How many pounds of metal do you dispose of or recycle every year? That number translates into dollars. So think about how many dollars are you disposing of every year.
Why is this happening? It’s simple. You are allowing
it. Possibly because it’s always been this way. But times change, and so must
you. While labor is more expensive than materials, there is still a lot of
value in the material you are tossing. It’s time to redesign your material use
strategy. It is possible to reduce your waste volume to near zero, if not zero.
Zero waste should be your target.
and your employees take extra care when working with materials such as copper,
stainless steel and aluminum, yet you treat galvanized steel as an expendable
commodity. It is just as valuable, and maybe even more. Most shops use more
pounds of galvanized steel than the other products combined.
have worked in many shops that have effected many different cost cutting
methods, most of which involved labor adjustments. Staying competitive is a
challenge, especially in this market. Labor rates continue to rise. Sometimes
it is up to you to make more effective use of labor.
the cost of materials fluctuating as it has been doing, it is much more
difficult to maintain steady pricing. Labor costs are the one constant you can
depend on, and have some control over. It’s your job to provide labor
with an effective plan to use their efforts in the best way.
worked in a small shop where there was a plan. We used all but the smallest
pieces of metal. These actually were “scrap.” Many things made in the shop
required small parts. We had a list of standard pieces to shear for these
parts. Sure, we had to store these pieces, but obviously, many were small and
really didn’t take up that much space.
thing you could consider is your method of fabrication and the design of the
products. Many can be changed to use less material. Blanking out your pieces
can be easily planned with a calculator, effectively reducing waste by the
things that are accepted as industry standards can be changed to reduce the
material used and the labor to layout and fabricate. For instance, plumber vent
flashings. The typical cone shaped flashing requires a lot of material for the
product produced. While that may be acceptable for those of you buying
flashings off the shelf, it’s not if you fabricate flashings of other metals
such as copper. A cone-shaped flashing is good for sloppy roofers, but is not
needed when there are quality craftsmen on the job.
this fitting straight requires much less material not only for the upright, but
also for the base of the flashing. This equates into dollars saved. Yes, I know
that this makes the flashing roof pitch specific; however, I am assuming you
are not doing tract work in copper or stainless. Even if you are, if you are
working with a plasma this can be programmed and will still take less time to
fabricate. It will also take the plasma less time to cut.
can be applied to other flashings as well, such as kitchen vents and bath fan
jacks. The products will cut better from the sheet, too. If it isn’t obvious
enough, the base seam to be soldered will be much shorter too, all meaning less
labor, less solder, smaller roof opening, and less potential for a leak !
some time to really think about the waste you produce now, and what you could
effectively use it for. When you are out and about, look at roofs and their
penetrations and flashings. Think about how you could make them better. Keep
notes and sketches to develop when you have time. When you get to the metal
process of the design, you’ll be using scrap, so this will limit the cost of
design and development.
of the unused material from a plasma table is really waste. The discs from your
round cut-outs are usually tossed, as are “square” cut-outs That’s a lot of
waste over a year’s time. A 14-inch round is about 154 square inches. That’s
more than a square foot of metal. Even figuring that roughly, that’s at least a
pound of metal. That’s the cutout for a chase top. A 14-inch round will yield a
9.89 inch square. A 20-inch round will yield a 14.142-inch square piece. Every
a smaller shop that is not getting the volume pricing a larger shop gets, this waste becomes magnified. A sheet of
26-guage metal weighs about 36 pounds. Throw away three 14-inch rounds and you
have wasted about three pounds of metal. That’s over 8 percent per sheet. How
do you feel about that? For every 12 sheets you use, you are wasting one. Now
apply that same percentage to a skid of metal. It quickly multiplies. That’s a
lot of money.
lot of small pieces of solder are discarded needlessly. Keep a container for
them. Even dirty pieces. When you melt them all down, you can skim the
contaminates from the surface of the liquid solder before pouring it into a
mold. The mold can be as simple as a piece of angle iron with ends welded on and
base plates to keep it upright. This doesn’t take all that long, and at the
price of solder it is well worth it.
time to evaluate your fabrication practices, methods and material consumption.
Is design overkill eating away at your profits? Possibly changing the
dimensions of a product even slightly will save you from creating large pieces
of drop. These, much of the time, become waste. When shearing flashings this could give you an additional piece per
sheet. Minor changes can create substantial
yourself to different markets. Rather than recycle your materials, consider
selling them to those such as artists, sculptors and hobbyists. These people
are always looking for suppliers of raw materials. This can be advertised free
on the Internet and other ways locally. Promote relationships in different
areas. Possibly there is a community college near you that could use material.
Jewelry classes promote creativity. This requires small bits of copper and the
like. You could sell boxes of small random pieces by the pound. Or even donate
supplies, which could be a tax write off.
you cannot control the price of materials beyond volume purchasing or buying
when the price is down, you can control the selling price to your customers.
This can help you stay competitive. Making more effective use of your materials
will allow pricing modifications that may keep you more competitive.
Ultimately, you need not “think outside the box,” but rather, think about what is inside the box and how you can
profit from it.
Design and promote products you have not
previously produced. Promote metal as a viable alternative to all the plastic
products now flooding the market. What is up with that? I have a galvanized
steel bucket that I purchased in 1974. I still have it. I have had plastic
buckets in the past, but they ultimately fail as a product. Plastic is not a
long lasting product. Sure, plastic will exist forever but it is as waste,
rather than the product you purchased. This ends up in landfills and our
oceans. Not only is plastic waste, but it is surely not green. Metal is green.
It is up to us to promote it.
Eliminating waste in the sheet metal shop
September 16, 2008