moving to the second individual, and so on, the cycle time is going to be very long. Also, if the fourth person notices a mistake the other three missed, all 500 are bad and much labor was spent unnecessarily. Moving the piece in a flow of “one” or in small batches minimizes the error cost and reduces cycle time.