Updating or improving your cutting operation can help increase profits by reducing costs, increasing output, or both. Depending on your objectives, you might be able to improve your operation through simple steps such as more operator training or modest software and hardware upgrades. Other enhancements may require a more significant investment in a new cutting technology or cutting machine.

You can often identify potential improvement areas by looking for bottlenecks or other hidden costs occurring both upstream and downstream from the cutting operation.

Bottlenecks

Where are the bottlenecks in your fabrication or manufacturing operation?

  • If your hand cutting stations are a bottleneck, you might be able to improve throughput by investing in machines offering faster cut speeds, or by adding automated cutting capability to your operation.
  • If you’ve already automated and your cutting table is the bottleneck, you might be able to increase productivity through software or hardware upgrades, or by moving from a slower process like oxyfuel cutting to a faster process such as HyDefinition® plasma. Moving from online part programming on the CNC to offline programming using a product like ProNest®2017 may significantly increase your actual cutting time and therefore boost throughput. And don’t overlook the importance of operator training, or technology like SureCut™ that embeds expertise into the cutting operation.
  • If you are experiencing bottlenecks (or simply spending too much time and money) on secondary operations, improving cut quality may reduce the need for grinding, secondary beveling, or other downstream steps. There are many ways to improve cut quality – ranging from modest investments in operator training and software, height control, or torch and consumable upgrades, all the way to investing in a new machine with superior motion control.

You may also be able to bring some of these other operations, such as beveling or hole cutting, onto your cutting table via software and hardware enhancements; for example, by utilizing Hypertherm’s True Bevel™ or TrueHole® technologies.

Identify hidden costs

Inefficiency and waste in the cutting value stream also offer opportunities for improvement. Common sources of waste – and cost – include operator turnover and associated training costs, low utilization of material, poor quality parts that need to be scrapped, excessive material handling, machine downtime, overly complex software, energy inefficiency, sub-optimal consumable utilization, and even outsourcing work that could more cost-effectively be handled in-house.

Look beyond the cutting machine

You might find significant opportunities for improvement both upstream and downstream from your actual cutting machine. For example, by investing in advanced CAD/CAM software used for offline part programming, an upstream activity, you may be able to increase cutting machine utilization by eliminating the downtime that results from waiting for programming on the CNC. That same investment may also increase material utilization, leading to less waste – a huge cost in most cutting operations.

Looking downstream, you could be spending unnecessary time and money on mechanical tools and labor to prepare parts for welding or painting. Investing in cut quality improvements may reduce the need for secondary operations such as grinding or beveling, allowing you to increase your throughput of finished parts, not just the number of parts coming off your cutting table or robot.