Wish to generate more revenue from your CNC machine tools? Consider how they can be deployed for today’s on-demand manufacturing needs such as High Mix – Low Volume (HMLV) and Batch Order production.
From the beginning of the mass-production industrial manufacturing age to the present, CNC machine tool makers must continually adapt and innovate to keep pace with evolving trends in manufacturing.
The industry has seen drastic changes and developments in the demand for produced parts. They range from one-off single parts, defined and specific number of parts, to mass production, and back to batch production.
These days, production demand has shifted towards “made-to-order” and “on-demand” manufacturing such as High-Mix Low-Volume (HMLV) manufacturing as well as Batch Order manufacturing.
In HMLV manufacturing, low levels of stock (from one piece up to a maximum of 50 parts) are desired, while batch orders involve repeated production orders of 1 or 10 parts up to 500 to 1,000 parts.
High Mix – Low Volume Production (HMLV): What you need to Consider in CNC Machining
Also referred to as make-to-order manufacturing, High Mix – Low Volume (HMLV) manufacturing is the process of making a large variety of products in small batches. Often, HMLV production is used in industries that require unique and complex items with specific quality requirements.
Factors Driving Demand for HMLV Production
Increasingly popular with makers of semi-conductor products and other fast-moving sectors, High Mix – Low Volume production helps manufacturers to reduce their stock or have zero inventory while catering to fluctuating demands.
This helps them to better manage their resources—stock is sitting money after all. Having said that, the current pandemic has shown that not having any stock at hand can also be disastrous. Should the logistics supply chain break down, Just-In-Time (JIT) manufacturing practices may not be feasible. With smaller on-demand production, HMLV manufacturing is perfect for such situations.
HMLV production is also useful given the reduced shelf life of products these days.
Let’s look at the electronics market, for instance. In the past, parts may be kept for 10 over years or even longer. These days, the maximum shelf life of electronic components range from three to five years at best. During this time, product designs and technology used would have radically changed—mobile phones that 12 months old are seen as “old” these days!
Both these points (low or no stock; faster product cycles) have radically changed and influenced manufacturing. They make it feasible and practical for part suppliers to implement HMLV production techniques.
HMLV for Small to Medium-Sized Part Manufacturers
Today, it is common for small to medium-sized manufacturing companies to receive smaller batch orders. These orders may be repeated frequently over time. Alternatively, they may receive many orders for parts that are different in shapes, specifications, and materials.
For SME part manufacturers, flexible production set-ups such as HMLV production are preferred. Incorporating both machines and automation systems, such production set-ups are designed to handle a series of very different parts at the same time.
These part orders may be in single digit number up-to a few dozens, or even up-to 500 pieces per order. They need to be programmed to be repeated in time, in the same or different quantities.
HMLV Production Case Study: Aerospace and Semiconductor Part Manufacturer
Aerospace & Semiconductor Part Manufacturing, Singapore
Customer Problem: Lack of Space and Manpower
Customer A runs a very successful part manufacturing company with mainly standalone CNC Machining Centers and a few CNC Turning Centers. The production runs in two shifts for 10 hours each.
However, over time, the company faced major constraints in both space and qualified labour. In Singapore, it is difficult to hire and retain trained CNC machine operators. This was especially frustrating for the CEO/Managing Director given the boom in demands for semiconductor machined parts by his customers
Solution: Hwacheon’s D2-5AX with Automatic Workpiece Changer AWC 20
To resolve his challenges, Customer A decided to invest in a Hwacheon 5-Axis Machining Center D2-5AX with Automatic Workpiece Changer AWC 20. Such a set-up is ideal for High Mix – Low Volume (HMLV) production as well as other flexible manufacturing needs.
With this new set-up, Customer A can run 20 parts of the same design or 20 totally different parts in one setting. He can also run the CNC machine tools practically 24/7, significantly increasing productivity and profitability.
That’s not all. His machine operator can work concurrently on other machines while Hwacheon’s D2-5AX automatically made the required parts. It not only bridged the remaining four hours a day but eliminated the need for any other down time due to the lack of operators.
Thanks to this new set-up, both productivity and profits increased in the company. Now, whenever his customer needs parts to be done urgently, Customer A can filter this part with priority into the automation system, shortening his reaction time for urgent orders dramatically. Thanks to the 5-Axis positioning capability, he can take on jobs that he would have otherwise rejected in the past.
Batch Order Production: What to Consider in CNC Machining
Batch order is a repeated production order for a specific number of parts — this may range from 1 to 10 to even 1,000 parts in a single order.
