Precision machine shops all over the country try to differentiate themselves from each other so they can make their offerings more attractive to specific customers. These offerings might be value-add services like welding, painting, heat treating and others. They may also be optimal for different batch quantities, size of product, specialty materials and the like. However, there is one value add service that can be a huge undertaking. This service is Assembly/System integration. Providing assemblies as a service is essentially taking the component parts and joining them together in a usable fashion as specified by print. At first glance, many shop owners believe they can take this task on. It's easy to think, "How hard can it be? A few screws and rivets and we're done". As such, quite a few Precision Machine Shops will add this offering. It can be done at a low level for some simply products. But to be a serious business unit, Assembly and Systems Integration must be approached from a high level and will require significant time and investment.
The time and investment required to create a Assembly and Systems Integration division to an existing machine shop is significant. The equipment, software, real estate and personnel are a big investment. Growing slowly and organically is a smart and conservative way to add this offering to a business model. Great machine shops with sophisticated assembly services will have large spaces to set up manufacturing cells. These spaces can be anywhere from 3,000 square feet to over a million. In my experience, the shops in this category are usually in the 100,000 to 300,00 square foot range. To be considered a high level turnkey assembly company, this much space is probably going to be necessary. Considerable lighting, fixtures, ventilation, and other work area tools are of course necessary for the jobs to be assembled correctly.
Time and experience are another key factor in the success of an Assembly and Systems Integration division. It is essential to have the right people occupying the right roles. Skilled Manufacturing and Process Engineers will certainly be part of the team. Like Precision Machining, Assembly is its own art and science, requiring skilled folks to ensure optimization and profitability. But managing the labor, parts, Quality systems and process can be very difficult so ensuring that skilled employees are managing these tasks is paramount. This is another argument for slow growth. Tripping and getting back up again will help the organization get better and better. This does not happen overnight even with all the space, tools and software out there. Most precision shops find this aspect to be a huge hurdle, so there are few that can perform high level assembly.
Maintaining an accurate and intelligent manufacturing software system, ERP or MRP, is critical to manage dozens and hundreds of parts per assembly. Unlike the relative simplicity of managing material and scheduling for CNC machines and raw material, Assembly and Systems Integration requires a delicate and responsive system to coordinate the flow of many components into the assembly line at the right time and pace. These MRP systems can masterfully enable such processes but great CMs have finely tuned them over time and customized these systems to meet their needs and the needs of their customers.
The reality is that most Precision Machine Shops aren't capable of providing assembly services overnight. It is a long and arduous process that requires commitment, capital and leadership. Over many years of carefully planning and slow growth, the companies with the right people and vision can eventually get into this type of business. For more information on PEKO Precision's Assembly and Systems Integration capabilities, contact me direct at email@example.com or click below for more information.