Chapter Combining Operations

In this chapter we will examine the idea of producing wood components using a single machine that combines all of the operations needed to complete the part. We will also determine the requirements to operate this machine with little or no set-up.

These seemingly magic machines actually exist and are available from several reputable vendors. They have not been generally considered as a viable alternative to traditional woodworking machines but instead they have been treated as a special machine of their own.

These machines are the CNC router or CNC machining centers as some companies call them. Initially, CNC routers were just that, routers. These machines today, however, are routinely equipped with a wide variety of processing heads and can perform all the operations needed to complete most furniture parts in a single cycle. There is a general understanding that this technology exists, however, there also exists a feeling that substituting a high priced CNC router for more traditional, lower cost woodworking machines is cost prohibitive. CNC routers appear to process parts slower than more traditional machines and there exists a concern that an adequate level of production would be difficult to achieve. Rather than generalize about these points, let us use our formulas to determine the exact results.

In Chapter 2, The Production Cell, we developed an example using three production machines. We will return to that example here, however, we will now consider a single computer controlled machine which can perform all three operations. In addition we will assume that this machine can change from one part to another in five minutes. Both of these assumptions are reasonable with today's technology.

Let us start by calculating the machine cost. For this example, we will use a machine cost of $150,000 although in today's market the actual cost can be somewhat less than this. We will use a one minute processing time which is quite a bit slower than the processing time for the special purpose machines but is typical for three processes on a modern CNC router. We will use 2,500 sq ft of floor space for the machine and inventory and the same inventory level as we used for the production cell. Using our formula that machine cost is:

Machine Cost $150,000, 5 min Set-Up, 1 minute processing time

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