Quick Response Manufacturing In The Machining Industry

Hurricanes, pandemics, political upheaval -in a world as interconnected as ours, major events -even isolated to a relatively small area- can throw production for a loop.  We now understand better how fragile supply chains really are.  CNC machining on demand, like any other complex manufacturing process, has to rely on quick-response manufacturing principles.

The Supply Chain as We Knew It

In the past, economies of scale fostered concentrations of similar activities.  US automotive production moved to the South, chip manufacturing to Taiwan, and clothing to Vietnam.  This type of ad hoc organization resulted in population centers with similar skills and training.  It made hiring easier because there were more people in the area that were familiar with the type of manufacturing common in that area.

Then Russia invades Ukraine and suddenly Northern Africa can’t get the wheat they need.  A hurricane hits Puerto Rico.  That would seem to be a very isolated event.  The effects stretched far beyond the island, though, when Hurricane Maria obliterated most of the US’s production capacity for IV bags, saline drips, a host of medicines, and medical implants.  And of course, a pandemic threw every conceivable supply chain into chaos.  At best manufacturing was disrupted for months; more often it was years before things returned to normal.

The Growing Pains of Quick Response Manufacturing

Through all of this (and more), manufacturers have struggled to meet their commitments and satisfy their customers’ needs.  Steel for an order may be stuck on a boat for months, so start looking elsewhere for a replacement.  Engineers in some cases had to substitute materials they could get for those they couldn’t.  While many aspects of business may grind to a halt following an event, the needs never stop.

When the pandemic hit and hospitals couldn’t find enough ventilators, Ottawa began a massive effort to manufacture new ventilators here.  Macfab was part of that effort.  We had to locate the required materials, and we did.  We helped produce those ventilators in record time.  That’s quick-response manufacturing.

When one of our customers suddenly receives a huge order, Macfab might have to turn on a dime to accommodate the new production.  That CNC machining on demand relies on software to schedule the machines, manpower, and resources the job requires.  Our purchasing team relies on decades of experience to find whatever materials are needed, and in the end we bring all of the components together and make sure our customer is taken care of.

That Which Does Not Kill Us

That’s one of the reasons we’ve been purchasing new 5-axis mills and 9-axis Swiss turning machines; they can turn around complex finished products faster and more accurately than anything else.  We’ve always focused on local suppliers as possible, but now we’ve made that a priority.  New measures from Ottawa have also given all Canadian manufacturers incentives to rely on local suppliers for materials and partner with local companies.  The aftermath of the pandemic and the actions in Eastern Europe have led our operation to become more resilient.  Companies like Macfab that fully embrace these quick responses to deliver CNC on demand will have an easier time rolling with whatever the next challenge happens to be.


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