Ways That Short Lead Times Can Improve Manufacturing

To say that manufacturing is an important part of the United States economy is an understatement.

Manufacturers contribute $2.17 trillion to the U.S. economy and, taken by itself, U.S. manufacturing would be the eighth biggest country in the world based on gross domestic product (GDP). For every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.40 is added to the US economy.

From oil to steel to electronics to food, the United States makes a wide variety of products and employs a lot of people as a result. There are nearly 12.5 million people working in manufacturing in the United States, more than eight percent of the workforce.

With such a high rate of manufacturing, it is important for companies to produce goods and services in a timely manner and a key component in that process are short lead times. Lead time is the period between the start and end of a process i.e. the time between the placement of an order for a product or a service and the finish and delivery of that product or service.

Companies can shorten lead times in many ways, whether it be through automation, improving logistics or nearshoring as Nike plans to do in the future. Short lead times mean that goods are produced faster and ultimately consumers get those goods quicker.

There are many processes involved in manufacturing including machining, molding, casting and forming. Machining operations are often divided into three processes which are turning, drilling and milling.

Turning uses single-point tools to remove material from workpieces that are attached to a fixture. Single-point tools chip away at the workpiece and cut it into a shape, which is often cylindrical.

Drilling is a process which uses rotating drill bits to cut holes in solid materials. After a hole has been drilled, bores (or boring) can enlarge those holes and reamers (or reaming) provide a finish for a drilled hole. A reamer can enlarge a hole as well and finishes holes to dimensional accuracy to a hole that’s already been formed.

Milling uses rotary cutters to remove material from a piece by sending or feeding the cutter into the piece. As a piece is worked on, cutting speed and feed rates are determined to figure out how best to cut a workpiece.

Manufacturing gives a positive boost to the US economy and its workforce. While there are many complex operations involved in manufacturing, three basic operations include milling, drilling and turning. The successful implementation of these operations allows companies to manufacture goods consistently and can lead to short lead times if companies embrace ways to improve their manufacturing processes and their logistics.

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