To call the pandemic a disruption would be an understatement. Supply chains have been placed under unprecedented stress, social distancing has forced workers to isolate themselves from their colleagues, and demands for some products have skyrocketed while others have plummeted.
All of this has created a new environment in which companies offering CNC machining services are required to function, forcing them to find new ways to succeed. The following strategies have helped them cope with the changes — and may make them more resilient in the future.
The pandemic has compelled customers to shift their spending habits drastically, and that means manufacturers will have to adapt, too. As companies find that demand for old products has dried up, they will have to pivot to make higher-demand goods.
For example, leading automotive manufacturers like Ford and GM helped ease ventilator shortages during the height of the pandemic. While the move was made more out of necessity than a desire to shift production, it shows the value of assembly line flexibility.
To improve their flexibility, manufacturers must start by re-envisioning their factory floors. One way to do this is by implementing flexible manufacturing cells (FMC) which group devices according to their use for the most efficient reconfiguration possible. Companies offering CNC machining services can arrange similar tools (milling, drilling, washing, turning, etc.) into the same space, even employing automation to reconfigure their machines for different jobs.
The pandemic has changed which products customers need, and by making their manufacturing facilities more flexible, suppliers can pivot accordingly.
No manufacturing site can become flexible enough to keep pace with changing demands if they don’t have tools that can adapt to their new space. Versatile machines make for more flexible manufacturing, so upgrading your equipment now may be a smart investment. Some possible machine upgrades include:
- 5 and 6-Axis CNC machining tools, which pivot around two or three axes in addition to their translational motion.
- Cooperative robots (or cobots), which work in tandem with human laborers — and are especially useful when social distancing makes close quarters impossible.
- Remote support, which helps operators upload their G-code offsite and enables suppliers to guide physically present workers through any complications they may find.
The financial blow that the pandemic has dealt to some manufacturers may make investments in machine upgrades seem impractical, but now may be the best time to level up. Companies that don’t improve their equipment may find that their facilities can no longer keep up with new norms, and will find themselves wishing they had invested in smarter technology before it was too late.
(Re)Training Your Workforce
Machines aren’t the only part of your workforce that may need an upgrade. Many workers lack critical training or certification on new technologies commonly used today, and potential demand downturns may be the perfect time to help your employees improve their skills, too. Invest in your employees now by teaching them new skills, and prepare them for a modern manufacturing world.
CNC Machining: Rising to the Challenge
Adaptation is essential for survival, and few industries have done it better than manufacturing over the years. Whether they offer 3D printing in San Francisco or CNC machining in Pittsburgh, today’s facilities will need to be more creative than ever as they pivot to new market conditions. Smarter technology and better trained workers can help them not only survive under such extremes — they may even help them thrive in the future.