In the current economic downturn, it is unlikely the automotive industry will return to the 2019 production rate of 90 million vehicles before 2024. Reducing operational costs has never been more important for carmakers and suppliers alike.
With fewer business opportunities to compete for, vehicle seating and interior manufacturers face even greater competition for diminishing returns. Identifying areas for improvement in everyday operations can help suppliers offset margin pressure and achieve incremental increases in profitability.
For plant managers overseeing leather seating and interior manufacturing facilities, switching from manual cutting methods—such as die presses—to a fully digital process holds tremendous potential for bottom-line improvement.
Digitalization of leather cutting and related reductions in operational costs form a compelling argument for plant managers to rethink their current outsourcing strategy.
Read on to learn five ways digitalized leather cutting can improve operational efficiency and measurably reduce production costs.
Shorten the product development cycle
Although conventional manual development of seat trim covers can take days or weeks depending on the degree of complexity, virtual prototyping can accelerate all steps in the product development cycle. Digitalized processes enable patterns to be created quickly from 3D models, simulated, adjusted and cut within hours, expediting the RFQ process.
Eliminate retooling costs and time loss
When leather is cut using manual cutting methods, vehicle program changeovers can require up to four weeks of retooling, at a substantial cost to carmakers. By switching to digital leather-cutting processes, it’s possible to eliminate both the lead time and retooling costs typically associated with manual die presses.
Improve worker safety and productivity
On a daily basis, operators can lift the equivalent of 1.5 to 2 tons of die cavities, elevating the risk of occupational injury. Automated leather cutting eliminates the use of die cavities, limiting heavy lifting and lowering the risk of injury for a safer, more productive work environment.
Lower consumption of costly leather hides
Inefficient material usage can arise from fluctuations in the production of cut parts per seat set, leading to wasted material and higher production costs. Similarly, the amount of buffer required to cut leather parts can also drive up material consumption. The superior nesting and cutting capabilities of digitalized leather-cutting equipment can increase leather efficiency 2% to 5%.
Achieve consistent cutting quality
A range of skill levels among die-press operators leads to high variability in output across the cutting room. By automating nesting, the most critical part of the process, digital leather cutting enables constant yield at high production levels, with the added benefit of lowering the number of costly recuts.
Digital transformation can enable automotive seating suppliers to realize significant savings long-term by reducing labor, optimizing leather efficiency and maximizing operational efficiency. Vehicle seating and interior suppliers that currently outsource cutting activities stand to further improve profitability by taking over leather-cutting tasks and integrating them into their own manufacturing operations.