5 Ways to Reduce Scrap in Your Metal Cutting Operations

5 Ways to Reduce Scrap in Your Metal Cutting Operations

What is scrap? For starters, it can be anything that results in wasted material and a need to perform rework of some kind. In the metal cutting world, scrap can take the shape of discarded or excess material, non-returnable components, metal shavings, unusable parts and nonmetal waste. Scrap is often considered an inevitable part of the manufacturing process and may not seem like much in the short term, but over time can add up to major losses. Think about all the time you spend reworking entire batches of parts due to machining mistakes or operator error. Some scrapped parts may be able to be refinished and put to use so the loss in time and labor is minimal, but other times the pieces may have to be thrown out.

Scrap can be a serious problem, but let’s not focus on the negative. If you’re experiencing levels of scrap that are costing you time and money, there is a HUGE opportunity for you to make a few changes to your operations that will reduce scrap and lead to cost savings. In fact, setting your sights on scrap reduction may be the single greatest thing you can do for your company this year.

To get started, consider hiring a consulting firm to help you identify areas of waste leading to excessive scrap. If you would rather go it alone, here are a few tips to begin improving operations and reduce your scrap rate:

1. Electronically document material usage.
Are you still using pen and paper to manually log material usage and machining data? While documentation of any kind is certainly better than none at all, let’s take a look at why paper documentation isn’t ideal. One reason is human error. Sometimes, data isn’t recorded accurately. Without this key data, how can a company realize the root of a problem and decide on a solution? Paper documentation also limits the availability of information for certain members of the team. Imagine the confusion that happens when your team must hunt down critical information to perform their tasks. Storing and sharing this information electronically ensures all members of your team communicate effectively.

2. Optimize machining processes.
If you haven’t been documenting material usage, then it’s impossible to know where and how materials are being used or misused. Once you develop a plan to thoroughly document all the moving parts in your manufacturing process you can begin to optimize those areas that are generating the most waste. This requires a hands-on approach. Head down to the production floor and watch each stage. Take note of areas you feel could be improved, machinery that should be replaced or ways you could streamline the process. Sometimes, all the data in the world won’t provide the information you can capture with your own two eyes.

3. Automate when possible.
Not only can automation improve worker safety in your facility, but it can improve the safe handling of parts through reduced employee touchpoints. Machines can be calibrated for precision cuts and bends in various types of metal, reducing the amount of scrap generated. You can also install sensor technology that can alert you immediately to any machinery issues that could interfere with optimum production.

4. Use the right tool for the job.
When trying to stay in budget on an order, it can be tempting to cut costs with cheaper tooling and machinery. Unfortunately, using inferior equipment typically leads to increased scrap costs, machine downtime and higher material usage. By choosing the right tool for the job, you can be sure to machine parts correctly the first time, rather than waste precious resources on rework.

For tips on how to reduce machine downtime in your facility, read What’s Machine Downtime Really Costing You? (And How to Avoid It)

5. Involve the entire team.
Any time that you make changes to standard operating procedures is a great time to roll out those changes to all affected employees. Not only is it critical for safety, but the more knowledgeable your workers are about the new processes, the less mistakes and costly errors your operation will experience. Take a page from the lean manufacturing playbook and consider performance-based bonuses for employees that identify areas of waste and offer solutions to reduce scrap rates and inefficiency.

We understand you have a tough job to do, and we want to help improve your operations and increase your profitability. If you have questions on how M&M Sales & Equipment can help your business succeed, call one of our four Texas locations.

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