In custom metal fabrication, every movement on the shop floor is an opportunity to enhance lean manufacturing – by removing waste – in order to help customers take cost and time out of their supply chains. When the objective is production efficiency, every motion needs to be justified. Every aspect of each process is fair game for streamlining, acceleration or even elimination. Schaffer Manufacturing emphasizes two movement-related opportunities in particular: material handling and the impact of shop floor layout on work flow.

Material Handling. To determine the best approach for staging raw material, advancing in-process parts, or transferring work to and from inventory, Schaffer conducted a statistical analysis on material handling. The study confirmed that introducing a dedicated material handler into the process improves productivity by 10% at each workstation.

Utilizing material handlers is more efficient than machine operators interrupting production to stage or advance materials and parts. In addition, without a material handler in place, an operator might spend significant time, away from his station, searching for raw materials. Keeping product in motion can reduce manufacturing costs and improve delivery results for Schaffer customers.

Shop Layout.  “Velocity through the shop” is critical at Schaffer Industrial Finishing, our sister company specializing in powder coating. Completing powder coating work on a quick-turn basis – in 1 to 3 days on average – depends heavily on projects progressing through a strict linear flow. Components for powder coating – ranging from sheet metal retail fixtures and electrical enclosures to heavy equipment weighing thousands of pounds – arrive at and leave from the same door.

The physical layout – plus precise production scheduling and just-in-time processing – improves production velocity. Outsourcing to manufacturing vendors that deliver both quality and velocity enhances what OEMs with powder coating requirements can do for their customers.

In other cases, the physical layout needs to flex with the project; particularly when it comes to large weldments. There is always a reason behind machinery and equipment placement, but there is no “one size fits all.” Schaffer factory bays developed specifically to accommodate large, heavy fabrication projects utilize a modular system of welding tables, walls on wheels, and even shop floor supervisors equipped with mobile offices to position and reposition welding and assembly workspaces from one customer project to the next.