Dealing With Waste In Metal Fabrication

Waste Not, Want Not

The concept of waste is an early lesson of childhood. When you were young, your parents likely told you, “Don’t waste your food.” Most children are taught that throwing out something that could still be used was creating unnecessary physical waste—not to mention being a waste of money. Children also learn that waste is an everyday part of our commercial world where most things come in a package and that such waste should be disposed of properly, recycling where possible.

Even a conscientious child who volunteers to wash the dishes after dinner, making sure not to waste soap or hot water, putting biodegradables into the composting bin, may wind up sitting down to relax afterwards by playing a video game only to be told by a parent to “quit wasting your time with that.”

Waste happens—that’s a basic fact of life both at home and at work. Learning to manage waste efficiently, however, can have a significant impact not only on the environment, but also on the bottom line for a business like a metal fabrication shop.

Tackling Physical Fab Shop Waste

Some steps that can be taken to manage physical waste effectively in a fab shop include:

Reduce waste generation. Minimize waste generation at the source by optimizing production processes, using efficient cutting techniques, and adopting lean manufacturing principles. This can include optimizing material usage to reduce scrap and ensuring proper inventory management to minimize excess materials.

Reuse and recycle. Implement a system to segregate and collect different types of waste materials such as metal scraps, packaging materials, and other recyclables. Establish partnerships with recycling facilities to recycle metal scraps and other recyclable materials. Reusing materials wherever possible can also significantly reduce waste.

Implement a waste management plan. Develop a comprehensive waste management plan that outlines procedures for waste segregation, collection, storage, and disposal. Train employees on the proper handling and disposal of different types of waste according to local regulations and best practices.

Invest in equipment and technology. Use advanced equipment and technology that can help minimize waste generation and improve efficiency. An example would be to invest in CNC machines with nesting software to optimize material usage.

Hazardous waste handling. Properly handle and dispose of hazardous waste such as oils, solvents, and metal shavings contaminated with oils or other chemicals. Ensure compliance with regulations governing the handling and disposal of hazardous materials to prevent environmental contamination and avoid penalties.

Implement a maintenance program. Regularly maintain equipment to prevent breakdowns and reduce the likelihood of generating waste due to inefficient processes or equipment failures. Proper maintenance can also extend the lifespan of equipment, reducing the need for premature replacements and associated waste.

Monitor and measure performance. Track waste generation metrics such as the amount of scrap produced, recycling rates, and disposal costs to identify opportunities for improvement. Set targets for waste reduction and continuously monitor progress towards achieving these goals.

Employee engagement and training. Involve employees in waste reduction efforts by encouraging suggestions for improvement and providing training on waste management practices. Engaged employees are more likely to contribute innovative ideas and actively participate in waste reduction initiatives.

Comply with regulations. Ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations regarding waste management, environmental protection, and occupational health and safety. Stay informed about any updates or changes to regulations that may impact your operations.

Tackling Other Types of Fab Shop Waste

Waste can come in many forms besides physical waste, including wasting time, wasting energy, wasting money, and so forth. In the concept of lean manufacturing, waste is defined as everything that doesn’t add value from the perspective of your customer. Shops that practice lean manufacturing continually work at purging such waste from their processes.

These other types of waste include:
– Inventory. Stockpiling too much of something before it will be needed for production.
– Overproduction. Producing too much of a product before it will be required by a customer.
– Extra-Processing. Doing more work (or higher quality work) than is necessary.
– Defects. Providing a product or service that fails to meet the expectations of the customer.
– Waiting. Idle time spend waiting for a process to take place.
– Transportation. Unnecessarily moving materials or finished products.
– Motion. Unnecessary movement by people that doesn’t add value.
– Unused Talent. Not taking advantage of the skills and knowledge of the workforce or taking the time to listen to them.

Many of the problems falling in these areas can be addressed if a fab shop carefully examines its workflow, and then begins the process of redesigning their facility’s layout around a lean retooling of that workflow. Having a quicker path from materials to needed machines, then from there to final processing and shipping, will work wonders on eliminating wasted time and effort. Identifying these areas as a team and continually working together on ways to reduce waste in each of them will save the company time and money while building a more unified workforce along the way.



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