Business we work with are always looking for the most cost-effective methods in which to outsource the part or full production of components whilst mitigating the risk of delays. One very easy way in which this can be accomplished is to design and source parts as ‘families’.
What Is A Component Family?
Although components may come in different lengths and different features most often from a machining point of view these will be components that will hold in the same fixture, use the same type of operations, cut with the same set of tools and can run with variations on the same programme. These components may share a similar name and geometry but it might not be immediately obvious they would all be in the same category. This presents a number of advantages in production terms.
Using the commonality of the components significantly speeds up the time required for programing the CNC machine as an existing programme may only need to be adapted instead of written from scratch. In cases where we repeatedly use a certain feature or particular process we are able to write a macro, which acts almost like a shortcut running the desired series of commands much quicker.
Another area of time saving and cost saving could be in the repeat use of Jigs/Fixtures/Clamps. Tooling is an often overlooked aspect of manufacture and although we have the capacity to make these tools in house, this still adds onto production time and has a cost associated with it. By machining a family of components with similar geometries we could use tooling like for example Stepped Jaws capable of holding a variety of different sized parts with the same offsets.
Components that will undergo the same operations, in the same material and use the same tooling will always speed up production and save costs. Where different parts or operations may require the changing of the cutting tool or similar, this won’t be necessary where a family of components all utilise the same tool. It also means that where a small batch of parts may need a particular cutter that isn’t normally ordered (and therefore might need an extra few days to re-order) knowing you have a family of parts means that you can have these tools more readily in stock.
Change of Procurement Habits
Thinking in terms of ‘Families of Components’ may mean rethinking a procurement strategy. Quite often when people order they will only be planning ahead for the next few months, although this has its practicalities if there are common components you are quite likely to need on a regular basis then ordering them as a family represents a time and cost saving for both the customer and the machinist and these items can always be held as stock.