Got Capacity? Nesting Software as Capacity Maker

We were talking to an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) recently and discovered they had a double-digit number of CNC punch presses.  Yet they couldn’t keep up with the amount of work that was coming their way.  Some would say, this is a good “problem” to have.  Nonetheless, there was a clear bottleneck in sheet metal.  And that problem needed to be resolved to keep the customers happy by meeting delivery times.

This manufacturer has several options to resolve his capacity issue.  Maybe you can think of a number of them.  We’ll review some options here, and you can decide for yourself, what would be the best solution.

Capacity Solutions for Sheet Metal Production

  1.  Outsourcing – The lifeblood of all job shops is their ability to extend capacity on demand for and manufacturer.  And it is certainly an option here.  The OEM would need to assess the costs, turn around time, and quality of any outside vendor before pursuing this choice.
  2. Adding Equipment – If sheet metal fabrication is the bottleneck, then possibly adding more equipment and more production lines would alleviate the problem.  That is assuming the machine cycle time and not the programming (order and geometry / code inputs and nesting) is the bottleneck, then more equipment would be a possible solution.  The OEM would need to look at floor space, the capital investment budget, and lead time for installation and training before moving on this.  Further, he would need to be certain that the demand is sustained so to justify the investment over time.
  3. Getting More Capacity from Existing Equipment – Another approach, and this may be the first one before any steps are taken, would be to determine if the existing equipment is at full or near capacity.  Is it running at 80-90% of its duty cycle – barring time for maintenance?  Most manufacturers we speak to find that this isn’t the case.  Even if they don’t keep meticulous records, they can tell if the CNC equipment is running 30, 50, or 70 percent of the time.  If this is the case – and most often it is – there is a golden opportunity to improve capacity by improving cycle time.  Look at the turret changes, the delay or wait time for programs, the load/unload time, and/or the downtime for machine breakage as areas for improvement.

  1. Using Automatic Nesting Software to Increase Capacity – One of the best tools to help increase the capacity in general and specifically of existing equipment is through efficient use of automatic nesting software.  It can improve the duty cycle up to 90%, thereby creating one of several outcomes depending on the manufacturer’s needs for improved throughput or cost reduction.  Automatic nesting software can help improve capacity many ways.


  • It can improve actual machine cutting time
    • Implementing Common Punching or Common Edge Cutting, which shortens the cut time – and the material use.
    • Efficient tool path management (a logical, linear path from one sheet edge to another), which again shortens the cut time.
  • It can reduce operator interaction with the setup
    • Intelligent Tool Management with the use of preferred tool sets, which minimizes tool changes and turret movement
  • It can improve load/unload time
    • With intelligent remnant management, minimizing the use of remnants
    • Smart skeleton cut up and disposal, making disposal of the skeleton quick and easy
    • Managed part unload with trap doors and automatic unloaders, also making removal and sorting of finished parts quick and simple.
  • It can eliminate wait time for nest program

What does more capacity mean?

Greater capacity can mean a lot of different things to different manufacturers.  What they do with the extra capability is all dependent upon the economics of their situation.  Here are a few examples.

  • More product can be produced with the existing equipment
  • More can be accomplished with fewer machines and a smaller fabrication footprint freeing floor space for other operations
  • New machine purchases can be put off until the demand is really warrants them
  • Superfluous existing machines can be decommissioned or reserved for capacity peaks only.
  • In the case of shearing before punching, the shearing operation can be minimized or eliminated, freeing up floor space, manpower, and speeding throughput.

In Conclusion …

The choice of how to increase capacity is a decision that will be unique for each manufacturer.  What we have discussed today is that there are a number of solutions – including automatic nesting software – as tools that can add more “floor space” and get more product out the door.  It is the savvy manufacturer that considers his options and chooses wisely.

How about you?

How are your capacity challenges handled?  What solutions have you implemented?  What advice would you give to someone in this situation?  Let us know.

If Optimation can help you explore nesting software as a potential solution, let us know.

Notice: This work is licensed under a BY-NC-SA. Permalink: Got Capacity? Nesting Software as Capacity Maker

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