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Our Marketing guru asked me to write an article on what our customers want from us. I’ve been thinking about this and initially a post on LinkedIn sprung to mind by a competitor of ours (who shall remain anonymous) in the laser cutting industry. The post went along the lines of:

You can have it quick

OR

You can have it right

OR

You can have it cheap

But you can’t have it quickly, cheaply and right!

Could We Order Products & Services Like Shopping on Amazon?
I guess like us he knew that what customers want is to have it yesterday, cheaply and cut correctly. And who can blame them? When we’re used to same day delivery from Amazon for virtually any item then it can be frustrating to be told that you will have to wait a bit longer and that it might be a bit more expensive then what you originally thought and that we won’t always get it right!

Also, most laser cutting websites, including GF Laser’s, promote quick turnaround and this is one of the major benefits of laser cutting when compared to say traditional pressed parts.

So, can we meet customer expectations? Could laser cutting ever be as simple as ordering something from Amazon? Now some companies have started on this route with online estimating tools and ordering but with limited success. Unless it’s a really simple part then there are too many factors open to interpretation.

At GF Laser we have made some progress in these areas:

  1. Getting it right – We’ve invested in our quality department increasing headcount and improving the tools that they use to check parts.
  2. Getting it quickly – We’ve spent around £1 million in the last few years in the latest fiber laser cutting machinery. These latest machines are up to fifty per cent quicker than the older CO2 versions.
  3. ?

Now, as for the last one well that’s a bit trickier. No-one wants to make less money and it’s in the interests of all our customers that we make a profit. So how do we remain competitive in an increasing crowded marketplace and competition from overseas?

Truth is, we’re still working on that one! We review our prices against our peers and we use the latest nesting technology to ensure that the material is used as efficiently as possible. I would say we’re also very cheap if you want 10,000 parts but producing 1 part at the same piece part cost as 10,000 is currently more challenging.

Trumpf (The manufacturers of our lasers not the American President) are making a lot of progress in the factory of the future where automation is key. Repetitive tasks can be carried out by a machine to achieve zero rejection working at high speed. Material is tracked by cameras so that it’s automatically routed to the next available laser increasing productivity tenfold. Scrap parts are automatically detected and removed from Production.

Employees will then become system engineers rather than laser operators and their role will be making sure that all the necessary computers are working correctly and are properly maintained rather than physically operating the laser.

It should then be possible to produce one part as cheaply as producing 10,000 parts. I think we’ll get there and in the next 10 years we’ll see a massive shift to this type of factory as the cost of operating a connected factory comes down.

So, yes you can have it quickly, cheaply and right. Just not as cheaply as you might want just yet!