How to Compare Nesting Software with a Benchmark

Using a Benchmark to Assess Nesting Software

Comparing Nesting Software with Benchmarks

When researching nesting software, most manufacturers turn to a benchmark as an objective, analytical tool to compare products.  This article is a primer on benchmarks – what are they, how are they best used, and what every manufacturer should know going into a benchmark.

What is a Benchmark?

A benchmark is a “test run” of sheet metal software using your parts, quantities, materials, guidelines.  It is a perfect opportunity to try out nesting software before you buy.

How is a Benchmark Done?

The manufacturer collects a real world, production-ready set of parts, order quantities, due dates, materials, and cutting or punching requirements.  That is, he is assembles everything necessary to simulate the cutting of these parts.  The manufacturer sends this data to the nesting software company  to do a trial run or simulated run of these parts through their software.  The results are returned to the manufacturer for comparison with their software and other nesting software products.

What Do You Look for in a Benchmark?

A benchmark is a tool, where you can get “proof of concept.”  That’s a fancy term for seeing if the sheet metal software will do what you want it to do. Will it accommodate your unique needs – your parts, machines, orders, and timelines?   How long does it take to create the nests? Tip: Ask to see the nest compile in real time.  How fast do the nests run?  What kind of material efficiency can the software provide?  How does the software company achieve the material efficiency it demonstrates?  Can it handle changes in part revisions, hot orders, new quantities? How does it do it?   Can the software handle different manufacturing scenarios, i.e. with or without common edge cutting?  What is the difference in efficiency? How automatic is the nesting process?  How much manual intervention is needed?  A benchmark will answer these questions.

How are Benchmark Results Presented?

Typically benchmark results are presented in an online meeting forum where you and any associates can see the nests, ask questions, and evaluate the results.  Additionally, copies of the nests and summary data can be provided for further analysis or distribution internally.

What Do You Do with Benchmark Information?

Benchmark data, in addition to providing comparative information among nesting software providers, is ideal for use in a financial justification of the purchase.  There’s no better way of demonstrating financial justification or return on investment than a benchmark. Why? Benchmarks are excellent at contrasting the material use or time expenditures over your present approach.  Here are a couple examples of how this is typically done.

  • Improved Material Efficiency through Common Cutting / Punching
  • One way to demonstrate justification for a purchase is through increased material efficiency.  The money saved with new nesting software, which can offer better material efficiency, can typically pay for the investment in the software in a matter of months.  So, let’s say your current solution can’t do safe, effective common edge cutting or punching.  With a benchmark you can demonstrate the use of this tool with your parts and see precisely how much material this feature can save per material, per month or year.  Then you can draw a straight line from material savings to cost justification in your proposal.
  • Improved Throughput through Nesting
  • Another way to demonstrate savings is by benchmarking a single part programming cutting process against nesting.  Often with dynamic nesting, you can put many parts on a sheet, put parts in the trim strip, put parts inside of parts, and common edge cut/punch parts.  By going this direction, programming and cutting time are cut significantly and production out put is increased.  Here you can draw a straight line from the greater production to the cost justification in your proposal.
  • Improved Machine Duty Cycle through Efficient Tool Path Optimization
  • Some fabricators are challenged with nesting software that doesn’t create an efficient, logical tool path for either the turret or laser head to follow.  A benchmark can make a clear comparison between nesting solutions by looking at the length of the tool path, the estimated cut time, and/or in the case of punching the number of tool changeovers.  With the difference in cycle times in hand, the user can calculate the amount of additional sheets or parts that can be cut per shift or day.

These are just two ways to build a financial justification using benchmark data.  There are as many approaches to this as there are manufacturing companies.  The important thing to remember is that benchmarks are a valuable tool when compiling a justification for nesting software.

What Not to Do When Benchmarking

Creating a useful benchmark result is really a partnership between the manufacturer and the nesting software provider.  It is truly a team effort to create a set of results that have meaning and relevance to the manufacturer.  With this in mind here are a couple “dos” and “don’ts” to be cognizant of throughout the process.

Avoid the pitfalls that have befallen many project managers by having reliable, comparable data with which to evaluate your benchmark results.  For a benchmark to be effective, useful, comparable, or valuable in a discussion of financial justification with your boss – and maybe his boss – it is imperative for the project manager to have an apples-to-apples comparison of nests.  The most helpful is to have a set of parts for  that is reflective of a slice of real production.  (As mentioned earlier, this can be a day or a week’s production – whatever is a representative variety of parts.)  Then give the nesting software company these parts, due dates, materials, cutting/punching process, part constraints, trim requirements, etc. that you used in your slice of real production run.  Now you can compare the results, and they will be meaningful.

How to Select the Right Parts for a Benchmark

Sometimes manufacturers pick “any old parts” for a benchmark because they are busy, doing their jobs and simply don’t have the time and energy to give concerted thought to planning a benchmark.  This is completely understandable, but not recommended.  A few quick guidelines could keep this process still quick & easy but will deliver much more actionable results.

  1. Don’t pick sheet-sized parts, unless you’re looking for a proof of concept for single part programming.  There’s no art or technology that would be tested to nest one, single, large part.
  2. Don’t pick lots of rectangles, unless all you have is rectangles.  This is a baseline sheet metal function.  Any simple nesting software can do rectangular nesting.  Using rectangular parts exclusively won’t discriminate among competitors.
  3. Pick enough parts & orders to fill multiple sheets – using 10-20 sheets is a good place to start.  This way you can tell how much time it took to program the parts and create the nest.  This will also provide the sheet metal software the opportunity to work with many combinations of parts and quantities to demonstrate real material efficiency with advanced nesting algorithms.
  4. Let the sheet metal software company know if there are particular constraints on certain parts, i.e. grain constraints, fixed leads, or long & skinny parts, which need to be across the slats. Let the nesting software company know about these rotation constraints, so you can see how it performs under real world conditions.
  5. If at all possible, set aside 15 minutes to talk through the benchmark with the sheet metal company before they start on the benchmark.  Let them know what you’re hoping to achieve, what you’re looking for, and where your current challenges are.  Without a clear direction of where you’re going, they will be hampered to give you the most relevant answer. Then let them come back with results to meet your needs.

In Conclusion….

Benchmarking is an excellent tool, free to project managers and provided by nesting software vendors, to provide the real world analysis  needed to make an informed purchase decision.  Don’t be shy about asking for a benchmark, you have a right to know how any nesting product will perform with your parts.

How about you?

Have you had a benchmark performed?  What kind of results did you get?  What was the process like?  Weigh in on the conversation.

If you’re shopping for nesting software and would like to have a benchmark performed with Optimation software, just let us know.

Notice: This work is licensed under a BY-NC-SA. Permalink: How to Compare Nesting Software with a Benchmark

2 comments on “How to Compare Nesting Software with a Benchmark

  1. Pingback: Optimation | SnaggStuff.com Blog

  2. Pingback: How to Financially Justify a Nesting Software Purchase | Optimation Nesting Software Blog

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