For the last quarter century, the Renaissance in manufacturing has depended on innovative and superior designs that let producers excel in terms of product quality, delivery and performance. The pressure on manufacturers to continue this positive trend will almost certainly increase as global competition becomes more intense and raw materials more costly.
During this period, manufacturers have adopted a range of new tools to help them stay in front of their competition. These include “lean manufacturing”, “just in time” delivery and scheduling both within and from without of the factory doors, statistical quality control, and continuous feedback loops, among others.
However, one tool that many OEM producers have underutilized is the expertise of their suppliers. Many suppliers, including Dexmet, recognize their responsibility to contribute to the OEM’s success. High value suppliers look to develop a wealth of technical support information (both proprietary and public) to help their customers to succeed. Of course, as the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”.
At Dexmet, we believe that the most effective manufacturers employ an integrated design approach that involves their suppliers working concurrently with the OEM’s own technical team. The OEM specifies the overall product requirements and constraints, while the suppliers work within these guidelines to suggest the most efficient component solutions to overall design. If we think about the design process extending over the four phases listed below, the suppliers' roles in each of the four phases includes:
Product Planning Phase.
Suppliers can provide expertise in analyzing specific component requirements. Suppliers are likely to understand the behavior of their own components better than the end product design engineer. By working together, the final can be made more cost effective; have increased performance; or longer life.
Process Planning Phase.
Suppliers understand from experience how their material is likely to perform in the OEM’s manufacturing process. Therefore, he can help make the production process more efficient by pointing out potential bottlenecks and/or commonly made mistakes (for example, unspooling expanded metal “against the grain”). Suppliers can also help in setting manufacturing parameters like “line speed” to optimum values.
Production Planning Phase.
Suppliers can help develop performance measurement criteria for production planning. Additionally, suppliers can help in determining the optimum order quantity and help manage raw material and semi-finished inventory levels. Suppliers can also help in developing strategies for minimizing the impact of commodity price changes.
Ongoing Cost Reduction & Next Generation Design.
In today’s world, “continuous improvement” is a requirement to remain competitive. Suppliers can help by suggesting ways to improve material efficiency, handling costs, and transport costs. When it comes time to review the product for potential upgrades, suppliers can bring new developments from the components side up for evaluation.
At Dexmet we try to understand exactly what each customer intends to do with our product and what his expectations for the product are. Based on that knowledge, we make suggestions regarding alloy selection, geometry, and post processing that will lower overall system cost while delivering superior product performance. We can also work with customers to develop a “continuous improvement” approach for our own product that will have a direct effect on the end product efficacy.