Every year the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association hosts at least one workshop on lean manufacturing. Called LeanFab Workshop & Tours, these don’t cover cookie-cutter lean, but instead improvement methodologies that work for high-mix, low-volume operations--in other words, most of U.S. manufacturing.
This year’s conference, led by our Improvement Insights columnist Dick Kallage of KDC & Associates, and held in Columbus, Ohio, June 4-5, included tours of Ohio Laser, a fabricator in Plain City, Ohio, northwest of town; and of Emerson Network Power’s Columbus fabrication plant, which makes Liebert-brand cooling units for corporate data center facilities.
The conference revealed a telling reality of modern metal fabrication. New technology is essential to stay in the game, but it really just gets a fabricator to the table. Customers now simply expect good quality from new punches, lasers, and brakes able to hold tight tolerances.
What sets a fabricator apart is stellar on-time delivery. For many customers, a cheap part delivered late is way more expensive than a costly part delivered on time. In FMA’s 2012 Financial Ratios & Operational Benchmarking Survey, almost a third of respondents said their on-time delivery rate was 85 percent or less.