Niche Manufacturing and Lean Production

niche manufacturingAs manufacturers, we want to build quality tools and parts that fit our customers' needs. But we are also business people and customers needs have to be balanced against what is best for the business. Which is why, for many manufactures, non-standard parts are challenging.

In the world of manufacturing non-standard parts often equate to "custom" parts. Custom parts mean a whole host of things that a lot of manufacturers can't afford; things like special tooling, manufacturing, and processes. These special extras needed to create custom parts mean an extended lead time and, ultimately, increased prices.

For a lot of companies, creating custom parts is handled in exactly this way. At Torque Transmissions, however,  we have a different way of handling custom parts that makes better sense for our business and for our customers businesses.

At Torque Transmission we utilize a PULL production process. Pull-through production is characterized by smaller batches, quick responses to customer demands, and smooth product flow. This type of production is an example of lean manufacturing and is the reason why we are able to make orders to customer specifications.

What characterizes the type of lean manufacturing Torque Transmission utilizes?

  • No inventory: we make what is ordered
  • Same manufacturing process as is standard
  • Standardized tooling: we use our standard mold base system to make unique mold tooling, which results in a very quick set up
  • Customer’s due date places the order in the production schedule
  • Once an order is started it moves through the manufacturing process with no delays or queues

Pull-through production of this kind facilitates product customization because the products are made when they are ordered. This allows us to offer products that will meet a customer's needs, rather than offering standard products that may not meet the needs of a customer or do the job 100%.

A Unique Part Number

The other piece of our lean manufacturing strategy that helps us make custom parts cost-effective is our part number system. We have streamlined our ordering process so that only three things are not automatic: the part number, desired quantity, and the due date. Every part that is ordered is assigned a unique number and linked to that number is:

  • A complete sales history
  • Engineering change history
  • Engineering drawings of complete part assembly and all components
  • Engineering Master: specifies all steps in the manufacturing process, complete bill of material, mold tooling, assembly tools, inspection parameters and inspection tools.

Custom is Cost Effective

Our lean manufacturing strategy helps us make non-standard or custom parts in such a way that they are actually cost-effective. Where other companies are capable of creating custom parts, but at increased cost, our manufacturing process actually makes custom parts standard.

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This post was published on January 14, 2014 and updated on January 31, 2020.

Topics: Torque Topics Pulleys