Delivering Total Solutions Before the First Cut

Delivering Total Solutions Before the First Cut

By Anton van Oeffelt, Product Line Director for Solid End Mills, Seco Tools

Just a few decades ago, manufacturing was still more art than science. Many current veterans first learned metal cutting from machinists who came to NC and CNC technology after a lifetime spent using manual equipment that required extensive knowledge to achieve good results. Today, these veterans are quickly reaching retirement age – and to fill the knowledge gap they leave behind even as parts become more and more complex to produce, companies like Seco Tools and SolidWorks have had to find innovative solutions that provide all the necessary expertise in a form that can be utilized by any operator.

"SolidWorks has pushed innovations ranging from robust machine simulators to full-featured project management tools"

A 2018 study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute found that, by 2028, roughly 2.4 million positions will go unfilled due to the skills gap. Furthermore, between 2015 and 2018, the time required to fill an open position for skilled workers rose by more than 30% to 93 days – a number that will only increase as fewer young people pursue training in the skilled trades. To fill this gap, manufacturers need more than advanced technology or powerful software. They need total process solutions that can handle all of the intricate tasks that used to be handled by experienced operators.

For companies like SolidWorks, this has meant the development of CAM software capable of replicating all the know-how and expertise of veteran machinists. As programming increasingly moves from the machine-side CNC to computers in the front office, SolidWorks has pushed innovations ranging from robust machine simulators to full-featured project management tools, all to help engineers and other manufacturing professionals further increase their productivity and overcome the issues created by the skills gap.

Thanks to this progress, manufacturers increasingly have access to high-quality part programming for even the most difficult tasks, such as blade machining. However, to deliver these kinds of comprehensive solutions, manufacturing OEMs need to have an equally comprehensive understanding of applications and processes. That means thinking about everything in our customers’ manufacturing environments, from the set of specific machines available to the fundamental characteristics of the materials in use. To this end, OEMs have found themselves collaborating more closely than ever before.

In previous years, this process looked more like a give-and-take approach, but today, SolidWorks is partnering with companies like Seco Tools at the earliest stages of product development. This means that, rather than starting with a tool, we increasingly start from the perspective of our customers: We start with the application requirements and design from there, working closely with partners to realize highly productive total processes.

Some have suggested that these total solutions mean an end to the days of the artisan operator, the expert machinist who could produce flawless parts thanks long years at the machine controls. But in reality, these veterans are a vital part of implementing the new solutions and creating new opportunities with software that were not available to previous generations of manufacturing professionals. These experts, in concert with OEMs and their partners, will help leverage these solutions to let their shops reach the levels of quality, speed, and reliability they need to beat the competition.

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