Advancements in technology and supply chain practices have brought drastic changes to the metal fabrication industry.
Traditionally, the metal fabrication industry was quite simple, including processes such as cutting, welding, machining, and assembly for creating the final product. Today, the industry is highly dynamic and cyclical with its growth depending on the end-use industries such as aerospace, automotive, energy, and construction. Such changes have compelled metal shops to strive for profitability by diversifying their customer base and accurately forecasting demand patterns. Here are some of the top trends gaining prominence in the metal fabrication industry.
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Automation has drastically changed the outlook of many industries, and the metal fabrication industry is no exception. Automation has helped metal shops simplify the act of cutting and bending sheet metal; thereby, shortening the overall operations and improving the order-to-ship cycles. Additionally, automation has allowed manufacturers to cut metals without human supervision for days at a stretch and consequently save metal fabricators a large part of human resources cost.
3D printing is a relatively new technology and has been used in the manufacturing industry to make product prototypes. However, things are looking quite exciting for the metal industry as more and more metal fabrication businesses are planning to invest in this technology to create simple and sophisticated tools and structures. Metal 3D printing differs from traditional steel fabrication processes as it involves the stamping of metals to produce a required design. For instance, SpaceX relied on 3D printing of custom metal parts for the combustion chamber of the SpaceX SuperDraco engine.
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Outsourcing has been the go-to-market strategy for any manufacturing industry. The availability of low-cost manufacturing locations such as China and India was seen as a lucrative option for manufacturers. However, that view is rapidly changing as metal fabricators need to respond to dynamic home demands, factor in rising logistics costs, drive innovation, and prepare against market volatility risks. More and more manufacturers are reshoring their manufacturing capacities back to the American market as the tangible benefits outweigh the labor cost difference. Nearshoring operations have also been helped by local tax incentives and the “Made in America” movement.
Adoption of ERP Systems
The majority of the metal fabrication companies operate across a wide geography, both local and global markets. Since they also carry out custom metal fabrication, it can be quite challenging to manage all their operations and their suppliers, sourcing materials, and other processes across the supply chain. As a result, metal fabrication companies are resorting to ERP software to streamline their operations and increase their productivity and efficiency. ERP software goes well beyond excel sheets and software like Tally to reliably manage all critical business functions such as operational performance planning, enterprise mobilization, demand forecasting, and resource planning. Oracle Netsuite, abas ERP, SYSPRO, Plex Manufacturing Cloud, and Epicor ERP are some of the most used ERP systems by metal fabrication companies.
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