A designer meets a production planning specialist: The designer asks his colleague from the production planning: ‘Is my prototype ready yet?’ The production planner responds: ‘It can’t be produced this way. The flange length is clearly too short.’
This scenario might sound like the beginning of a bad joke, which however, is part of the everyday life in mechanical and plant engineering. Unfortunately, the punchline is this: The feasibility seen in CAD doesn’t necessarily guarantee manufacturability on the machine.
Sheet metal knowledge is not a matter of course
However, the cause for this circumstance is quickly identified but challenging to rectify: A sheet metal design is a specialized discipline often built upon years of experience by individual designers. However, when these experts leave the company or retire, essential support often disappears, which can only be compensated for with significant effort. This is because dealing with the cost-effective and highly flexible sheet metal is more complex than it seems at first glance:
This must be taken into account
As an example, we can examine two issues that frequently go unnoticed until they arise at the machine, rather than within the CAD system.
Undercut minimum flange length
In the process of die bending, specific requirements are imposed on the workpiece due to the geometry of the lower tool. To be precise, the flange length that is being bent must not fall below a minimum length, otherwise the workpiece will fall into the die. Despite the ability to produce everything leveraging the necessary creativity, the best-case scenario still leads to wear and tear on the machine tools.
Cut-out near the bending zone
Similar considerations apply to cutouts located too close to the bending zone. There is a high likelihood that they will deform or even break. Sometimes, there are valid reasons to accept such evident quality flaws, for example when spatial constraints prohibit corrections and dimensional accuracy isn’t crucial. However, such cases are certainly the exception.
Beyond these examples, many more could be listed. The intriguing question remains: Why does it deeply concern the boss when he overhears discussions like the one mentioned above between the design and production planning departments?
What‘s the cost of a feasibility warning
Quite simple: You might not notice it at first, but it's precisely these errors that come at a significant cost.
Defects are often only identified at the machine or in quality control. Scrap resulting from poorly produced parts not only entails wasted material but also unnecessary resources linked to the manufacturing process.
Number of defective parts x material cost [€] x production cost [€]
The individuals involved range from design, to purchasing, to work preparation. Communication and post-processing don’t happen without friction and most importantly not without a loss of time. If there is time pressure in one department, it’s in the design phase. And this emphasizes more than ever: Time is money!
Number of faulty designs [number of parts] x Number of coordination cycles [number/amount/count] x (Post-processing time for work preparation [hours] + Post-processing time for procurement [hours] + Post-processing of design [hours] + Time spent on internal processes [hours)] x Cost per working hour [€/h]
3) Dissatisfied Customer
Difficult to measure, but with the most drastic impact, is the aspect of suffering customer relationships. Quality deficiencies and delivery delays can directly lead to a customer order possibly being the final one. In extreme cases, delivery delays are subject to penalties, thereby incurring monetary consequences.
The following specific case demonstrates, using factors under 1 and 2, the annual costs to anticipate even when dealing with a small production volume and a limited number of parts:
In this context, any opportunity costs stemming from the absence of subsequent orders are entirely disregarded (See 3.).
Is there a solution?
More than one – specifically, we see two possibilities to address the issue:
1) Promoting Expert Consultation
In workshops, employees in design and procurement can be sensitized. By developing and visualizing design guidelines, there is a chance to establish these rules for the long term and incorporate them into daily work.
2) Utilizing Software as Support
The limitation of training lies in its lack of scalability. Each new employee needs to be trained and sensitized anew. Therefore, it’s worth considering software that can serve as a continuous companion in the design process, gradually replacing certain aspects of consulting work.
Can an investment in software be cost-effective?
This question can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, it depends on the specific use case.
In collaboration with a small company (2 full-time designers), we collected the input parameters mentioned above. In this case, monthly costs due to defects and coordination efforts an amount to 4.080€.
Monthly costs for the Optimate total package, which also includes the feasibility analysis, amount to up to 479€ per license.
The software cannot completely avoid post-processing efforts, but it can greatly reduce them and eliminate the reconciliation efforts. In the customer's case, this results in cost savings of €841 per month. And what company wants to miss out on 10,000€ per year?
In mechanical engineering, coordination between design and production due to feasibility issues is a daily occurrence. These challenges come with various warnings that are often challenging to address consistently. These issues result in cost factors directly linked to these warnings:
- Scrap due to defective parts
- Inefficiencies resulting from coordination cycles
- Customer loss
Software solutions like Optimate’s feasibility analysis can prevent scrap, eliminate inefficiencies and ensure customer satisfaction.
In a specific customer example, costs of approximately €4,000 without Optimate are counterbalanced by software expenses of just 479€.
However, each case must be considered individually, and you can calculate whether investing in software makes sense for your specific use case using our cost calculator.
We are happy to assist you in determining whether Optimate, even for feasibility analysis alone, would be beneficial for you. You can easily reach out to us via email or schedule an online appointment.
Perhaps we can turn the punchline from the joke we started before, into something like: ‘… Looks like we haven’t used Optimate yet. Are you still designing, or have you already started Optimate -ing?’