Manufacturing digitization proves a useful strategy for shortening … – Furniture Today

July 15, 2022
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Manufacturing digitization proves a useful strategy for shortening lead times, expanding offerings and reducing labor pressures
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July 15, 2022
Manufacturers are perplexed and uncertain as to what exactly may be in store as they enter the last half of 2022. Faced with a confluence of worrisome trends, hesitancy from competitors, concerns over order slowdowns and inflationary factors, some manufacturers have chosen to change course and even begin layoffs.
Century Furniture CEO Alex Shuford weighed in on these challenges noting his belief that the labor crisis could improve as demand slows. “There is a demand to capacity imbalance that has run headlong into a skills gap,” he said. “We need more time, training and development. We are all going to have to focus on reducing the non-value-added work that bogs our people down.”
So how do you reduce non-value added work and expand the capacity of your furniture manufacturing? Addressing this capacity imbalance requires an assessment of a manufacturer’s retail support, product development, and employee activities. Only once these are identified can the manufacturing process be strategically evaluated for areas in most need of new or improved technology.
Historically, the furniture manufacturing industry tends to contract as soon as there is even a glint of a recession. However, some manufacturers are accelerating technology investment to enhance their operations. Pursuing these types of revamps widens the gap between companies that will have the ability to quickly accelerate their growth and those that cannot.
Lectra Featured Image
In a recent article by Furniture Today, Bassett Furniture CEO Robert Spilman explains how their “ongoing investment in technology is fundamental to remaining competitive and we view capital deployed in support of our tech stack as essential.” This speaks to the impact that the pandemic has had on the importance of technology investments for not only now, but for the future too.
Assessing your manufacturing for digital transformation
In many instances, a newer or more advanced technology solution can replace two older manufacturing solutions, and the one more advanced solution processes more orders at a higher quality with fewer employees. Equipment consolidations can also free-up much-needed floor space to use for other manufacturing tasks.
Several areas to assess for innovation are:
Product design and developmentLectra Image
Digitizing the design process allows for computer-aided design (CAD) data to be available to whoever needs it, driving process stability and speed – especially for made-to-order models where variability has the potential to wreak havoc on production processes. Virtual prototyping increases production speed, reduces models with costly errors, limits physical prototypes and allows for quick changes, and can ultimately reduce your product development from weeks to days.
Digital patterns and automatic spreading & nesting
Automated pattern making can reduce industrialization time by up to 30%. Installing an automatic spreader with optimized settings enables manufacturers to maximize time savings and reduce allowances (spread ends) to save even more fabric. Labor savings can also be substantial and pay for the cost of automatic spreading quickly. Integrated and automatic marker-making software can adapt markers to real roll widths and optimize nesting with sophisticated algorithms saving significant time and fabric.
Data and analytics visibility
Lectra ScreenHaving visibility into production data—such as cutting time and speed, productivity, and interruptions— for analysis and continuous performance can result in 25% productivity increase and 45% reduction in downtime.
Order integration
Speed up production without compromising quality using ERP integrated software that automatically pulls and processes customer orders and generates cutting jobs with all necessary information included, such as material, markers and cutting parameters.
By being directly connected to an order system along with having automatic nesting, you can eliminate employee touchpoints – no need to pull orders or make markers along with reduction in errors & time.  This process also removes non-value added tasks allowing your employees to be more efficient and focus efforts on other tasks.
Lectra Screen 2Product customization automation
Develop made-to-order workflows that allow you to deliver customized furniture quickly while better controlling costs and product quality. Having digital tools to either automatically or systematically customize a standard product can substantially reduce order processing and the number of models needed in your company pattern catalog.
Labor efficiency
With the latest technology, the goal is to reduce the time an employee has to touch a process, and still produce the right order at the highest quality.  With a more automated, integrated and digital manufacturing process, your team won’t have as many touchpoints but they will have more visibility, and more automatic management to ensure that the order is correct.  Ideally, you are working toward having less equipment and fewer employees (or more efficient employees) while still maintaining the highest quality of product and order accuracy. With digitalization, your team can also benefit from remote or digital customer service, resolving issues remotely and quickly.
Lectra PlanningPlanning and implementing new technology and digital workflows
An experienced partner can help you evaluate your goals, provide a proper assessment and guide you in the process. Lectra, a CAD software and CAM cutting-room system technology company, provides the most advanced Industry 4.0 cutting room equipment along with experts to ensure customers understand what the right solutions are for their needs  Lectra can also help optimize and unlock the full potential for cutting room floor and Lectra’s Industry 4.0 solutions.
Interested in revamping and upgrading your cutting room to be more automated and digitalized or just want to explore cutting room technology?  Click here to contact us.
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