We’ve been in many shops where there are dumpsters full oflarge pieces of waste particleboard cut out in grotesque shapes, as if awaitingshipment by rail.

From a flow perspective, it isn’t about the finaldestination of, but how to quickly get it out of the way.

We’ve visited two companies recently that have focused onhow their waste is removed.

In one, a high-volume panel cutting and handling operation,the system was initially set up to cut skeletons and smaller pieces of extramaterial before they were removed for disposal.

They determined that it would be easier to simply grind upall the unusable panel material to dust, and then send it to the dust collector,rather than handling hundreds of cut panel pieces.

They installed a heavy-duty, wide grinder to handle largerpanel pieces, and positioned this under the control area, sheathed in asound-absorbing curtain.

It wasn’t surprising that they did this, but the gain in overallproductivity was a surprise, coming solely from the ability to remove unwantedmaterial faster.

At another company we visited recently, the machine functiondetermined that the same thing be done. A vertical CNC machining center had tomachine out material cut for a trash grommet, for example, and get rid of the sawdustbecause there was no place to offload or handle the cutout piece.

In a lot of metalworking there is much less waste. In such“near-net” processes such as die casting and forging, a piece is formed orshaped with small amounts of wasted material. In flat-rolled steel products, thesteel cut off the edges of the coil can be sent right back to the steel mill tobe made into a new batch of steel. Same thing with aluminum. Aluminum cans havea value because they can readily be made into a batch of new aluminum.

The lesson? Don’t look at material removal, whether dustcollection or small pieces of wood or panels, as an afterthought. Effectiveremoval may improve the overall efficiency of your operation more than youwould figure. Another tip: Don’t google the word “offal” right before lunch.

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