When it comes to laser services a lot of customers want it done yesterday. That may be because windows of opportunities are closing, or because downstream assemblers are waiting for the part, or because revenue targets are at risk — or maybe because there was not sufficient planning done ahead of time.
If only the required production equipment were just sitting idle; if only the needed materials are all in stock; and if only the only thing that the spec needed in order for the perfect part to be manufactured was for that spec to be read.
If only that were all true, then it might not matter whether enough manufacturing time were built into the project plan. But, unfortunately, that may not always be the case and so it makes sense to make sure sufficient time for manufacturing is built into the plan. Here’s why:
People in a hurry tend to make more mistakes. Shortcuts don’t always work out. There’s less time for review. And the optimal resources (people, equipment, materials) may not be available so less suitable substitutes may need to be used.
It’s one thing not to do something wrong. It’s another to identify and take advantage of opportunities to actually make the process better than originally imagined in order to achieve economies that would otherwise be missed — such as in the amount or types of materials used.
Just as the process can be fine tuned, so can the manufactured part itself — perhaps to make it more manufacturable for higher yield or for better performance in the hands of the user.
Often the cost of trying to hurry up a process is to achieve exactly the opposite of the intended result. Unexpected delays can occur because of mistakes (so more rework is required) and also because of delays getting started because facilities, materials and people were not scheduled ahead of time.
When things go wrong there can often be a domino effect — not just impacting your laser services provider, but also impacting downstream assemblers, with customers and with a company’s own internal operations. Typically laser services involve parts that get assembled into high value products, involving multiple players in a process that is highly choreographed. When one of those players misstep, other players will likely misstep as well. Furthermore, because these mistakes typically happen “at the last minute” there is less time to recover, and so losses (in time, materials, reputation, dollars) are therefore more likely to be permanent.
Here, then, are some steps companies might wish to consider in order to avoid these unintended and unpleasant “last minute planning” consequences:
Since laser services often come at or near the end of the project cycle, all the margin of error has often been used up by earlier steps in the process before manufacturing is even started. So just making sure that ample time is reserved (and stays reserved) for all manufacturing steps is the first step in removing the downside risks of last minute planning.
Even if the order is not ready to give to the laser services provider, at least let the provider know that it is coming. That way, people and equipment can be scheduled and materials can be procured in advance so even if manufacturing must be expedited the odds are much higher that it can be expedited successfully.
A full-service laser services provider can do more than just cutting and welding. They can assemble, etch, anodize, polish, inventory, grind, dice, cut, clean, mark, machine, singulate, bend and do many of the other steps involved in the complete project. Handing over more of the project is a great way to avoid the consequences of last minute production planning since that planning is now in the hands of one provider. It also has other benefits, including faster delivery, fewer purchasing headaches, less finger pointing, higher quality and often lower total cost.
The saying that “the educated consumer is our best customer” applies here. Laser is different from more conventional welding and cutting technologies (and often misrepresented in movies). So gaining at least a basic knowledge of how laser manufacturing technologies work and what they can do will enable you to create a more realistic plan.
We've found that companies that adopt best practices across the board tend to employ best practices when they deal with us. So we encourage companies to develop a culture where thoughtful advanced planning is a core value.
Adopting advanced planning as a core value will not only make your laser services-related projects run smoother, faster and with lower risk. It will make all your operations run that way.