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Machine Shop Tips What CNC Technologies and Processes Will Help Us Better Compete? The Results of a Heated, but Insightful, LinkedIn Discussion

As with a lot of feedback, there were many people who were very frustrated with the way things were going in their country. Many answered the question by wanting government intervention (in terms of tariffs and such) as a way of being more competitive. I felt their pain, but I did not to get into that since I did not think this would have constructively furthered anything.

The gem of answers came from many. The short list is:

  1. Get a good ERP system to manage your business
  2. Invest in the latest technologies (CNC)
  3. Market outside of your current area
  4. Use more automation
  5. Invest in better fixtures and cutting tools

There were more, but I don’t think you want to read a novel, so let’s review these five.

  1. A good ERP (enterprise resource planning) system is going to let you plan your labor better. This will let you see what you have in front of you and give you better oversight of your labor. This then helps with more effective scheduling and greater productivity.
  2. Investing in the latest CNC technologies is crucial in our business. The reason is that CNC machines are like computers, they were built for today’s market with today’s technology. In order to remain competitive we need to keep investing. Machines and capabilities are constantly changing and our customers are demanding many of these new capabilities. If we are not capable, the work will go to our competitors who are capable.
  3. Marketing outside of our current areas. By doing this we expose our companies to more customers that will need our services. This is critical to the growth of our organizations.
  4. Automation is vital. If we are to compete with the overseas competitors we need to get our costs down. Companies overseas have lower labor costs. Automation is the key that allows us to get our costs down so we can be more competitive. Though many argued in this discussion that automation is complex and expensive, this is no longer the case with newer systems that have been simplified and easier to setup. If we want to compete we need to automate.
  5. Better fixtures and tooling have proven time and again to be part of a good strategy. This improves cycle time and decreases downtime. Inexpensive tools come at the cost of downtime (since they may not last as long) and increased cycle time since they do not perform as well. Increased downtime and cycle time will make us less competitive in the market place and may lead to loss of work and customers.

I learn a lot asking questions and exploring answers in groups. At Modern we have reviewed and implemented many of the above ideas. I believe they have made us more competitive and productive. They have also laid the path to improvements we can make in the future. Please, comment with your feedback, questions or concerns and be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn to participate in my next heated discussion.