November 16th, 2015

Why a Fixation on Reducing Scrap Will Blur the Bigger Picture

A fixation on reducing scrap can cause you to miss the forest for the trees. The best way to make big efficiency gains is to look further upstream, into your R&D process, with the goal of maximizing machine uptime.

Business is a balancing act between growth and efficiency. You plan, you implement, you grow. Then you start to think about reducing scrap. Scrap, as we define it, falls into two categories:

1. Waste matrix materials. This includes the leftover from the web matrices that remain after a press run.
 
2. Rejected parts. These are the parts that don’t pass inspection after the process is completed.

 
Without a doubt, you want to reduce the waste from the matrix materials. But it’s the rejected parts that ultimately prove to be the most costly.
 
Every rejected part costs at least twice as much to manufacture as the ones that pass inspection. Not only do you have to reproduce the part, you’re also going to have another round of unused matrix and other waste materials.
 
Before we delve into how to improve waste and those rejected parts through an improved R&D process, remember that machine uptime ultimately trumps any efforts to reduce waste and rejected parts. (Here are four ways to boost uptime from a previous Delta ModTech post.)
 
Reducing Scrap By Improving the R&D Process

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There’s a saying in the motion picture industry: The best production occurs when you have great pre-production.
 
The same model applies to the manufacturing process. The more you focus on an efficient process upfront, the less “trimming of the fat” you’ll have once the production runs are underway.
 
Here are the two key areas of the R&D process that can help you create an efficient yet effective manufacturing process:
 
1. R&D of the Product Design / Development
The biggest mistakes happen when you set expectations without determining if those expectations are even obtainable.
 
Early in the process, your engineering team should be working with die suppliers and machine manufacturers to determine up-front if those tolerances can be met. We’ve worked with product developers who needed to hold a .005” tolerance on a project, but were working with materials that made that requirement an impossibility.
 
The other side of the coin is that developers can design the tolerances to be tighter than they really need to be. A part that is specified at .005” tolerance when only .050” was required can be a very costly mistake. Consider the combined cost of precision-engineered machine components along with the cost of the additional scrap accumulated when you produce a product that is .005” vs .050”.
 
There’s another advantage to involving all players early in the process: It can lead to unforeseen innovations.
 
The biggest profits occur when you’re doing something that no one else can do. While we were working with a customer on a production run of transdermal pouches, for example, we discovered a more efficient grouping process which allowed us to drastically reduce waste.
 
That kind of give-and-take is critical in the product design phase — especially if it happens early in the project.
 
2. R&D of the Manufacturing Process
Manufacturing processes will influence product design, but they also influence your production output.
 
An example is a manufacturer who needs their machines to run 24×7. In these cases, a turret unwind on the front of the machine is an absolute necessity, as it allows for a new roll to be loaded while the other is paying out.
 
Sure, you could stop the line and load another roll in 30 seconds. But over time, those 30 seconds add up to a lot of wasted money and production time.
 
Many top companies have a good understanding of the product they are trying to manufacture and the rates at which they need to manufacture it. However, only a few have a complete handle on the most efficient layout of their manufacturing line that will produce the greatest machine uptime.
 
Because we have experience in a variety of industries, we collaborate with our customers and develop an efficient manufacturing line with just the right tools to optimize their machine’s uptime. We help them develop a checklist of the most critical aspects of their process.
 
Once you’ve set those parameters upfront, then you can evaluate to see if there are innovative ways to push the envelope.
 
Reducing Waste Starts by Understanding the Rules of the Game

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Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players of all time, almost seemed to be moving at a relaxed pace. While other players sometimes seemed frantic and out of control, Jordan’s movements were perfectly in tune with the flow of the game.
 
It’s because Michael Jordan understood the parameters of the game. For all his creativity and flair, he was as skilled a fundamental basketball players as the game has ever known. And those capabilities were learned at the beginning of his career, not midstream.
 
In reducing material waste and bad parts, your goal is to understand the limitations – and the possibilities – of product design and your manufacturing process. Focus on your R&D processes: An improved end result always starts at the beginning.
 
But most importantly, remember that improving uptime is even more important than reducing that last 1% of material waste.

For more information on how you can reduce scrap, contact your Delta ModTech Manufacturing expert.

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