By now many fabricators have performed their annual company inventory. For most, this amounts to counting up materials on hand such as slabs, glue and other items directly related to production. Some will develop a list of other consumables along with an accounting of tools and equipment.
However, company owners should go further with the investigation of their asset values. Too little attention is paid to employee skills and knowledge, customer relationships, market intelligence, financial and other business goal reviews as well as personal management skill capabilities. Our best customers know these things because they are constantly assessing their people, their market potential and their ability to meet market needs head on. This has been leading to a growing demand for automation tools by companies trying to find a competitive advantage in their immediate markets and beyond. However, it's not just a matter of owning automated equipment, but rather an issue of integrating and optimizing its usage within a networked system.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The network thread of CNC automation runs through many discussions and articles presented over the past several years. The rapid growth of digital templating systems networked to CNC equipment has been at the forefront of the automation story, but it certainly doesn't stop there. Although shop automation has typically been separated from the office and its software systems, all of these disciplines are quickly becoming integrated. This connectivity is seen as a necessity by the most aggressively competitive shops in the industry.
While CNC technology found its beginnings in the lab back in 1947 and is becoming commonplace in countertop fabrication shops, it is only recently becoming a virtual plug-in to day-to-day business operations and management. Digitizing the templating process and the utilization of CAD software appears to have been the pivotal point at which these new communication and analytic tools became unstoppable. It was just a matter of time before inventory control, estimating, scheduling and P&L forecasting would be forever linked to the operations and productivity of the manufacturing processes in the shop.
The importance of digital automation is just going to grow as the software becomes more sophisticated, the shop management is taken over by increasingly tech-oriented staff and the market demands tighter margins and delivery times. To address such performance issues, Fab Choice has created a branded process, "cadtofab™," because it is important tto look at the whole company — its potentials and goals. Fabricators, large and small alike, have very different paths to growth, but whatever the size, they should be examining exactly what these paths are.