Combination machines work faster, so your people work smarter
With the uncertainty surrounding the workforce in the past year, it’s tempting to reduce headcount as the fastest and easiest way to minimize labor challenges, lower your costs, and maintain profitability. But you will lose good employees and forfeit the opportunity to ramp up production.
To take your business (and employees) to the next level, choose a combination machine that improves your ability to retain valued employees, increase hours worked with less fatigue, retrain and backfill positions, and increase employee morale.
A combination, or multifunction machine, also gives you greater speed and flexibility to take on more materials and thicknesses, eliminating the inefficiency inherent in multi-process production. You can increase flexibility, improve productivity, build capacity to take on more jobs, and increase profitability—and that will help you adapt to market changes and grow your business.
Simply, multifunction machines, or punch/laser hybrid machines, manufacture a part from raw material to finished product with fewer processes. Combining processes into one multifunction punch/laser machine can help everyone work smarter. And with greater flexibility.
Featured product: A tried-and-true punch press with laser technology, the Muratec MF3048HL Punch Laser Combination offers all the benefits of a 30-ton turret punch press with an integrated fiber laser, in one fast, reliable machine.
For high-volume and long runs, the machine can be set up to super-nest, saving materials and satisfying multiple customers at once. With the advantages of a punch press and fiber laser integrated together, you can produce a far wider range of projects, with less investment in special tools: prototyping, one-offs, smaller batches, different style geometries, and streamlining processes most efficiently in one integrated machine.
The flexibility of a multifunction machine ripples to the rest of the shop. You eliminate the need to free up three machines to process a single order, and instead fully maximize them for what they do best while freeing up staff to keep work flowing.
What would you do with the two operators you “saved”? A savvy shop manager retains and retrains them. Improved flexibility from multifunction automation means that, as your fabrication shop grows, you can re-purpose people to relieve downstream bottlenecks like welding, paint, or press brake, making your shop’s workflow more streamlined.
Featured product: Built on the backbone of a laser, the Muratec LS3015HL Hybrid Laser multifunction machine automates fiber laser cutting, forming, and tapping in a single production center. Material doesn’t move during the laser process, so tolerances of .0004” are held even at high cutting rates.
A multifunction machine can both make the same part in less time (productivity) and increase your volume (throughput).
Punch/laser multifunction machines are inherently more efficient than multiple stand-alones because they eliminate WIP holding and the need to move parts from one machine to another. With automated speed, you can better position jobs to avoid having parts sit on a pallet for a week before they go to the next process. Best practices include running similar parts together, planning for common materials and thicknesses to maximize output and minimize waste.
An HVAC manufacturing customer, using the Muratec LS3015HL Hybrid Laser, saw a 67% reduction in processing time compared to using separate machines for laser, transfer, and tapping. They also eliminated intermediate product movement, reduced overall WIP inventory and tapping machine workload, and freed up valuable employees to work on other jobs.
Now, look at process improvement from the human angle: With less manual material handling, employees no longer experience the fatigue of taking heavy parts off one machine multiple times and loading them onto another. There’s less downtime for people to recover. And, there’s a huge safety benefit from reducing demanding, repetitive, physical work. You will also see reductions in human errors and misalignment that can happen when a part is shifted from machine to machine.
As your productivity rises, you now have a machine that can run with minimal oversight for days at a time. You can start adding more shifts, and actually grow your workforce when the time is right. Need a rock-star scheduler? This is your chance to take experienced operators with excellent skills and move them up.
Shorten lead times and take on more jobs
Multifunction machines can help a typical fabrication shop save up to 50% on total production time. Managed wisely, this time savings contributes to the overall health of your business and employees.
Here are some examples from actual customers:
- An industrial machinery maker installed the Muratec LS3015HL Hybrid Laser, and the number of parts produced daily doubled from what they did with a stand-alone laser. The Muratec machine runs, nonstop, ten hours a day, seven days a week, producing 600 pieces in one ten-hour run, versus 300. A major bottleneck was eliminated, balanced with second-stage processing on the press brakes.
- A heavy equipment job shop chose the Muratec LS3015HL Hybrid Laser to streamline its process from five steps (material stocker, unloading materials, laser, chamfer, tapping) to three (laser, chamfer, tapping). They saw an amazing 76% reduction in processing time, from 21 min. 40 sec., to 5 min. 11 sec.
What would you do with the time you saved? Increase speed to market for your customers. Take on more jobs and outsource less work. With a multifunction machine, shops can in-source work on the laser, and do it faster, more reliably, and in half the time. The faster you can move, the quicker you’ll be able to adapt to the market and bring in more business.
Being ready for the next thing is what ultimately keeps your shop in business and growing.
Making parts in half the time? Reducing waste? Repurposing good employees? Of course, you’re going to see better profits. The bottom-line goal for you is to reduce the cost of your manufacturing cell, so that when you process parts your overhead is lower, and you capture larger margins. Multifunction machines always deliver on this goal. But ultimately, evaluating the investment and projecting profitability is very specific to your process and your business.
If you’re adding a multifunction machine and already have a laser and a turret press punch, you’ll add capacity and be better able to put the right parts across the right table. If you’re using the multifunction to add a machine where you currently don’t have production, you’ll be adding significant capabilities and opening up new opportunities.
If you only have a laser and decide to add a turret-based multifunction machine, like the Muratec LS3015HL, you’ll be adding forming, deburring, tapping, and laser all in one, fast, highly productive automated machine. If you only have a turret, adding a machine like the Muratec MF3048HL gives you the added value of using the integrated fiber laser to process large holes and curvatures into outer perimeters of parts, lasering and forming in one machine and reducing WIP downtime.
Regardless of your situation and challenges in your fabrication shop, you’ll see greater precision and less downtime when you add a multifunction machine. Problems with either can be quite costly, affecting your ability to deliver on time and reputation for quality and speed to market.
There are numerous, competing multifunction machines for you to choose from, and it’s important to choose the right partner to help you look at the big picture. One that helps you identify all of the factors that will drive success—including labor. A partner who tailors the solution to your process, commits to supporting you long-term, and gives you responsive service you can depend on. This approach will help you realize the most benefit from your investment.
For more information about Muratec multifunction machines, go to:
Partner with us and get it right.
The Murata Group offers proven, world-class automation to increase productivity and protect margins across your facility. We bring decades of experience to help you maximize your return on investment. Our Muratec brand is known for fabrication equipment that has automation at its core, with bullet-proof quality and reliability. Contact us for a collaborative discussion with our experts on available options, customization, and our integration process.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Tyl is North American Sales Manager for Fabrication Products of Murata Machinery, USA. An expert in the manufacturing business, including on the fabrication shop floor, Tyl has over twelve years of experience managing fabrication opportunities for OEMs and structural steel projects throughout the southeastern United States. From laser shops to railcar manufacturers, he has a long history and vast knowledge of fabrication technology. Feel free to contact Jeff at jeff.tyl@muratec.-usa.com with your questions about using multifunction machines to grow your fabrication business and maintain a knowledgeable workforce.