Flexibility in metal fabrication begins with having the right tools and the ability to create competitive differentiation. This is especially important if you’re a job shop and are in the business of taking on work that most shops cannot manage. Creating this competitive differentiation can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Having skilled employees
- Maintaining an efficient process
- Owning machine tools that your competitors do not have
- Producing parts faster and more economically than anyone else
- Flexibility on the job shop floor creates an opportunity
While most shops can process flat sheet metal through their equipment, fewer can process both flat and non-flat materials such as round and square tubing. This is where competitive differentiation begins to take hold. Having capabilities that your competitors do not also eliminate price competition as they won’t bid on a job they can’t produce.
As a job shop, you never want to turn down work if you can help it. You never know when a job for a new customer could lead to other opportunities in the future. The ability to process tube profiles can represent that future opportunity. Whether the opportunity presents itself through current customers, or by branching out to new customers, you will no doubt have expanded your manufacturing flexibility and competitiveness.
For fabricators, adding laser tube processing capabilities represents an opportunity to create separation from your competition and to expand into industries that you may not have had access to before. Today’s laser tube processing equipment can load tubes from a large bundle, cut the individual parts and then unload the parts, all automatically. Intelligent camera and laser measuring systems work together to control variability in the tube while processing. A weld seam camera automatically detects where the weld seams are located and orient the program accordingly. This is especially important in tube operations where the location of the weld seam is critical. A laser scan feature allows the real-time compensation of the natural twisting and bending of the tube profile. Prior to each cut, the laser quickly scans the sides of the tube to detect offset and twist and adjusts for the centerline of the tube automatically, keeping cut features accurately positioned relative to the tube.
Opportunities for Growth
There are many new opportunities in the construction industry as structural tubing is being used for commercially engineered roof framing support systems for many modern buildings being erected at airports, sports arenas, hospitals, college campuses, and other commercial and industrial applications where vertical support columns are being reduced or eliminated. Opportunities also exist in aerospace/defense, oil and gas, and transportation industries (e.g. commercial boom trucks and crane frames) to name just a few.
Becoming that preferred ‘single-source’ supplier
When companies look for suppliers they are not only looking at price and delivery but also for simplification of their supply chain. Very simply, purchasing your products from a single source rather than having to use multiple sources makes the procurement process more convenient. When you can produce products no one else can produce you can name your price. When you can produce products faster and more economically you can outbid your competition. When you can do both you are making a compelling and attractive argument for becoming that preferred ‘single-source’ supplier. You will also create competitive differentiation in the process.
By Frank Arteaga, Regional Director of Marketing, Bystronic Inc., Hoffman Estates, IL