June 25th, 2019
To satisfy demand for higher productivity and yields, agricultural equipment is becoming more advanced and complex. This extra demand placed on original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) translates directly to the supply chain, especially those providing structural and functional metal components. Curved metal plate, section and tube is one category where a greater awareness of what advanced suppliers now provide can make a difference.
Stuart Anderson, Sales Manager at Barnshaws Section Benders, regarded as one of the world’s most capable metal bending companies, explains why capability and capacity is the new king in future-proofing the metal supply chain.
One of the most important aspects of a reliable, lean supply chain is its flexibility i.e. its ability to respond to spikes or falls in demand. While this is important for many suppliers to the agricultural industry, when it comes to commodities such as metal components, it is even more so.
Even for a specialist service, such as metal bending, continual investment by the supplier is incredibly important. Press braked steel, for example, is often used to manufacture the chassis for powered agricultural equipment. Barnshaws offers the capability to form sheet metal at 12 metres long using multiple press machines up to 1000 tonnes.
Chutes, pipes, arms and chassis members on towed equipment can all be formed from tube that has undergone mandrel or induction bending to improve the shape or performance. By investing in more of these bending machines, suppliers can again grow with the increased demands of the OEMs. For example, Barnshaws has invested in the capability to precision curve pipes up to 32” in diameter, which is much larger than anything currently seen in the agricultural sector.
A knock-on effect of this improved capacity is increased speed of delivery. With a capable supplier, not only is machine capacity soaking up fluctuations in the supply chain, it also means reduced lead times. More machines in-house translate to increased fabrication speed, which provides a fast supply response and is extremely important in meeting the requirements of just in time (JIT) manufacturing. When combined with a metal bending process that already saves time when compared to welding, this reduced lead time is compounded.
A wider view
The production volumes of agricultural vehicles and equipment pale in comparison to the volumes associated with passenger vehicles for example, however, as demand for food rises, so naturally will the amount of powered and towed equipment being produced by the OEMs. To be successful with any large-scale machinery production activity, it must be supported by a lean, efficient supply chain, providing innovative materials that allow design developments to be realised.
To ensure the flexibility needed to meet the demands of future production operations, suppliers of metal fabrications need to be investing in both capacity and personnel. When it comes to selecting suppliers for metal fabrications as an OEM, choosing a business that continues to invest in its machine capacity ensures that growth in demand can be adequately met. This can provide the extra security required to grow production activities, while avoiding any potential bottlenecks and risks to production uptime.