JIT Nesting Software Helps You Respond to Changes in One Machine Cycle

JIT Nesting Software Helps Respond to Change

JIT Nesting Software Helps Respond to Change

We often hear from programmers and engineers  about the hours upon hours they spend librarying parts, creating programs, and optimizing tool paths.  Then they hope nothing changes in the schedule to disrupt their much-labored-over work.  And you know how the story ends.  Something happens – it always does – that throws the schedule into a tailspin, the nests are scrambled, the work starts over, and someone loses their lunch break just to keep the ball rolling.  Meanwhile that equipment is still waiting; waiting impatiently with its metaphorical metronome ticking – loudly.

The solution to this time-and-time-again proven problem is simple.  Just wait until the very last minute – seconds – before the laser, punch or other fabrication equipment has completed the current nest and the operator has unloaded it to create the next nest.  That very next nest would reflect precisely current demand – orders, order quantities, part revisions, and material inventory – and prevent the dreaded last minute scramble to accommodate any and all changes.

It’s possible to do this.  Really.   Allow me to introduce you to “Just-in-Time Nesting.”

What’s Just-in-Time Nesting?

I’m sure you’ve heard of “JIT” or “Just in Time,” the Lean Manufacturing concept of producing products, delivering goods, or meeting demands “just-in-time” to reduce shop floor chaos, eliminate material waste, cut production time, minimize floor space, etc.

JIT Nesting is an advanced sheet metal nesting strategy that takes the same JIT concepts universally applied to the manufacturing process and focuses them on the nesting process to achieve much the same objectives.  The JIT nesting process looks at the assimliation and integration of geometries and orders into nests in real time and pushes them to the shop floor within minutes or well under one machine cycle.

JIT Nesting is exactly what it sounds like.  It is sheet metal nesting – creating a flat pattern layout of parts for 2D CNC cutting equipment – just in time.  That would be just in time for the next machine cycle, just in time for the equipment to be optimized and not left idle, and just in time for all the priority orders, part revisions, and material inventory to be reflected in the next nest.  Just in time to reduce chaos and preserve lunch breaks.

JIT Nesting Advantages

The advantages are clear.  The machine operator or programmer now has the opportunity uneventfully manage a new part revision, a hot part, a damaged part, a new order, or some other chaos-inducing problem without disruption to the natural flow of production.  Ah, relief.  All of those changes are absorbed by the JIT Nesting strategy as a matter of routine.  No issue is left hanging and no special order needs to be re- routed around or red-lighted through the fabrication process.  Chaos is reduced.  Normalcy becomes, well, the norm.

Eight Best Practices for Implementing the JIT Nesting Strategy

A successful JIT Nesting Strategy relies on a few tools and best practices.  Here’s a checklist of some of those requisite tools to review against your current environment to see if you’re ready to roll out a JIT Nesting Strategy.

