When it comes to choosing a metal fabricator, customers are in search of high-quality work and value to maintain a competitive price strategy. Advancements in technology,
such as fiber laser cutting and welding precision, have decreased processing time to improve metal fabricator performance. Standardization by adhering to manufacturing processes and quality measures has also enhanced their performance, making it possible for fabricators and their welders to meet the just-in-time supply models demanded in manufacturing today.
These factors, among many others, of course, help customers choose which fabricator they’d prefer to work with. Knowing this, fabricators should be keen to emphasize their entire operational prowess. From the engineering department all the way to assembly, each step along the way plays into a company’s competitive edge.
The success of a product depends on a range of factors, but begins, understandably, with its design. The goal should be a design that produces the most efficient and durable product possible that also takes advantage of the capability of the best equipment available. Known as value engineering, this approach can alter a design in any number of ways to help produce a better product.
Value engineering, which is also associated with value analysis, is a systematic team approach and study to provide value in a product, system or service, improving the return on investment for the customer. It is a methodology for finding solutions or reducing costs while maintaining or improving performance and quality requirements. Karen Repovs, account manager at Samco Machinery, a Canadian-based manufacturer and fabrication company, explains that the Samco team is fully invested in the value engineering process.
“This can include streamlining and improving the manufacturing process to eliminate unnecessary costs by determining which functions of a product are necessary for the end product to perform optimally in the field,” she says.
A proficient engineering staff is able to work with customers to produce and augment any design for the most beneficial outcome. A skilled engineer can help solve problems and reduce costs while maintaining or even improving performance and adhering to quality standards.
The end goal is due diligence of efficiency through elimination or improvement of the manufacturing process or product detail to ensure optimal function and final performance. At Samco, the strategy is to seek to fully understand the intended purpose of parts they make; every piece of the puzzle is just as important as the next.
One way that this strategy is executed is through part analysis in order to laser cut the part so that the fit is exact and, therefore, aids the welder in his job. An exact fit also ensures that the end product isn’t put together incorrectly in assembly. Overall, this approach safeguards timely production as well as a strict adherence to product requirements.
Noli Cusi, vice president, fabrication division at Samco, says this approach is standard for the company. For example, their engineers reverse-designed and improved a carry-box/portable safe for a security provider.
“We decreased the key box size,” Cusi says, “and made it easier to fit into the variety of cars in the security fleet. Additionally, the box was made lighter and easier to carry for the security officer. There was no compromise to the box; we just refined the design to make it more compact, lighter and easier to use in the field at a good, affordable price.”
When it comes to choosing a fabricator, most potential customers begin their hunt online. Therefore, the things that matter most to customers should be front and center on a
fabricator’s website. Certifications are a good example of that, and to make those declarations, quality fabricators work hard to make sure they meet or exceed the requirements established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the American Welding Society (AWS), the Canadian Welding Bureau (CWB) and other similar groups.
The ISO is a global agency composed of the national standard bodies of more than 160 countries. Specifically, ISO 9001 is a quality management system that puts processes in place to ensure quality workmanship through accountability from inquiry to placement of order to delivery of finished product.
Based in Canada, Samco follows CWB certification guidelines. The CWB, formed in 1947 to administer the W47.1 welding standard for structural steel, has expanded its reach beyond structural steel. The CWB is a certification and registration organization for companies involved in welding that requires welders in Canada to be tested every two years to maintain proficiency.
The CWB certifies companies, inspection organizations, inspectors and welding consumables through a review and qualification process to ensure they meet the requirements
for a variety of product and safety codes as well as a multitude of standards. These certifications reassure companies looking for fabrication and welding services that they will consistently get a superior final product.
American companies follow the AWS welder qualification guidelines, which have similarities to the CWB welder qualification guidelines. For example, each standard defines requirements for weld quality, electrode/base metal matching and pre-qualified joints. The most striking difference is that the CWB requires a third-party verification by the CWB Group. Whether it’s ISO 9001, AWS or CWB certifications, smart potential customers ask a fabricator about the certifications that they have achieved.
But what about the companies where leadership believes there is too much cost involved in the certification process? Kevin Hurd, applications engineer at Samco, says he would ask those company leaders, “what would be the cost of failure or the cost of losing a customer over poor workmanship?”
Repovs echoes that sentiment and says there is “too much at stake” not to be certified and regulated within the industry guidelines.
“The cost of potentially providing inferior end products could result in many poor scenarios,” she says. “That could come in the form of poor parts that do not last, damaged reputation of the company and, while rare, loss of business. In any industry, certifications are in place to ensure the quality and professionalism of service and products are achieved. Investment in ISO and/or CWB or AWS for a metal fabricator is crucial to continued improvement and success.”
In addition to laser cutting, welding and automation, a full turn-key fabrication shop looks much more attractive to a potential customer if it offers the full range of metalworking operations, including punching, bending and shearing, along with a CNC machine shop that includes boring, wire EDM and grinding capabilities. Finishing services are also necessary, and even though there are additional hurdles to overcome with a fully equipped paint booth for in-house coating, customers flock to shops that can handle production from start to finish.
Although implementation of a turnkey fabrication shop requires planning and assets, fabricators that focus on standardization and certifications will improve the quality of manufacturing while augmenting a reputation for reliability and consistency.