Even though manufacturers with their own heat treatment capacity handle those jobs in-house, there’s always the potential for overflow work. And the most important step a manufacturer can make when confronting that possibility is setting up outsourcing relationships with heat treaters.
Overflow Heat Treatment Work: Knowing When To Outsource
Heat treatment is an end-stage process often followed by delivery to customers and payment to you.
Because you like getting paid in full and on time, you’ve fine-tuned your operations to keep the wheels turning from start to finish. But your heat treating needs might not always be so predictable. Demand for the parts you manufacture may suddenly spike. Your equipment may need repairs. Overhead costs may be ballooning or the liability just becomes too great.
It’s likely you need to outsource overflow work at some point. Planning for that ahead of time keeps things running smoothly even when deadlines are tight and the pressure’s on.
Making The Plan
Probably the most important part of any outsourcing program is developing a thorough plan in advance. Such a plan needs to account for the variety of parts you treat, projected treatment volumes and deadlines you need to meet.
- Part variety — Your overflow work plan needs to match the totality of your in-house heat treatment operations. If you manufacture many different types of parts, you’ll need to work with a heat treater with the same variety of equipment capabilities. This may even require relationships with multiple heat treaters to guarantee that your work is covered should an overflow situation arise.
- Treatment volumes — It could be that volume, rather than variety, is the challenge you face. This is an especially good possibility in volatile industries where you must react quickly to economic changes. Again, you’ll want to outsource to a heat treater that has the same equipment and can meet the quality requirements you have, but you further need to be assured they can handle varying overflow volumes, sometimes with little notice.
- Deadline pressure — Deadlines are a fact of life, and in many industries, it’s costly to miss them. It’s especially important to plan ahead for overflow work when time is of the essence. While you need an outsourcing partner that has the flexibility needed to take work on short notice, you also need to know it’ll cost you. Plan ahead for these extra expenses.
Research is key. An exhaustive survey of potential partners takes leg work up front, but planning for overflow outsourcing can pay off by keeping supply chains secure, reducing strain on in-house equipment and keeping costs in check. Also know that it never hurts to keep your options open with different heat treaters in different locations. The best plans include backup plans.
Start your search for an outsourcing partner with this directory.
Other Outsourcing Considerations
Other things to watch while deciding whether to outsource some of your heat treatment work include potential equipment outages and the need to treat specialty loads.
- Maintenance outages — Heat treating equipment is complicated, and when it’s not performing as it should, part quality suffers. Whether maintenance outages are planned or not, outsourcing your work during downtime will keep your operations running smoothly.
- Specialty loads — One-off or infrequent specialty loads can disrupt your processes. Same goes for research and development of new parts. When these situations arise, it may be best to keep your production on schedule by outsourcing the repetitive work while focusing on R&D.
Constant overflow work may lead manufacturers to believe they need to increase their heat treatment capacity, but that entails significant capital expense. You’ll need to dig into the numbers to decide whether to outsource versus when increased in-house capacity makes more business sense.
Rob Simons is a metallurgical engineer specializing in ferrous heat treatments with 35 years of experience in the industry. He earned a degree in metallurgical engineering from the University of Missouri – Rolla in 1982 and will be a featured presenter at the ASM Heat Treat 2017 conference. He has been at Paulo for 30 years. Founded in 1943, Paulo is one of the largest providers of heat treating, brazing and metal finishing solutions in North America. Headquartered in St. Louis, Paulo operates five divisions servicing the mid-west, great lakes, and southeast regions of the United States.