The most common question customers ask heat treaters is when they can get their parts back.
And it makes sense why they ask that. Supply chain management is crucial for manufacturers, and it goes way beyond simply getting paid at the end. Any snags in the process have a rippling effect that can disrupt every aspect of the business.
Heat treaters can play an important role in supply chain management, working to reduce turnaround time when it’s possible. To make it work, they and their manufacturing customers must be on the same page.
Understanding materials and design
The makeup of parts and the functions they’re designed to perform greatly impact the heat treatment processes they must undergo. Some treatments take just a couple hours. Some take a couple days. Unfortunately, manufacturers aren’t always aware of the variables at play and submit work orders with impossible deadlines.
A greater depth of knowledge of material and design will help manufacturers set more realistic expectations regarding turnaround time. But greater knowledge of heat treatment could also lead them to revisit design and material characteristics of their parts. For example, parts made of higher-alloy steels typically have greater case depths, which requires longer case hardening treatments to achieve. Lower-alloy steels would not need as long a treatment, thus reducing the turnaround time.
However, note that while changes to design or material could result in reduced heat treatment turnaround time, they may be more expensive on the front end.
Talk with your heat treater to better understand heat treatment processes. Then, discuss with your engineers whether any design or material changes can be made that maintain a part’s integrity but reduce heat treatment turnaround time.
Heat treatment is a game of trade-offs, and there’s usually more than one way to harden a part. It’s a matter of calculating and managing the risks, time and costs associated with each option. Communication with your heat treater will help make these decisions easier.
Manufacturers sometimes set heat treatment deadlines based on how they prefer their finished parts become available either for the next step in manufacturing or for sale.
For example, a manufacturer may deliver one truckload of parts to a heat treater twice a week to maintain a consistent supply of finished parts for buyers. Turnaround time —and even treatment costs— can be reduced if two truckloads arrive once a week instead. If the furnace used to treat the load is big enough to handle it all, the heat treater only needs to run the furnace once. The same amount of finished parts will be available, but added efficiency can cut down on turnaround time.
Another way heat treaters can reduce turnaround time is prioritizing work around plant shifts, treatment equipment and estimated treatment times. Similar jobs will be done together when possible because it allows equipment to work more efficiently without downtime caused by frequent process changes. Ask your heat treater how you can take advantage of their workflows to get the best turnaround time for your parts.
Sometimes, there aren’t enough hours in the work day to complete jobs ordered on short notice. But when deadlines approach and work needs to be done, heat treaters sometimes order overtime work so that delays do not occur.
That comes with added costs, so try to plan ahead to make sure it isn’t necessary in the future.
If you’re facing overflow heat treatment work challenges, you can learn more about how to address them here.
Communication and planning
The most effective way to reduce heat treatment turnaround time is to communicate regularly with heat treaters and plan ahead for the work you’ll be sending them.
That means submitting clear specs that calls out the part’s makeup, the appropriate heat treatment, proper tolerances and testing methods. It means understanding how long it will take to treat your parts and then setting realistic deadlines.
Your heat treater will always be open about what can and cannot be accomplished in a given time frame, but this conversation should take place long before a truckload of parts is delivered to the plant.
It’s never too soon to start talking about your next heat treatment job, so let’s get started. Contact our experts to learn more about how Paulo treats parts effectively while trimming turnaround time.