Covid-19 Places New Demands & Opportunities on the CNC Machining Industry

From companies performing 3D printing in Boston to those offering CNC machining in Pittsburgh, the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed many changes upon the modern manufacturing industry. 

Supply chain disruptions, distanced workers, and radical shifts in spending and product demands are just a few of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the economy. 

These changes have also come with new demands and opportunities for improvement, so many CNC machining companies are taking the lull in production as a chance to take stock of their systems. Here’s a look at some of the new demands manufacturers face — as well as opportunities for growth. 

1. Predictive Maintenance 

Many facilities were shut down when the pandemic first began, giving an opportunity to perform much-needed maintenance. A number of these maintenance procedures were carried out on a routine basis, and since facilities were closed it was the perfect time for some upkeep. Some common maintenance procedures include: 

  • Removing and cleaning chuck and jaws
  • Leveling adjustments
  • Heat transfer maintenance (fin inspection, radiator cleaning, fluid refills, etc.)
  • Wiper repair/replace
  • Draining all fluids and replacing as needed

Some CNC machining companies are still shut down, so if you haven’t already, make use of the downtime by ensuring all systems will be ready to launch when you open back up. 

2. Flexible Manufacturing

One of the biggest changes that the pandemic has caused lies in the nature of the products that are now in demand. Medical devices are one example of now-booming goods, and are in such urgent demand that some companies have pivoted their services to make products they never would have considered before. 

As product demands change more rapidly, manufacturers will need to adapt with them. That means greater flexibility on the floor, as plants will have to rearrange their equipment to change product directions as dictated by their customers’ needs. Flexible manufacturing cells (FMC) are groups of similar machining systems that are arranged together so they can be configured with ease, and can help manufacturers pivot their facilities faster. 

FMCs must be consistent, repeatable, and standardized to perform at their best. But, when coupled with smart tools and multi-axis machining, they can enable manufacturers to build new products at the speed of changing demands.

3. Product Pivots

If your facility is equipped to make new products, you should also be considering which products you’ll make. Surprising similarities exist between seemingly unrelated product lines, and the shift toward medical devices has prompted multiple pivots. Some of them are:

  • Ventilator production by companies in the automotive industry
  • Sanitizing wipes made by those who previously made coffee filters
  • Hand sanitizer made by distilleries

While some companies are eager to get back to the products they’re known for, others may find new niches they otherwise would not have explored. If you have the flexibility to do so, be prepared to make new products. 

4. Alternative Methods

The demand surges caused by the pandemic have sometimes meant that upgraded machinery is not enough to keep pace. When that happens, entirely new manufacturing methods must be considered. 

One of the most promising alternative manufacturing methods is 3D printing. This additive manufacturing technique has emerged as one method that can supplement existing investment casting or injection molding methods, and is being explored by some as a way to keep up with demand. 

If your facility is struggling to keep pace, consider adding an alternative mode of fabricating your part. 

5. Collaboration

The pandemic presents challenges that few have seen in their lifetime, and in such unprecedented times it takes a team to succeed. Collaboration is key in times of crisis, and social media platforms like LinkedIn have created forums that enable industry leaders to exchange ideas on how to solve the challenges they face. 

If your company is suffering through a pain point, consulting other manufacturers may help you find a solution — even if they’re your competitors. 

CNC Machining: Change Is Already Here

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a great challenge in many ways — but with every challenge comes an opportunity to grow. FMCs and smart tools, new product lines, alternative methods, and collaborative solutions are some of the ways in which manufacturers that use CNC machining in Pittsburgh can rise to the occasion, and in the end they may be stronger than ever.

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