Most OEM manufacturers or defense contract companies have their own design engineers to develop drawings and specifications for metal fabricated parts. So, why would they care whether a potential partner has its own metal fabrication engineering team?
For complex fabrications, an in-house engineering team is imperative. While design drawings may indicate final dimensions, weld joints, components, and other details, they typically do not outline the individual processes required to achieve the desired results.
Here are just a few reasons to work with a metal fabrication company that has an experienced engineering team.
Having an engineering team at the table from the very beginning is highly beneficial for both the estimating team and the customer. An in-house engineering team works with the estimating, sales, and project management teams to ensure accurate quotes and address any potential Design for Manufacturability (DfM) issues up front, helping to minimize revisions down the road.
Ideas are bounced back and forth between the teams to determine whether improvements to the drawings or specifications can be made when possible. Can standard thickness metal be used instead of machining a thicker material down based on a dimensional tolerance? Can slot and tab design be used to help eliminate costly fixtures? If jigs and fixtures need to be used, does the engineering team have the capabilities to design them? In-house engineers ask these types of questions, seek clarity, and help identify manufacturing processes and potential overengineering specifications on a proposal.
When possible, they collaborate directly with a customer’s engineering team to refine specifications based on their first-hand manufacturing experience. Such design reviews are typically more feasible with commercial clients than Department of Defense (DOD) projects where specifications have already been tested and proven, and deviations are not allowed.
In either regard, engineering’s involvement up front helps ensure that the fabricator can complete the work as specified and that the quote accurately reflects the customer’s goals and what they will receive.
Not all OEM design engineers are innately familiar with precision metal fabrication manufacturing processes. There are potential cost savings for those who are willing to collaborate and consider minor modifications to their specifications.
As noted, there are usually potential process changes that don’t affect a product’s function, design intention, or aesthetics. Most adaptations won’t be visible to the human eye but can simplify the manufacturing process. Those who are willing to engage with a metal fabricator’s engineering team and collaborate often end up with a better product at a lower cost.
Having a metal fabricator’s engineering team assist with the RFQ process can also speed up time to market. One way they do that is by determining whether a software package contains all the required elements for production.
It is preferred that 3D models and drawings are submitted along with purchase orders, but they will almost always need to be modified or relaid out for specific steps of the manufacturing process. For example, during the welding process holes or features may be removed to avoid movement of components during the heating and cooling of the materials, then at the sub-weldment level, the holes we be added to ensure their proper placement.
If the modifications of engineering drawings is left solely to the fabricator’s in-house team of engineers without access to the original files, it can add several weeks to the manufacturing timeline. Collaborating with the original design engineers and working on the files collaboratively can reduce that time considerably. Software files like those from SolidWorks can be exported into multiple programs, and files can be shared back and forth securely through an FTP site.
On occasion, engineering drawings prepared by clients or outside firms are submitted simply as PDFs or using older 2D modeling software. When that happens, in most cases, they will need to be redrawn by the manufacturer’s internal engineering team and made into files that give more clarity to a manufacturing process. This process will add considerable time and costs. Most metal fabricators prefer to only go to these lengths when they know there will be sizable or repeat purchase orders, helping to spread out the associated costs over multiple projects.
Every customer’s revision control process — sometimes simply referred to as rev control or version control — is a little different. A revision control process is how engineers and manufacturers track and document small and iterative changes to a project’s parts and workflows.
Customers can reorder a product under the same part numbers with small revisions to the previous product, such as adding a hole or swapping out a different component. In such cases, rev control helps alert the manufacturer of those changes to ensure they are accounted for and match the customer requirements.
In some cases customers can reissue a PO for large electrical enclosures and the drawing simply indicates that a revision happened but is on page 36 of the drawing including all of the design specifications. Our in-house engineering team can review the entirety of the print and make sure that the intended change doesn’t affect the components and parts we possibly modified for manufacturability. Such a practice is time consuming and costly, but necessary. This practice helps to ensure that the changes and processes are well-documented and follow the project throughout production.
There’s something to be said for the team that builds a product to also take part in its design. While most customers submit their own drawings, there are times when a metal fabrication company’s engineering team will help bring a vision to reality through their design services, as long as there is an accompanying PO. At Fox Valley Metal-Tech, we provide engineering services for customers when they need full manufacturing drawings, including specifics like more clear weld callouts or other process specific details. Our engineering team is able to provide what they need to follow a repeatable manufacturing process.
Leveraging the real-world perspective of a metal fabrication company’s internal engineering team can help streamline a project and ensure the best possible outcomes. Contact Fox Valley Metal-Tech to better understand our deep capabilities in the most complex metal fabrication designs and processes. Trust our team when submitting your next request for proposal (RFQ) and let us demonstrate the value our entire team brings to the table. Contact us today and be sure to download our helpful RFQ Guide below.