For several companies, whether it is used to keep parts in place, guide operators’ tool or ensure precise positioning of assembling parts, tooling and jigs are at the centre of manufacturing operations.
Recently, we focused on automated equipment to reduce production costs and within this automation, we often forget tooling’s role of connection between equipment and product.
An important question is frequently asked: From which quantity of parts is it cost-efficient to design tooling?
Today, it is less common to do mass and large scale production. Companies tend to adapt their production to their clients and markets. We thus have to rethink tooling by making it flexible and adaptive to smaller production batches.
Modular tooling represents a profitable solution for these manufacturing companies which have this type of constraints.
This concept is basically used to reduce time setting during machining operations. Initially adopted by the automotive field, this application of tooling quickly spread throughout manufacturing sectors. We often find these tooling and jigs in welding workshops, assembly lines or inspection.
Modular tooling is an assembly of multiple components which will ultimately create a complete jig. Some components are interchangeable which allow several options for a jig to adapt to various products. As we do to a LegoTM character, we can interchange the hat of a firefighter so it becomes a police officer. For manufacturing purposes, we could produce mountain bike frames using for model #1, jig A with accessories B. If we need to produce another model like a “fatbike” (model #2), we would only have to replace accessories B by C. In this case, we would have a single type of jig with two options.
Generally speaking, we can think of a group of components which give versatility to a jig by being substituted or reused frequently. Thus, this represent a modular tooling scale: assortment of basic plates, connectors, clamps of various sizes according to company’s needs.
When compared with conventional tooling, well-design modular tooling demonstrates impressive advantages:
Modular tooling is used in all types of companies which are producing series of items and which can hardly justify the acquisition of dedicated equipment. In other words, it should be used when product’s selling prices are low and/or when production volumes are small.
The best recipe to implement modular tooling is a third of tooling, a third of information and last third of rigour.
Training is also a crucial point. Those who have to consider modular tooling in their day to day tasks, need to fully understand the use of modular tooling. Production profitability analysis have to be differently treated, parts flow and routing have to be rethought, a store may be redeveloped, etc.
Finally, companies should consider interactions between tooling and their global manufacturing environment. Thus, improvement opportunities of your current production may emerge and even generate benefits exceeding tooling methods modifications.
If you want to learn more about modular tooling and how it can be applied to your production reality, you can contact one of our experts in industrialization projects!
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