Technology and automation are changing sheet metal fabrication at a blistering pace. Innovations like Autopol software for offline press brake programming and SafanDarley’s Smart Production initiative are changing the game, and it’s natural for them to get a lot of press.
However, relationships still matter in our industry. In fact, I would say that partnering with the right OEM is as important now as ever, given the high level of coordination it takes to maintain equipment or bring new equipment or automation online.
Here are three reasons why relationships are every bit as important as technology and sticker price:
1. Service Beyond the Sale
One of the lesser-known realities of bringing new manufacturing systems online is that while many of the technologies involved have become more straightforward and user-friendly, there are still complexities in adapting the press brakes and/or automated cells to each customer’s facility and operation.
The gap between what the equipment can do when set up optimally as specified and what it can do “out-of-the-box” in its standard configuration at a given fabrication shop is a real risk to fabricators. It would be a terrible outcome to make a major investment in a piece of equipment that had to sit idle on the production floor for weeks due to an unresponsive OEM. This is sometimes the case with the larger press brake OEMs that tend to focus more on the sale than the relationship. Once the equipment is delivered, customers are on their own to get it up and running.
We take a different approach, and it starts long before the sale. Before making recommendations about equipment and automation options, we start by getting to know each customer’s operation and providing a detailed analysis with an estimated time to produce each part. Through this process, we work through the ins and outs of installation and setup and make sure that our customers are prepared to receive the equipment and get it up and running.
We also provide responsive, U.S.-based technical support to our customers in North America to make sure their new press brakes can be brought online as quickly as possible. And, with local distributors spread across the continent, our customers know they can always find an actual human being — not just an online portal — who knows their business and their equipment and who is ready to support and serve.
Our approach is based on cultivating a deep understanding of our customers’ operations and markets, and it results in a win-win for SafanDarley and our customers. We provide an unmatched value in press brakes and automation, and our customers reduce long-term costs, maximize profits, and build market share.
2. Flexibility and Customization
Sheet metal fabrication is a dynamic industry with innumerable use cases and manufacturing processes – and every customer has specific needs that won’t be adequately addressed by one-size-fits-all approaches.
The relationship between a fabricator and the OEM that produced their equipment should allow for innovation and even experimentation. Some manufacturers require their customers to stay hands-off once the equipment is set up, going so far as to cancel equipment warranties if their customers tinker with the equipment.
That doesn’t make any sense to me. Innovation is the ultimate driver of success in our industry, and we encourage our customers to look for new ways to maximize the ROI from their SafanDarley press brakes. Working closely with our customers, we help them optimize their equipment for their specific operation while gaining insights for continuously improving our designs.
3. Determining Best Value and Potential ROI
Given the wide range of OEMs, equipment configurations, and automation options available to fabricators, it can be quite difficult to drill down to the actual bottom and top lines for what a given investment can do for a company.
To best serve fabricators, press brake OEMs need to have a detailed understanding of the customer’s needs and budget and be willing and able to answer questions in a candid, straightforward fashion.
Fabricators should be able to ask potential OEMs detailed questions early in the process to get a sense of whether the OEM will be a good fit for them and will see them through implementation of the new equipment or manufacturing process.
In a solid business relationship, fabricators ask the hard questions and OEMs give them straight answers. With this level of transparency, fabricators can be confident that their investment will pay off.
Strong Relationships Are the Constant
In an industry defined by ever-changing and evolving technology, strong relationships between sheet metal fabricators and OEMs should be the constant and serve as a counterbalance to the many bumps in the road that every fabricator encounters.
Your facility’s production floor is the heart of your operation. It’s the hallowed ground between the front office, where orders come in and deals are made, and the loading dock, where you ship goods to market. The shop floor is where you make your money, and sheet metal fabricators are wise to maximize the production value for every square inch of that space. Read here the three important, space-related questions to ask when choosing your equipment.
Owners and managers of sheet metal fabrication companies are painfully aware that it is hard to find good operators in the current economic climate – and it’s even harder to find operators who can reliably program production software at the control panel. This dynamic creates a production bottleneck that could easily be avoided.