Monday, November 19, 2012

Let Process Optimization Ensure Your Continuous Growth

By Kurt Nordlund, President

Given today’s extremely competitive manufacturing landscape, shops are spending more time scrutinizing every aspect of their production processes to identify areas of potential improvement, including their cutting tool selections. And this is a good thing because it shows the “good enough” mentality of days past is out and continuous optimization of complete manufacturing processes is in.

Seco works closely with its customers on process optimization.
In the past, shops often overlooked many aspects of the part-production process, having a tendency to focus heavily, or even exclusively, on just the machine tool. They failed at paying equally important attention on complementary technologies such as tooling, software and automation. It’s almost like buying a Ferrari without a high-performance engine and tires.

Consider a shop that purchases a new machine tool with the latest technological advances, but then equips it with tooling used on the shop’s previous machine. Multiple problems can arise from this scenario. At best, the shop will likely be forgoing getting the maximum performance out of its costly new investment, representing lost potential and wasted money. Even worse, the older cutting tools may perform worse in the new machine than they did in the old, and it’s entirely possible to end up with the new process providing results that are inferior to what could previously be obtained.

With the drive for more comprehensive process optimization, shops are relying more heavily on their suppliers. In fact, the dynamics of these relationships have changed and grown into collaborations and partnerships, where both parties work together for mutual support, problem solving and developing total manufacturing solutions. In fact, the process improvement work our Productive and Cost Analysis Team and Component Engineering Tooling Group have done for our customers are great examples of such collaborations.

Utilizing suppliers’ in-depth knowledge of manufacturing technology as a resource allows shops to keep abreast of the latest advancements in manufacturing, as well as understand how those innovations play into process optimization. The end result is that a shop continues to increase its competitive advantages and differentiate itself as a technology leader in the increasingly challenging global market.

However, the responsibility for continuous process optimization should never be placed solely on the shoulders of manufacturing engineers or the shop’s suppliers. For sustainable success, companies must develop and integrate continuous improvement programs that drive and support business development.

Additionally, training – whether provided by shops themselves or by their suppliers – must accompany and further support any type of continuous improvement program. At Seco, our STEP program provides customers with a blend of hands-on training and classroom discussion to help them implement changes within their operations to improve overall productivity. After all, the more knowledge and training people have, the more energized, enthusiastic and motivated they are to offer suggestions and to work together for continuously re-evaluating and re-optimizing manufacturing processes.

Continuous improvement programs may not require fully staffed physical departments, but they do have to strongly encourage and support a company-wide continuous process optimization initiative. At every level of the organization, there must be a true drive to improve. Because in the end, when a manufacturer can be more productive and profitable through better machining practices, they can pass on more savings to their customers and, in turn, gain repeat business. It's a win-win for everybody. 

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About the Author
Kurt is the president of Seco Tools Inc. NAFTA, responsible for overseeing the company’s operations in the US, Canada and Mexico. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, golfing and other outdoor activities. Contact Kurt at