The Race to Become More Competitive
Jim King 04.22.2022
Most shops I talk with these days are facing one common challenge: how to become more competitive. There’s plenty of opportunity in today’s marketplace, including a resurgence in reshoring, but much of this work requires extremely competitive bids. A key question I often hear is “What can I afford to do that will help my spindle run longer, without being dependent on hiring more people?” To answer this, I’ll discuss three courses of action shops can take to become more competitive, and keep in mind – you may wish to pursue multiple paths to achieve the most impactful result.
Automation: Now Is the Time to Act
At Okuma, we often discuss automation solutions for this kind of dilemma, and you’ll be hearing much more this year, especially at our booth at IMTS 2022.
Running unattended is a great way to increase productivity, and therefore allows you to tighten up pricing while protecting profits. Automation can also help fill the gaps when workers are impossible to find, and I don’t know of anyone who’s had regrets after adding it to their shop.
Automation can involve something as straightforward as bar feeders to more robust systems including APCs, robots, and FMS pallet pools. More and more, shops are realizing that if they haven’t brought automation into their shop yet, now is the time to act.
Take Advantage of Your Partners’ “Brain Trust”
Another approach is to assemble your experienced professionals, from both inside and outside your organization, and do a thorough investigation of your current processes and procedures. It’s likely there are areas where you can streamline operations to yield significant efficiencies. As an example, we had a customer recently who asked us how he could become more competitive using existing assets. He reached out to Okuma and his distributor, and we sent a team of top experts to his shop. In particular, we investigated their highest throughput parts and worked to determine how to make these products better, faster, and with higher quality.
We came back with a report that outlined 20 action items they could pursue to achieve these goals. Notably, when we do these exercises, the solutions do not necessarily need to involve new equipment or the purchase of machines.
Reduce Your Power Consumption
The third approach I’ll discuss involves investigating the power consumption in your shop. Many people view their electric bill as a fixed cost because it’s something that needs to be paid regardless of circumstances. But imagine the possibilities if you could consistently reduce your electric bill by 15%, 20%, or even more? This can add up to a significant number and can contribute to tightening up your job estimates.
The good news is if you have an Okuma with a P300A control on it – which means every Okuma machine tool purchased in the last few years – you already have technology that can help reduce power consumption in your shop.
ECO Suite Helps Eliminate Wasteful Processes and Saves Energy
The control technology I’m referring to is ECO Suite, a group of energy-saving applications for Okuma machine tools, some of which come standard with the purchase of today’s models. One of these is ECO Idling Stop, the first application to stop machine tool idling. This energy-saving system uses Okuma’s Thermo-Friendly Concept to monitor the cooling status of the milling spindle and the turning spindle and automatically turns off the coolers for these spindles when cooling is complete. The result is decreased power consumption when the machine tool is not cutting. This can contribute significantly to your efficiency and enable you to become more competitive.
ECO Suite is part of Okuma’s overall commitment to providing green technology that supports your company's growth while contributing to the sustainability needs that today's world requires.
How to Become More Competitive
“How to become more competitive” is a theme we’ll all be tackling for some time to come. A significant answer to this dilemma can come from leveraging efficiencies made possible by the latest machine tool technologies.
About Jim King
Jim King is President and COO, Okuma America Corporation.
Connect with Jim on LinkedIn.