Click image to enlarge

In September, GM announced it would convert part of a Tennessee plant into a flexible operation. The announcement is the latest by the Detroit Three who in the past decade have spent billions to upgrade assembly plants and create more flexible manufacturing operations that can build and assemble multiple body styles from one or two basic platforms.

Flexible manufacturing makes sense because it allows manufacturers to respond more quickly to a market's changing needs. It's not a new concept; large successful job shops - think Magna International - have built their operations around the ability to respond quickly to their OEM customers' sometimes finicky and frequently changing needs.

The concept is the manufacturing industry's Holy Grail. As more OEMs continue to incorporate more flexibility into their manufacturing operations, what will it mean for component, fixtures and tooling suppliers who support them?

For one, suppliers with high volume manufacturing processes who support large OEMs such as automotive will have to rethink their manufacturing processes. If the order for those 25,000 same engine components suddenly changes to 5,000 for five different engines, can your machining operation handle the change and can it do it cost effectively and competitively? If not, what do you need to do to ensure that you can respond quickly to this change?

The idea behind flexible manufacturing is to better utilize the manufacturing equipment you have under changing market conditions and customer demands. How you do that is by improving productivity. You improve productivity by maximizing the use of existing equipment either through machine upgrades or by changing the machining processes, or you invest in new equipment that allows you to manufacture products faster.

Flexible manufacturing may not be suitable for everyone; those that can embrace this growing movement will reap the rewards of success.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Editor, Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine

Emuge industry first: general purpose tap

Calling it an industry first, Emuge's MultiTap is a high performance tap designed for threading a range of materials including carbon steel, steel alloys, stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron, copper, brass and bronze.

Elliott Matsuura Canada Inc.

Based in Oakville, Ontario, Elliott Matsuura Canada Inc. has been supplying and supporting quality machine tools to the Canadian metal cutting industry since 1950. Elliott carries a full range of metalworking machinery,

Kennametal: Tapping into the wind turbine market

New high performance taps for large diameter tapping from Kennametal feature a wear-resistant powder metal substrate and proprietary top layers and coatings, designed wind turbine component machining of hubs, rings and gearbox housings.

Multi-Tasking: Is it Right for Your Shop?

For manufacturers looking to achieve that competitive edge, you can do no better than a multi-tasking machine. They eliminate the need for separate milling and turning machines, multiple set-ups and, most importantly, they improve productivity.

The Rules of X-Ray Micro CT (and When to Break Them)

Offer the term “metrology equipment” to a group of industrial or manufacturing engineers in a word-association test and it's highly likely CMM (coordinate measuring machine) would be the response.

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn