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Industry & Trends

Casegoods Shops Hang Onto Myths of Computerized Optimization

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August 27, 2021 | Guest Author

By Joe Baggett

If your shop processes hardwood lumber or sheet goods for furniture or cabinets, it is imperative to optimize production using automated software.

Out of the 40 to 50 shops and factories I visit each year, perhaps one-third use an optimizing software system. And out those third, fewer than half use it to its full ability. Why is this?

Because they don’t trust the automated systems to exercise the judgement they have always brought through manual and intuitive approaches to production. But that is wrong headed. Modern systems incorporate best practices gleaned from thousands of operations. And they are capable of making rapid calculations far faster and more consistently than is humanly possible.

Here are some myths when it comes to optimizing:

  • Saw operators can manually program and achieve the same time and yield as the software can.
  • Optimizing smaller batches that are sorted and sequenced isn’t as efficient for yield and time as large batches with no sort or sequence.
  • Optimizing with software constrains the production processes versus operators manually determining the cut sequence and optimization.

One woodworker suggested manual overrides on software calculations are necessary to optimize the flow of work pieces through the plant—less stacking and restacking. And that software may miss an error in set-up, that would be replicated on the entire job if the software is in control. And that manual intervention can allow a big job to be temporarily interrupted at the CNC without holding up the downstream assembly processes.

The numbers don’t support those assertions. Over time, those periodic manual overrides to a software-managed operation add up to a loss in productivity.

I often do pro forma financials based on my clients’ improvement efforts. Results show that a one percent yield costs a whole lot more than one percent productivity for the entire labor force in the factory or shop.

My advice to the wood industry: let the automation systems do its job, just like the rest of the machinery and the workers. You’ll optimize production in the long run.

Joe Baggett is President of Innovative Wood Process Solutions. Reach him at iwpsolutions19@gmail.com, 817-682-3631.

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