With positive housing trends and as Just-In-Time (JIT) and customized furniture manufacturing becomes increasingly common, more and more plywood and fabric remnants of various dimensions and shapes are found at the end of each production day.

A small amount of these remnants is occasionally used for recuts or new orders, but this practice seems to be incidental rather than managed.

A recent survey we conducted studied dozens of furniture manufacturers that are using fabric, foam and plywood sheets in order to learn about their remnants management practices. Though there was no one leading method of remnant management, the survey revealed the following common practices, used by those manufacturers who do not discard their remnants:

(a) A small minority of manufacturers keep all remnants, high cost remnants only, or remnants of the last 2 days; of them, about 1 in 4 never utilize odd-shaped remnants even if kept;
(b) nearly all manufacturers keep remnants next to the cutting machine for incidental use;
(c) less than 2% of manufacturers keep detailed record of remnants available in stock;
(d) for 95% of manufactures, the decision whether or not to utilize remnants is made locally, per case, by the machine operator, with no general management guidelines.

In order to be able to manage, keep and consider available remnants from stock in daily production plans, manufacturers must adopt a method to minimize the significant overhead involved in the management of remnants inventory. This method must have an enterprise-level vision of the production plan as a whole, in real-time. It will then be translated into time, labor, material and inventory-holding costs savings. It also leads to optimized raw material purchase, resulting in increased productivity.

Possible Methods and Practices

Let's review 3 possible remnant management methods practiced by manufacturers, made possible when using Production Optimization Software. These methods are presented in order of increased investment in tracking remnants, but with potentially increased benefits in terms of material yields. The selection of which method to choose is therefore dependent on the manufacturer, its product mix and volumes and other factors that help determine the right balance of tradeoff between labor costs and material savings.

1) Keep remnants from last day only - Production Optimization Software record the remnants left from the production plan generated the day before and considers yesterday's actual remnants inventory to nest on first, provided it improves material yield. If no improvement is achieved, or the subsequent day arrives – the remnants will be discarded. With relatively small remnants inventory to keep and minimum overhead to manage that inventory, there's still a great potential to increase material savings as the actual geometry of the remnants is considered by the production optimization software.

2) Keep remnants by size range groups – during the production process, the machine operator groups remnants in separate locations by their ‘rough’ dimensions, type of material, but without documenting or monitoring remnant inventory. When a production plan is generated by Production Optimization Software, it will consider the remnants size range groups and will refer the operator to check available remnant from a specific group location. If no remnant is found at that location, the nest will be cut from a full size material and the new remnant will be kept. This way, the operator's local decision-making as to whether or not to look for a remnant to use, is replaced by an automated optimized one.

3) Keep remnants according to customized plant's policy – remnants inventory is documented into Production Optimization Software which monitors its unique location. A production plan is optimally generated, based on the actual geometry of the remnants inventory, while each remnant designated for a specific plan is automatically removed from inventory.

The material savings potential when using 'Inventory Management Software' is indeed high, but requires a great expenditure to acquire. Manufacturers who use Production Optimization Software can benefit from its inherent dynamic remnant utilization methods with minimum investment, to increase their remnant utilization yield and profitability. Shop-floor tracking applications can contribute to further material and processes optimization.

Source: Plataine Ltd.

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