Difficult economic times drive businesses to more intensely focus on competitiveness through reducing costs and increasing productivity (capacity, throughput). The elimination of non-value added work is a key component of the lean manufacturing concept addressing waste. K-Form identified CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) as a source of waste and an opportunity for improvement.
The application of CAM pushed our capabilities when first introduced over two decades ago. We experienced a similarly dramatic level of improvement with the introduction of 3D CAM. Programming times still remained a significant source of non-value added work. Creating the programs to operate CNC equipment, such as our vertical mills or lathes, is a necessity, but since the effort brings us no closer to manufacturing a customer component, the effort is essentially waste.
Several months ago, K-Form made the decision to implement Esprit KnowledgeBase. Esprit KnowledgeBase allows businesses to establish a best practice approach by defining how to machine features. The software automatically recognizes features and applies processes with a few clicks. With each use, we refine the KnowledgeBase definitions embedding a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle for continual improvement.
The most important part of a continual improvement project is the results created. K-Form developed an index metric (incorporating programming times versus run times) to track the long-term results. Randomly selected samples verified the gains expected in the short-term. For example, one part was a machined enclosure with five sides of machining required. Before the Esprit KnowledgeBase implementation, a programmer would require approximately 6-8 hours to create the code. During the test, a machinist developed the code in roughly 15 minutes per side including time to refine the processes. The new process took only 15.6% of time.
The process advances made by implementing the Esprit KnowledgeBase will allow K-Form to reduce lead times and costs while increasing capacity.