This post focuses on making savings in raw material consumption in the sheet metal industry, something that’s crucial in this sector.
Contributed by Luis Galo, Data Scientist at Lantek
The key to optimizing the use of raw materials is nesting. That is, fitting pieces into the original sheet to try to take up as little space as possible, optimizing its use and making the most of what’s left after cutting. And, at the same time, reusing the remnants for another order that requires smaller pieces. The aim of this is to generate as little scrap or waste as possible.
This isn’t a simple process and it requires a lot of knowledge in the use of CAD/CAM tools as well as the characteristics of cutting machines. To achieve efficiency and precision in the simplest way possible and to enable all types of machines to be connected, we need to use Nesting programs such as Lantek Expert. These programs allow us to create optimal nests and manage the remnants of reusable material with one program for all the different cutting machines in the workshop. With Lantek’s tools, customers can achieve annual savings in raw material consumption of over 8%.
Another added layer for optimizing the plant is using a program aimed at managing production, Manufacturing Execution System (MES), which allows us to visualize each phase of the manufacturing process, see what the added value is and what the inefficiencies are in order to act on them. This produces efficiencies from the design phase to nesting, as well as in generating quotes and in stock control.
By linking nesting phase, with Lantek MES we can plan production and control the usable remnants left over in the warehouse and, with Artificial Intelligence, we can reuse them with greater precision. Letting scrap build up is pointless if we don’t have an accurate inventory of it and control over its reuse costs.
In addition to this, we can add the analytical, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning layer, so that operators can see, in real time, how their plant is doing, both in terms of production quantity and machine workload, waste generation and energy consumption. This way, we can make the best decisions based on objective data.
Therefore, viewing data in real time optimizes productive processes even more and viewing the status of the plant in real time provides us with essential information for planning production and even putting together quotes.
By using artificial intelligence (AI) services along with others like CAD/CAM in the cloud, we can help people with complex sheet metal processes, such as quoting, by pre-calculating the scrap generated as well as cutting times, costs of energy consumed and even the delivery time, making it easier to draw up accurate quotes.
What’s more, these advanced software tools make it easier to identify inefficiencies, such as bottlenecks in a certain machine. These advanced services can even be used to make predictions of the carbon footprint of the quoted part. The amount of CO2 generated during manufacturing is proportional to the material used and the energy consumed while it’s being manufactured, which means that we can find out the plant’s carbon footprint even during the quoting process, that is, before the part is even produced.
Machine vision technology can also be used to help the operator by superimposing real images of what is really required. Because an image is worth a thousand words, it’s often better to see it in order to verify that the design, the cut and the production are just right. It’s a preliminary quality control, because if you make a mistake once the cut is finished, that sheet will be scrapped, generating waste and additional (and unnecessary) expense, Lantek has an augmented reality module for this purpose.
Warehouse and inventory control is also extremely important, because that’s where all of the material is stored and where all the remnants left over from the processes are also kept. The remnants are saved for further processing for the next nesting operation.
With inventory control, we try to optimize the flow of material between machines and processes and between the machine and warehouse. Therefore, the better optimized it is, the easier it will be to locate.
It’s important to note that, with Lantek MES, you can achieve up to 30% reduction in warehouse inventory value.
Carbon footprint (material and energy consumption)
With our sights set on 2050, the date we must achieve climate neutrality, we need to gradually start reducing our carbon footprint. Manufacturers have to make machines and processes as efficient as possible in terms of energy and material consumption, either with new machinery or by adjusting the number of operational hours or using programs to optimize the production cycle.
Ultimately, it’s true that the higher the optimization layer, the higher the cost, but also the higher the efficiency and, in the long run, the higher the profitability. As software becomes more intelligent, we will probably no longer have to depend on the operator for data entry, depending more on the machine, making the operator more efficient and productive in other tasks. So let’s use all of the tools at our disposal to optimize production processes as much as possible, saving costs and reducing our carbon footprint.