Are you ready for a metal fabricating consultation?

October 17, 2008
By: Dan Davis

I spent yesterday at the grand opening ceremonies for Amada"s newest North American Solution Center in Schaumburg, Ill. It is a very impressive facility that contained the prerequisite meeting rooms, training areas, and demonstration area. It also has a System-Up Area, where all custom-designed equipment combinations will be constructed and run before being shipped to the customer"s shop, and a Laser Tech Center, where the capital equipment manufacturer will try and re-create job shop environments that will mimic those of North American customers.

The last two areas really jumped out at me as examples of how the metal fabricating world has changed over the last decade or so. Machine tool builders aren"t looking just to move equipment; they are offering business consultation in addition to bending, cutting, and punching expertise.

Amada has three offices, each with large tables and big-screen televisions in them, that it calls P&P rooms. The P&P stands for Presentations & Proposals.

It"s the last part of a consultative service the company offers. If a customer is interested in working with Amada, the machine tool builder will dispatch someone to the metal fabricating shop to shoot video of the shop floor operation, conduct interviews, and record observations. The Amada representative then will return to the office to make evaluations in a proposal and prepare a presentation for the metal fabricator. (Then it"s time for the P&P, ASAP.)

From there, the metal fabricator can verify evaluations that were made in the proposal out on the showroom floor.

Ignacio Palomarez, CEO, Spacesonic, San Carlos, Calif., has a successful metal fabricating business serving the computer, medical, military, solar power, transportation, and wind power industries. He"s even been running Amada"s latest laser introduction, the LC3015F1NT, for 30 days. He also knows that his shop has room for improvement, and he"s looking forward to taking up his machine tool supplier on their consulting offer.

We all have truths that we don"t want to hear, he said.

Amen, brother. Who likes to be told that they are doing something incorrectly? Constructive criticism always sounds good, but if not delivered in the right manner, it can lead to destructive realism.

But the truth hurts, and change is an inevitability of life. As one of my favorite bands, Too Much Joy, used to sing in their very own Theme Song, to create you must destroy.

And people can be surprising resilient. I remember a story I did on Stealth Manufacturing, Savage, Minn. Company management developed the Scoreboard, a device that was connected to a metal fabricating workstation and kept track of parts produced over a shift, parts produced per hour, and total downtime. I mean this scoreboard was as big as a Little League scoreboard, but these scores really counted for something. The more efficient workers were, the more they were compensated.

(My favorite memory from the Stealth story was the tale of a worker who used to leave his station multiple times a day to retrieve cold drinks from the refrigerator on the other side of the shop. When the Scoreboard revealed the excess downtime because of his absences, he started to pack cold drinks in a nearby cooler. I forgot to ask about restroom breaks, but maybe he had really large kidneys.)

In short, if shop floor personnel know what"s in it for them, bring on the cameras, prepare the questions, and get the stopwatch ready. They are ready to be scrutinized.

I wonder how many shops are ready to open the doors to such scrutiny.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281