Metal fabrication encompasses various processes that turn metal stock material into finished components and goods. Each fabrication method requires a different set of skills, training, and specialized equipment. The time it takes to complete a metal fabrication project can vary widely based on the specific provider, the process used, order volume, design complexity, and many other factors.
Shortening project lead times—the time it takes to manufacture and deliver your order—will bring products to market faster. While it may be tempting to implement any time-saving measure that comes along, cutting corners can lower product quality. This blog post will discuss some of the methods for shortening lead times in metal fabrication without lowering your project standards.
Lead Times and Metal Component Manufacturing
Manufacturers may incorporate a variety of metal fabrication techniques during the production process. Typical metal fabrication processes include:
- Metal stamping. The metal stamping uses a series of tools and dies to make various cuts and impressions on sheet metal, ultimately forming the metal into a specified design.
- Deep drawing. In metal drawing, sheet metal is pulled into a die using a punch to form a hollow shape. A deep-drawing process creates a component with a depth greater than its diameter.
- Cutting. A variety of cutting processes exist to reduce sheet metal or bars into smaller sections. Examples of cutting equipment used in manufacturing include lasers, plasma torches, and various mechanical cutters, such as saws.
- Folding. Folding creates angles by bending the metal to a specified degree. Folding is a delicate process requiring specialized presses that can fold sheet metal without tearing it.
- Machining. Machining is a reductive process, removing material from stock bars and blanks to form the desired component. The most common machining processes use a turning machine or a milling machine.
- Drilling. Drilling creates holes in the metal workpiece for fitting or attaching components.
Each of these processes offers different lead times. When engaging a provider for a metal fabrication project, ask the following questions:
- How will your current order backlog impact lead times for my project?
- How will the complexity and tolerance requirements of my part impact lead times?
- Are there alternate materials, hardware, or tooling that could shorten lead times without impacting quality?
- Is there a way to limit the need for secondary or specialized processes to reduce lead times?
Tips for Reducing Metal Component Manufacturing Lead Time
Numerous factors beyond the shop floor can have an impact on project lead times. Some tips to reduce lead times with your metal fabricator include:
- Purchase standard components instead of fully custom orders when feasible.
- Complete the prototyping and testing phases on customized parts to avoid problems and delays during the full production run.
- Reduce communication and shipping complexity by using a domestic or nearshored manufacturer.
- Consider adding kitting or assembly to your order to reduce lead times after order completion.
- Streamline inventory management with Just-in-Time and Lean inventory practices.
- Evaluate and improve internal communication processes.
- Choose a highly skilled and reliable supplier.
Other Manufacturing Timeline Considerations
Carefully choosing your manufacturing partner is one of the most critical decisions you can make to streamline your lead times. Your choice of manufacturing partner can impact your project lead times in a variety of ways. To make sure your partner won’t contribute to longer project times, make sure that they have:
- Reliable material suppliers
- Efficient prototyping, sampling, and test run capabilities
- Willingness to build a long-term partnership that streamlines costs and processes
- Proximity to your location to minimize transport times
- A comprehensive portfolio of in-house services (instead of using a variety of third-party providers)
If your manufacturing partner has not demonstrated consistent repeatability, reliability, and conformance to tight timelines and tolerances, it is better to switch suppliers sooner rather than later.
Metal Component Manufacturing from Hudson Technologies
Hudson Technologies has a long history of successful partnerships, offering state-of-the-art in-house capabilities, skilled staff, and adherence to quality standards. For more information about our services, please visit our capabilities page or contact us today.