For machine designers and builders, time to market is an increasingly important issue. Speeding up the supply of those many small parts, such as fasteners, fixtures and fittings can reduce overall project time significantly. Sarah Gray reports
Industrial machinery includes any number of fasteners and standard parts that collectively ensure efficient and reliable operation. Quick release pins, cam clamps, torque screws, toggle clamps, magnetic catches, gas struts, hinges, handles, levelling feet, anti-vibration and many other similar components all need to be specified in terms of size, material, performance and longevity.
Speeding up the design process by sourcing ready-made components and standard parts at the CAD stage can significantly reduce the potential time to market. Further, using components that are already tried and tested with known performance capabilities will also reduce test and development times and so help make machine builders more competitive in their increasingly globalised markets.
Outsourcing the supply of small mechanical standard parts at the design stage is made easier if there is direct access to CAD files available to download from a suppliers website.
John Marshall, Technical Manager for WDS, one of the companies which provide such a service, comments: “Ten years ago, we used paper catalogues and expected engineers to call and ask what products we had in stock that could solve their problem, or fit the envelope they had available. Nowadays, providing fully annotated CAD drawings is the norm for us. We started by supplying files on CDs, but even that is slow compared to today’s on-the-fly web solution. CAD drawings have to be provided instantly, any time of the day or night.
“Once a product is designed-in, we probably have it in stock already. However, we can also manufacture fasteners, fixtures and fittings to order; one-at-a-time if asked.”
WDS’s technical support teams all have hands-on design experience and are directly involved in the operations’ manufacturing facilities. They are trained to find the ideal component for each application, and can assist with the design of bespoke components when necessary.
Marshall again: “Full details of every bespoke part are recorded and never deleted, meaning we can make repeat batches years later.
“Delivery times also need to be considered. While most stockists can respond quickly for common parts it is rare that they control the manufacturing, so long delays can ensue if they are out of stock. WDS’s in-house manufacturing facilities translate directly to the speed and quality of our customer service.”
WDS even operates a lean manufacturing process, which ensures parts are restocked at appropriate times and to the right levels, while sophisticated stock profiling ensures that over 95% of orders for standard parts can be despatched the same day.
“With bespoke designs our lead times are typically four weeks, half the industry average,” says Marshall. “Our broad experience, in-depth knowledge, manufacturing and stock management combined with innovations such as instant CAD downloads, set the industry standard for customer service.”