Over the past year I’ve talked to various metal fabricators, from low-volume job shops to specialized manufacturers, and I’ve noticed one thread common to all of them: They’re all high-mix, short-run environments. Volumes vary; some companies process a greater number of short-run jobs than others. But regardless of overall volume, they all seem to be producing short-run jobs.
Of these, I can identify two kinds that have well-endured the downturn. Both kinds have perfected shop floor operations to reduce lead-times, but each approach involves starkly different styles of customer interaction.