  1.  An Eye on Productivity / Efficiency Let’s be clear, the JIT Nesting strategy isn’t for everyone.  But if you fall within one of several groups, JIT Nesting may be the solution for you.  In a manufacturing shop where fast turn around, optimal throughput or productivity, and/or a large volume of parts/material are the case, JIT Nesting may be the solution to your production challenges.  We’ve found that manufacturers already focused on demand-pull or JIT production are well suited to JIT Nesting.  Any company keenly focused on reducing costs through lean manufacturing or a Six Sigma program are already disposed to integrating JIT Nesting.  Finally, a manufacturer challenged with significantly long or short materials lead or product delivery times might be looking for a solution that wraps around JIT Nesting.
  2. Basis for Justification Introducing the JIT Nesting Strategy may mean some costs – learning curves, process or policy changes, and maybe some technology investments.  How to justify this change should be a question asked up front.  Where’s the tangible savings?  There are a number of financial bases you can touch on to build your justification.  A) Material savings through reduced or eliminated remnants, better sheet metal nesting, introductino of standard or more optimal sheet sizes or reduction or eliminatation of batch nesting tail off. B) Improved machine cycle time from a reduction in machine set ups or elimination of wait time for nests which translates into more production.  C) Reduced programming time by empowering the operator to in essence create the nests using automation.
  3. Standardization.  Your shop may be the definition of design and manufacturing process standards, or reaching the goal of standardization may be a work-in-process.  Either way, it’s very important to have design and manufacturing data standards to implement a JIT Nesting strategy.  Why?  JIT Nesting is an automated process of driving nests to the floor based on your priorities, your data, and your needs.  It can only work if and when you have a consistent environment from which that automation can pull your priorities, your data and your needs and upon which it can build the nests.  Think about having consistent file output formats, reliable material naming conventions, and dependable digital order requirement formats.  If this JIT Nesting automation tool knows where and how to find the information it needs, it can and will do so automatically – in minutes and well under one machine cycle.
  4. A Continuous Flow of Orders.  A major component of the JIT Nesting Strategy is to keep the equipment going in an optimal fashion as demand requires, manage change, and eliminate the majority of the redundant programming efforts.  If you have a backlog of orders or even just a steady flow of orders (per material), you have the makings of an environment for the JIT Nesting Strategy.
  5. Dynamic Nesting The JIT Nesting Strategy relies on the ability to dyanmically nest and combine orders to both optimize the order process and material efficiency simultaneously.  Without this flexibility – imagine JITNesting with static nests? – the strategy falls apart.  The user would be asking the strategy to be flexibile and rigid at the same time.  It won’t work.
  6. Electronic Designs In the 21st Century CAD software is ubiquitous.  The cost has come down and the need is so universal that virtually every manufacturer has some electronic design software.  Pro-E/Creo, AutoCAD, and SolidWorks are just a few of the more common brands.  In order to do JIT Nesting the nesting software needs to draw on (please excuse the pun) a CAD output file, where the design and, optimally, some manufacturing information reside.  Electronic files are a low barrier-to-entry requirement for JIT Nesting, but a critical one.
  7. Electronic Order File Not quite as common, but becoming more so, the order information – at minimum the quantity, material, and due date – are in a digital file.  This can be as easy as an extract in CSV file format from an MRP/ERP system.  Or it can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet forwarded from Scheduling.  Either way the nesting tool can pick up – and return – order data on the fly for efficient sheet metal nesting.
  8. An Intelligent Nesting Software As you may have guessed, the JIT Nesting Strategy isn’t an effective process without the benefit of some pretty capable nesting algorithms.  The nesting tool needs to be able to nest fast and efficiently, respectful of demand changes, honoring order priorities, aware of part revisions, knowledgeable of material inventory, and even alert to equipment failure so as to drive nests to the next available, like-process equipment.  The nesting algorithm needs to think intelligently on multiple dimensions and about multiple combinations of parts and orders within the constraints of your systems, your priorities, and your needs.  Did I mention it needs to be “fast?”  Without this intelligent nesting tool, the JIT Nesting Strategy would be virtually impossible.

How Does Just-in-Time Nesting Work?

Once you have all the tools and best practices in place, it is a matter of integration and automation.  The user/operator pushes the button to call for the next nest.  The JIT Nesting software / algorithm begins the process by querying the order bucket (electronic order file) for any new orders that have come in since the last query.  (The time interval is set by the user.)   It reconciles any new orders with the latest part library (created from electronic designs) checking for revisions and/or new designs.  Next the JIT Nesting Software triages the orders by due date and/or arbitrary priority settings and funnels the most urgent parts into the nesting algorithm for dynamic nesting.  Note: the nest isn’t created solely on the basis of order priorities.  Many other factors including material efficiency are weighed, again based on the user’s priorities.  The next nest – and only the next nest, meaning single sheet – is created, programmed, and sent to the machine tool.  Once the nest is complete, the information about the orders processed on this nest is sent back to the order bucket and the work-to-do file is updated.

It’s that simple.  It’s that automatic. It’s done in less than one machine cycle.

Is the JIT Nesting Strategy a possibility for you?  Do you see an application in your shop?  Do you have or are working toward acquiring the necessary tools to make it happen?  What’s your story?  Raise your hand and let me know.

For a broader discussion of nesting strategies read Understanding Nesting Strategies and Tactics.

For more information about JIT Nesting Software and a chance to talk to customers using practicing it today, contact Optimation.

 

Notice: This work is licensed under a BY-NC-SA. Permalink: JIT Nesting Software Helps You Respond to Changes in One Machine Cycle

5 comments on “JIT Nesting Software Helps You Respond to Changes in One Machine Cycle

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