Metal fabricators gathered for an in-person event without masks and concern for social distancing, and they got to see a 15-kW laser cutting machine in action.
But while the world continues its slow emergence from pandemic routines, it’s not right to call things “normal”—at least from a metal fabricating perspective. Metal prices are at an all-time high, and even reports of hoarding are emerging as fab shops and manufacturers look to grab as much material as they can now because of fear of further price escalation. Companies continue to struggle to find workers interested in manufacturing work, and that pool is growing smaller as other industries face their own critical shortages. Meanwhile, the manufacturing economy is heating up, and metal fabricators are worried about how they might keep up with the opportunities.
At Bystronic’s “High-performance Event,” Mark Johnson, president of Fabricating Solutions, the local Bystronic dealer that helped to organize the event, posed a question to metal fabricator attendees: “How do you produce more parts per day without expanding your building or hiring labor?” Considering that adding on to a building is expensive and time-consuming and finding the right employees difficult, Johnson suggested that advanced fabricating technology could help.
He offered up the following examples:
A 15-kW laser cutting machine can do the work of three to five 2-kW laser cutting machines, which means a company can consolidate laser operations and reduce the number of machine operators needed. Obviously, if laser cutting operations run multiple shifts, a fab shop can see quite a savings in labor costs.
Parts-sorting technology eliminates the need for fab shops to find entry-level workers who might be needed to pick parts out of skeleton produced during a lights-out shift. Some metal fabricators worry about the return on investment with a parts-sorting system, but Johnson said, “If you can’t find labor, payback is immediate.”
Offline programming takes the task off the shop floor and allows press brake operators to focus on making parts.
Robotic bending cells remove the press brake operator altogether and deliver production levels that a human simply can’t match on high-volume jobs.