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Near Net Size Pre-Machined Materials

Make or Buy?

Near net size pre-machined materials, or what we refer to as Machine-Ready Blanks, are designed to increase the efficiency of production machining by eliminating material prep.  Machine-Ready Blanks can be virtually any size or shape and can include added features, but typically they are square, rectangular or round stock milled to your custom specifications.  We provide Machine Ready Blanks for all types of jobs, including prototypes, first articles, short runs, and production runs. Production jobs typically provide the greatest return for customers due to volume multipliers in per piece efficiency and overall cost savings.  Machine-Ready Blanks show up on your receiving dock clean, deburred and ready to go directly into your machining centers. Seems straight forward, right?

Not so fast, most shops are capable of producing in-house or piecemealing their own material prep and pre-machining.  Some shops still chose to purchase oversize raw materials and send it out for first ops like heat treating, grinding or milling.   The materials are then either staged internally for additional prep work necessary to finish machine (depending on the job) or it is machined to size as part of the finish machining process, which increases production time and adds wear and tear to equipment.  What you end up with is raw materials moving around for days or weeks before the high-value process of finish machining begins, and any delays along the way create bottlenecks that can stop production in its tracks. The question remains, why? We continue to debate the topic of ‘make or buy’ with shop owners and OEMs reluctant to source Machine-Ready Blanks and have concluded; it is simply a matter of company culture.

Maker Culture

Makers are craftsmen who are steeped in tradition and want to maintain control over every aspect of the manufacturing process – “We have always done it this way and will continue to do it this way.”  Net raw materials price is a motivator for this group and it often outweighs the benefits of saving time, increasing efficiency or improving capacity.  For Makers, the thought of cutting a single PO and having pre-machined materials show up ready to load and go is usually met with some skepticism.

Manufacturing Culture

Manufacturers are no less committed to quality, but their motivation is driven by constant process improvement, increases in efficiency, maximizing throughput, and bottom line profitability – “If you can save me 15-minutes per part and help me avoid bottlenecks, let’s talk.”  Manufacturers tend to look at the bigger picture.  If pre-machined materials cost a little more than raw stock, but has multiple operations already completed, they realize a net gain.

I am not here to tell you how to run your business or judge your materials and process decisions, but we are passionate about the value we provide and our commitment to quality and customer service.  When it comes to sourcing pre-machined materials, Machine-Ready Blanks ticks the boxes in each of the Better, Faster, Cheaper categories:

Better

  • Eliminate the need for squaring up the material prior to finishing the part
  • Improve overall quality.  Machine-Ready Blanks are furnished as close as +/-.0005” dimensionally and as close as .0002” in flatness, squareness and parallelism
  • Flatness is especially important as it eliminates the tendency for movement during the machining process, especially with large surface area parts
  • Machine-Ready Blanks can be produced from aluminum, stainless steel, copper and other alloys
  • Machine-Ready Blanks arrive clean, deburred and individually packaged to avoid damage during shipping

Faster

  • Reduce cycle time chip-to-chip
  • Streamline fixturing (consistency, blank-to-blank)
  • Avoid bottlenecks
  • Improve overall production efficiency
  • Increase shop throughput
  • Remove large amounts of material (hogg outs, roughing)
  • Eliminate the need for specialized machines
  • Avoid waiting for or tying up machines better suited for other operations

Cheaper

  • TCI continually invests in optimized machines to improve quality and gang production
  • Reduce scrap
  • Improve inventory control (JIT)
  • Increases your shop capacity without adding overhead
  • Order Machine-Ready Blanks, including multiple operations with a single PO
  • Reduce wear and tear on machines better utilized for finish machining operations

So, when it comes to pre-machined materials the question remains, Make or Buy?  You decide.

Thanks for reading –

Ben

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