Cost Reduction Ideas

A commentator recently asked for “real world” examples of how he could reduce costs and win more orders. Improved technology is often cited as the “best” way to do this and I cannot disagree. Many of us do not have the capital to buy new equipment, or even perishable tooling, and have to rely on boring “old school” techniques to get costs down.

I am not talking about “methods and time study” though. Some of you may remember the original Cheaper by the Dozen movie; the one about the efficiency expert — not the football coach. That fussbudget father of twelve was depicted “testing” whether it was faster to button his vest top-to-bottom, or from bottom-to-top. I never liked traditional time study as a result of that movie. (As an aside, the real life “father of time study” was in some ways overshadowed by his wife’s contributions to his work.)

So put the clipboards and stop watches away, unless you are testing cutting tools. There is money to be saved in your shop right now without resorting to “big brother” tactics. Your people do not like wasting time, materials, or talent either; they’ll be thrilled if you ask them to help get new projects.

Some places to look:

Raw material

  1. Are you using the most economical grade and configuration of the material?
  2. Is your supplier base providing it in the best format for your parts?
  3. Are you using too big or too small rough stock?


Operation sequence

  1. Are you grouping “like operations” as well as you can? Especially for families of parts it is possible to greatly reduce set-ups by running them in the order that eliminates changing jaws and cutting tools. For lathes, have you adopted standard tooling locations so only a few “special” items need to be added for each job?
  2. Are your operators properly using “internal” time to prepare for the next part or to remove the burrs they put on the last one?
  3. Are you providing the right inspection and test equipment at each operation? Nothing is more wasteful than a machine sitting idle while the operator waits for gages.
  4. Are operations being repeated that could have been avoided earlier?


Reducing waste

  1. Are you making burrs that can be avoided through better tooling or feeds and speeds? A prime example is roll taps in place of cut taps; no need to pull chips if you don’t make them.
  2. How much stock allowance is enough? A few more minutes in hobbing might save hours in gear grinding.


Better operation choices

  1. Why grind when you can hard turn or roller burnish?
  2. Are you properly maintaining your “green” datums? Re-centering takes much longer than lapping centers.


Cutting edge technology is wasted if you lose track of fundamentals!

About Charles D. Schultz 634 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.

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