Batch production often involves the rapid production of identical parts simultaneously, with each part going through separate stages in the manufacturing process. In such scenarios, a batch of parts cannot begin on a new stage if the previous batch of parts are still within that part of the cycle.
In the past, part makers needed to set-up one or several machine tools (either CNC Turning or Milling Machines) in several different set-ups with specifically designed fixtures. Each is handled by one operator on one machine.
With the help of an Automatic Workpiece Changer (AWC), the operator can set-up the machine and system and allow it to run independently. The operator only needs to occasionally monitor the process, change fresh tools if needed, take finished parts out, or load the automation system with fresh raw materials.
In the meantime, the operator could handle a second or even a third machine / system.
To run a number of the same parts—or to run a number of very different parts—you have to consider if your CNC machining system can switch to the right cutting tools during the production process. Here’s where an Automatic Tool Changer (ATC) comes into play, allowing parts with greater complexity to be made.
How Many Stations Do You Need in an Automatic Tool Changer (ATC)?
For most of customers, their requirements and applications can be handled with a 60 station tool magazine. Such a system may include a single 5-Axis Machining Center D2-5AX/ D3-5AX with ATC 60 or with an AWC 8 / 20.
Should there be a need for greater complexity in the parts to be made, larger ATCs with 90, 120 or even 320 stations may come into play. However, since end users have a limited budget, such larger and more flexible ATCs are often scaled back in size or number. Also, it doesn’t make sense to keep such tool holders for long periods of time since dust and dirt will settle on the taper and affect the quality of the run-out. To fill a tool magazine with, let say 120 tool holders and cutting tools requires a very high investment as well.
Instead of just splashing out on an upsized ATC, it is important that you check with your customers on the most common parts to be made, or when new orders for different parts are to be made. You can then ascertain if standard tools can be shared between those parts, and determine how many tools are required—be they common or non-standard.
Here’s the good news. A 5-Axis Machining Centre (either 4+1 or 5-Axis,) allows you to fully utilize standard tools in your machining set-up. This is because the part can be easily positioned in the right cutting position by the machine.
Such flexibility cannot be found on a Vertical Milling Centre (VMC) or even a Horizontal Milling Centre (HMC)—in both cases, custom made tools or specially designed fixtures are needed.
Note: If a CNC machine has been purchased and delivered to end-user, it is technically possible to change the attached ATC to a bigger size. However, you need to be prepared to for a higher cost as well as a technically complicated process. Thus, we advise that add-ons like ATCs should be selected prior to the orders being placed.
Batch Production Case Study: Semiconductor Part Manufacturer
Chief Production Manger
Semiconductor Part Manufacturing, Singapore
Customer Problem: Standard Manufacturing Process Unable to Cope
Customer B, the Chief Production Manager of a Semiconductor Part Manufacturer, has a problem with fulfilling multiple manufacturing orders from the semiconductor and electronic industries.
With standard Vertical Milling Centres (VMCs), his production line could cope with parts with simple designs and with only a few custom-made fixtures to be made. For such jobs, the number of tools for each operation to cater to those parts can be achieved with a standard ATC size of up to 30 stations.
However, with growing number of orders and the increasing complexity of parts, it became apparent to Customer B that his current mode of operation was not sustainable. The standard way of manufacturing could not cope with his customers’ demands, requiring too many machines and or operators.
Solution: Hwacheon’s D2-5AX with ATC 60 and AWC 8
To resolve Customer B’s challenges, we offered him a set-up designed for batch order production—Hwacheon’s 5-axis machining centre D2-5AX with ATC 60 and AWC 8.
With this set-up, Customer B was able to improve the flexibility, productivity and cost-effectiveness of his production, allowing his company to increase its profitability without incurring additional machine or manpower cost.
Encouraged by the breakthroughs achieved with Hwacheon’s 5-Axis Machining Center and system, Customer B remarked that he will definitely look for the next machine purchase in a similar set-up again.
In today’s volatile and uncertain manufacturing environment, flexibility and adaptability is key in CNC machining.
With the right set-up involving multi-axis machines, automatic workpiece changers (AWCs) and automatic tool changers (ATCs), part manufacturers can expand their markets to cater to their customers that require more complex parts to be made with quick deliveries. Such set-ups are ideal for both High Mix – Low Volume (HMLV) and Batch Order productions.
Offering a range of multi-axis machining centres like the D2-5AX, Hwacheon Machine Tools is able to provide practical and cost-effective solutions for part manufacturers. Learn how you can tap on our solutions by filling up our contact form today!