As an Engineering Coordinator for Philippi-Hagenbuch, Inc. my duties are interesting and challenging, ranging from nesting parts for the CNC operator in the plant to assigning and maintaining status of work for the Engineering department and relaying this information to other associates in the organization. For those of you who haven’t encountered nesting yet, it is the process of laying out the parts that are to be cut by the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) operator on sheet metal to ensure the best utilization of raw materials. The nesting process is incredibly important because it cuts down on the possibility of over production or under production. From my perspective, having our production plant next door is definitely a check in the ‘Pro’ column for PHIL and here are my top three reasons why.
Seeing Real Time Progress
Having the production plant next door gives us the opportunity to see how the equipment we’re designing is produced. When you’re working on parts or a piece of equipment in a design program, it can be an abstract concept until the actual physical piece is made. When nesting the parts for the CNC machine, I can walk over to the plant to talk with the operator and watch how the cuts are made. Working closely with the CNC operator helps to better utilize the material. Yes, parts can be nested with the software, but being able see the cutting process makes modifications easier – and that streamlines work flow and reduces costs. The next door convenience of the plant allows us to watch the design come to life as parts are being manufactured and designs are produced.
Seeing a product take shape is not only fascinating, but makes the nesting process more efficient.
Face-to-Face Contact Between Engineers and Manufacturers
It’s probably shocking, but engineers and manufacturers don’t always see eye-to-eye during the manufacturing process. However, being able to create a part and then meet with members of production regularly and discuss the design from a production perspective can mitigate the tension that could otherwise build up over the course of a job. This creates a team friendly environment where everyone can voice their concerns and brainstorm solutions. When the production team has a question on a design, we can go look at the problem and actually talk over the problem rather than get confused and frustrated with communications through email or phone. Plus, we get to see how the design works on the individual part and ask questions about the machines or materials—very beneficial from a learning perspective. In an age where so much is communicated electronically, it is refreshing to be able to connect face-to-face with every member of the process from sales all the way through to shipping.
Faster, More Efficient Work Flow
Oddly enough, nesting software doesn’t always take into consideration all the limitations of the materials and tools used any given job might encounter. Most of the time the engineering department would have no idea there was a problem until a) the production team gave them a frustrated call after having to stop production because a design wasn’t working with the machine, or b) the finished parts all had to be scrapped because they were flawed and couldn’t be used. Neither of those are ideal situations, especially from an efficiency stand point. Time is money. Putting the production on hold or restarting the job is not fast, efficient, or productive. By watching the design come to life as parts are being manufactured and designs are produced, we can understand these limitations and make real time adjustments – saving a considerable amount of time in the process. With the plant next door, when modifications need to be made, engineers can see how the design works with the press to ensure accurate changes are made quickly and production time is not lost.
The efficiency gained from having a setup where engineers can meet with the production team can’t be beat. Most engineers don’t get the benefit of working side by side with welders and machinists. The value of learning how the design works with the machines and comes together is often lost and leads to repetitious rework that can take a toll on both frayed nerves and the company’s bottom line. Open communication on all sides and the ability to literally go next door to see the design in action streamlines the work flow process and makes for efficient production.