Evaluating the Sheet Metal Nesting Process | Part 4 of 4

How to Evaluate the Nesting Process

Steps to Evaluate the Nesting Process

This post concludes our series on evaluating the nesting process.  We’ve established a foundation for a process review, reviewed the CAD to CAM process, and looked at the order entry side of the equation.  Now we’ll turn to the heart of the nesting process, the actual creation of nests and output of tool paths to the equipment.  This is often the make-or-break element in the process that determines efficiency (material and time), throughput and the overall effectiveness of the sheet metal fabrication process.

Again, we’ll follow our method of first describing the status quo, evaluating it critically, then looking for alternatives.

Creation of the nest and tool path

Describe the nesting process

  1. How are nests created?  Who is involved?  What software is used?  When is the nesting done, each morning, once a week, as needed?
  2. What nesting strategy is employed?  Single part programming (one part at a time)?  Batch nesting (a series of nests at a time)? Grid nesting (many of one part)? Just in time nesting (one automatic nest at a time)? Manual (drag & drop by human)? Static nesting or dynamic nesting?
  3. What are the nesting objectives? Material efficiency? Machine uptime? Order cohesion? Throughput? Do you sacrifice one objective, i.e. material efficiency, for turn around time?  How about achieving great efficiency through building a huge inventory of secondary or filler parts?
  4. How many programmers are tasked with this responsibility? More specifically, what’s your ratio of programmer to machine?
  5. How are the nesting decisions (spacing, tabbing, leads, trim, common cutting, tooling, part rotation, parts in parts, etc.) made? Human driven or software driven?
  6. How long does it take to create a nest?

Evaluate the nesting process

  1. Why was the nesting strategy in use chosen?  Are other strategies available with your current process and /or software?  Is it the best alternative?  What, if any, are the costs and benefits of using this process?
  2. Is the nest creation speed acceptable? Is it creating a bottleneck or do you need to create nests days in advance to keep the equipment running?
  3. What’s the material efficiency? How is the efficiency achieved, i.e. static nests, manual creation, filler parts, etc.? Is that acceptable?
  4. How is a change order (hot part) handled?  How is that working?
  5. How are kits/units/assemblies nested?  Is order cohesion well managed on the shop floor?
  6. How is the nesting process meeting the nesting objectives – time, material efficiency, order cohesion, productivity?  Is one objective sacrificed for another?  If so, what does that mean for the programming time, shop floor experience, and overall customer satisfaction?
  7. Where is there room for improvement?

Evaluate nesting alternatives

  1. What impact would a change in nesting strategy have on the results, on the process or on the personnel?  What would the upsides and downsides of that choice be?
  2. Could material efficiencies be gained with an alternative?
  3. Could programming time be saved through automation and/or integration with a CAD or MRP system?
  4. Could inventory (material, work-in-process, or finished product) be reduced?
  5. Could a JIT (just – in – time) strategy be employed?
  6. How about responsiveness to a customer – could turn-around time be improved? 

Output of the Tool Path to the CNC Machine

Describe the Output Process

  1. How does the nest program get to the CNC equipment?  Are nests sent one at a time or in batch?  Do you need to send them in drip mode?
  2. Are the nests machine-specific or process-specific?
  3. Does the nest reflect the manufacturing capabilities of the machine (tooling, clamps, reach, repositions, slats, offloading)?
  4. How long does it take to get a nest to the equipment?  Who makes the decision to send the program?  When is that decision made?
  5. What happens if the nest is sent and a change is needed on a part?  Where is that change made (design or shop floor)?  How is the change made?
  6. What happens if one or multiple machines goes down?  Is the equipment on the network or a stand alone unit? Can the nest be rerouted to an available machine?
  7. Do you need to edit the code at the machine?
  8. What’s working and what isn’t working?

Evaluate the Output Process

  1. Why are the nests sent as they are (batch, singularly)?
  2. How long does it take to make a part or order change?  Why?  Is there a better option?

Evaluate Output Alternatives

  1. What would a change look like?
  2. What would you like to improve or accomplish?
  3. What would it take to make the change?
  4. What challenges would arise if the change was implemented?
  5. What are the solutions to challenges that arise from change?

In Conclusion

We’ve really only scratched the surface of a thorough evaluation of the sheet metal nesting process.  There are many more details, steps, and options that can be drilled into as your situation dictates.  The message today is that this is doable and well worth the effort.  You can prevent problems down the road, improve efficiencies, and frankly make the day-to-day work better for all concerned with a review, a plan and action.

What we’ve learned over the years, is that applied in the right measure and in the right places, advanced sheet metal software can be the answer you’re looking for to many of the process questions brought to light above.  And the good news is we’ve done this many, many times before with manufacturers just like you.  So you have a partner in the process to guide you from here to there.

Have you reviewed your sheet metal nesting process?  What did you find?  Were there any surprises?  Leave your comments to continue the conversation.

If you’d like to chat in person, please contact Optimation.  We welcome the opportunity to talk “process” with you.

Notice: This work is licensed under a BY-NC-SA. Permalink: Evaluating the Sheet Metal Nesting Process | Part 4 of 4

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