Numerous industries rely on the sheet metal fabrication industry such as aerospace, construction, automotive, as well as electronics and energy sectors to name a few. This is because sheet metal fabrication encompasses the process of building various structures from raw metal materials through cutting, burning, welding, machining, and assembly. These are all geared towards generating a final product that is necessary for the aforementioned industry sectors. In line with this, below are some of the trends about the sheet metal fabrication industry that you need to know.
Automation is a trend that is not only prevalent in the sheet metal fabrication industry but other sectors as well. It has greatly enhanced and simplified the process involved to cut and bend sheet metal. Because of this, production operations became more efficient and errors were minimized. Metal fabricators were also able to run their operations without human intervention, enabling them to save a significant cost on human resources.
Several machines paved the way for automation in the sheet metal fabrication industry, such as CNC machines that only need the instructions from a design file to perform various types of cuts. Some of the cutting mediums employed by these machines include laser, flame, tube laser, plasma, as well as water-jet cutting technology. There is quite a remarkable precision with laser cut steel or steel-cut using any of these novel technologies that give it an edge over those cuts using manual operations. Aside from precision, these contemporary cutting technologies also pave the way for cutting complex shapes, all without the need for human intervention.
Aside from the machines, another thing that you can watch out for when it comes to automation is the egress of collaborative robots or cobots. Some of these works independently, but these cobots are primarily designed to work with humans. Nonetheless, the use of cobots in the sheet metal fabrication industry is still in its early stages.
Another notable trend in the sheet metal fabrication industry is the incorporation of cybersecurity into the machines and the network utilized by these machines. Nowadays, it is crucial to secure the data and processes of manufacturing systems to minimize, if not eliminate, the risk of business disruption. Like any other computer consoles, CNC machines can also be hacked and threatened by malware and other viruses. For this reason, it is important to protect these machines from cyber threats.
3D printing is already used in various industries to create prototypes, without the exception of the sheet metal fabrication industry. It can be deemed that more and more manufacturers in the industry are willing to invest in 3D printing technology for their businesses. However, it is important to note that metal 3D printing is very much different from the traditional steel fabrication process. This is because, with the latter, metals need to be stamped and bent to produce a required design as opposed to the use of a printed to come up with a metal prototype.
More and more manufacturers in the metal sheet fabrication industry are now adopting the use of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This is because most of these manufacturers are not limited to providing services to local markets, but they have global operations as well. Because of this, it can be quite challenging to oversee the operations of both their local and global plants, and manage their suppliers, as well as source out their materials, without the use of an ERP system.
With ERP software in place, sheet metal manufacturers can manage their daily business activities such as accounting, procurement, project and risk management, as well as supply chain operations.
Another trend that you can expect in the sheet metal fabrication industry is the nearshoring of their manufacturing solutions because this heavily outweighs the benefits earlier provided by outsourcing. Even if outsourced labor costs are significantly lower, there has been an increase in logistics costs. Additionally, these manufacturers also need to prepare against market volatility risks. For these reasons, more and more sheet metal fabrication manufacturers are bringing back their manufacturing capacities into their locality instead of outsourcing it.
To wrap things up, the trends illustrated above are only some of the technologies you can expect to be prevalent in the sheet metal fabrication industry in the future. Nevertheless, since technological innovations are constantly emerging, other trends may soon be recognized as well. This is to ensure that the sheet metal fabrication industry will be able to cater to the demands of other industries that heavily rely on it.