7 places to eliminate
bottlenecks in your shop

“Time is money.” We hear it all the time. But there are few businesses where it’s truer than in the machine shop. Many even go so far as to say if spindles aren’t spinning, you aren’t generating revenue—making chips is making money. But, of course, there is so much more to the workflow. Any hiccup along the way—from the moment a quote request email comes in, to the day parts ship out—can cause a chain reaction that eats up precious time.

Let’s examine some of the places where the most common shop bottlenecks happen, how you can recognize them before they escalate and some potential remedies to help avoid them altogether.



The inbox

The hold-up
When a quote request comes in, do they languish as “unread”? Each day, each hour they do is potential time lost making the parts and making money. Plus, there’s a strong correlation between turnaround time and wins.

Suggested solutions
Make it clear to the team what happens the moment a quote request arrives. Who considers onsite tooling and material inventory? Who considers available machine capacity? Is there an impromptu meeting or does that depend on the size of the request? Document the process and responsibilities. Make it sacred. Quickly setting up the next steps for success will speed up the quoting process.



The outbox

The hold-up
Once the quote request reaches decision makers in the shop, there can be a delay extracting the know-how needed from the team to accurately estimate, schedule and get the quote back to the customer in a timely manner.

Suggested solutions
Designate who will keep the customer updated on progress as you organize your know-how and pricing. Having a programming solution that provides packaged outcomes, integrates your tooling data and works seamlessly with machinery saves a lot of time. And by replacing discussion and tracking down key people with an easy-to-access quoting system that has histories and data, turnaround is sped up dramatically.



The tooling shelves

The hold-up
Hunting down hardware and pouring through printed manuals for cutting data not only takes time, but also introduces room for human error.

Suggested solutions
Organize tooling in clean, designated areas, whether that’s vending near machines or a more centralized crib. Digitize cutting data, not only so it can be quickly referenced, but also so it can be integrated into setup and programming. Not having to manually enter data saves time before the spindle starts and after by reducing scrap and rework.



At the control

The hold-up
Complex parts and advanced machines understandably take time and expertise to program, but simple prismatic parts—3-axis milling and drilling operations—do not need to be done at the machine while spindles can be spinning.

Suggested solutions
It’s not one size fits all when it comes to programming anymore. Reserve your best machinists and advanced CAM programming for the most complex parts. Use simpler, highly visual and touch-based solutions that are tailored for 2.5D parts.



The setup station

The hold-up
Getting the smallest thing wrong during setup leads to a series of costly downstream scenarios, from scrap and rework to tool breakage and damaged spindles.

Suggested solutions
Employ visual modeling and simulation away from the machine before pressing “go” on the control. Identifying potentially problematic origin points or toolpaths before actually digging into the stock material can have a huge impact on a machining business.



At the spindle

The hold-up
While work can get done with imperfect speeds, feeds and toolpaths, doing so wastes precious spindle time and only compounds as a batch runs.

Suggested solutions
Use programming solutions that are meant for the work you’re performing. In other words, instead of calculating and manually entering roll-ins, dynamic and climb milling, use a platform that’s built for the kinds of toolpaths modern customers’ parts require. And that doesn’t necessarily require difficult CAM interfaces with expensive licenses.



The training room

The hold-up
It takes time to onboard and develop employees properly. But what’s even more disruptive is throwing a new employee on the floor without the tools or training.

Suggested solutions
Start simple. Allow new and/or less experienced machinists to get their feet under them using simple equipment and working on simple parts. Allowing for a gradual process that allows new people to be productive in lower pressure, fail-safe situations pays off big time in the long run.





Prism: a comprehensive solution

Programming is at the core of a shop’s work. And this new solution from Sandvik smooths out imperfections across a shop’s workflow by simplifying and streamlining how work moves in and out of the programming phase and beyond.

  • The touch-based user interface, built around the 3D model, is so easy to use, so your new employees can step in and help your shop’s productivity on day one.
  • Designed specifically for simple parts, you can reduce the manpower, setup and spindle time once needed to get many 3-axis milling and drilling done—without rework and scrap.
  • Prism makes work move into the shop with ease. Take a customer’s 3D model and convert it to an error-free and workable G-code seamlessly.
  • Thanks to built-in and ready-to-use machining knowledge called recipes, Prism reduces the time wasted calculating speeds, feeds and toolpaths at the control.