What is more important — cutting machine utilization or process throughput?

Like in all situations it depends on your criteria of course, if I were selling machine capacity as a steel service center I definitely would like to keep my cutting machines as busy as possible.

However when I am a shipyard and I have a panel line to which I need to provide cut parts perhaps that process is more important than my cutting machine utilization since I might not have enough intermediate storage or perhaps I would spend all my time reshuffling the plate parts I cut.

A same situation you might have with profile and pipe cutting. I encountered an interesting situation where the customer is actually welding the raw bars together and as such have an unlimited raw bar length and they just keep cutting as they progress. You can imagine in such a situation that the next steps are becoming far more important to manage correctly in order to optimize this cutting process, since I am not so much worried about scraps and remnants.

Another interesting viewpoint came from another customer who was specialized in making pipe spools and they just bought a brand new high tech cutting machine. It was obvious that the single machine capacity was easily bigger than the need for the spool welding shop. So in the beginning they started cutting and cutting and cutting, however the pile inside the intermediate warehouse went up and up and up……… with the needed part at the bottom (in accordance to Murphy’s law). Soon they realized it is better to align the steps so that they would only cut what they needed, not what they could.

As you can understand from above both can be most important, but it all depends on the perspective. I still believe that from a lean manufacturing perspective the situation which creates the least amount of additional steps and intermediate warehouse challenges is the most important one.

Another interesting thought might be: If I had real time insight into my production (as it is proclaimed by Industry 4.0) would it then allow we to start adding more external work in order to keep my machine utilization high and my process utilization high!

Every manufacturer should determine, what is the most important criteria for him and act accordingly.

Marcel M. Veldhuizen
Vice President Fabrication Solutions at Hexagon PPM

IMA information:

Italian Machinery Association offers both punching machines and machines for different kinds of cutting. You can find more information about them in our equipment catalog, or by contacting us.

If you are looking for other engineering materials, please read:

Comparing sheet metal techniques: what to choose?

How to set up an old press brake?

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