Part Consolidation: The Science of Streamlined Manufacturing

A holistic, well-informed approach is the key to part consolidation.

John Carpenter, Director of Sales and Estimating

June 13, 2024

4 Min Read
Part Consolidation
Be sure to do your homework before attempting to reduce the number of components that go into an assembly.C&J Industries

At a Glance

  • Part consolidation involves re-engineering a manufacturing process to reduce the number of parts required for a product.
  • Potential benefits include cost savings and simplified manufacturing and assembly.
  • Before consolidating, be sure to understand the final product’s performance specifications & material characteristics.

As complicated as the specialty manufacturing industry can be, it’s often governed by a set of relatively simple principles. One of those principles is, “the fewer moving parts involved, the better.”

That’s where part consolidation comes in—the process of re-engineering a manufacturing process to reduce the number of parts required in a product. As a specialty assembly and injection molding workshop, we are one of many manufacturers that have leveraged the discipline of part consolidation to increase output, decrease downtime, and save on material and labor costs.

“When you’re able to reduce the number of components that go into an assembly, obviously it reduces the cost perspective—both from a price-per-piece and from a capital expense angle,” says my colleague Jordan Walker, engineering manager for C&J Industries. “If you can simplify your manufacturing process, it’s not only cost-effective, but it’s also more robust. It gives fewer opportunities for downtime or interruptions in your supply chains. When you can simplify your manufacturing process, there’s a huge number of benefits to it.” 

However, part consolidation isn’t as simple as taking away parts or processes that seem redundant to an assembly line. According to Walker, the process must start with a thorough understanding of the final product’s performance specifications as well as the materials involved.

Related:Could Simulation Advance Your Testing Programs?

“You have to understand the functional aspects of what the assembly is supposed to be when finished,” he said. “Obviously, you also have to keep in mind that dissimilar materials react differently. So, if you have a situation where your assembly has several different types of materials in it—whether it’s metal or screws or something along those lines—then, when you start changing that process to consolidate some parts, you’re going to have to account for how your new assembly is going to function and work.”

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By starting with the planned function of the part or product in question, a manufacturer can tackle a consolidation process from the right footing. But Walker warns of complications that can arise that may have ripple effects up and down the assembly line. After all, tearing up floorboards is bound to impact the rest of a house.

“Obviously, one of the complications is when you start changing your product from the original design, there are some implications involved in that.” Walker said. “For example, if we take this screw out, then perhaps it doesn’t meet the same type of performance function at that point in time. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t—it’s just a matter of reevaluating your ultimate goal, which is where you should be starting from to begin with. ‘What is the function of this part and how does it need to perform?’”

Related:Mechanical Engineers Face a Changing Future

This is a parts consolidation philosophy that we put into action with clients, which have included major players in the medical and pharmaceutical, technology, and transportation industries. Regardless of the target demographic, we always approach a new collaboration with intent and a thorough strategy.

“When we get involved with products when they first come here and the customer has an idea, it’s fairly common that we will look for improvements before we even start manufacturing the product,” Walker said. “One of the things we look for on the front-end is whether (the product) is going to involve outside components. That’s where we start questioning from the get-go. ‘Are these screws really necessary or can we change this to a snap-fit?’ We start to evaluate that right from the get-go.

“Sometimes, it can create a little bit more complexity in your tooling and things along those lines, but ultimately if it saves you money long-term—and on labor, especially—it becomes a straightforward sell to the customer on a profitability side of things,” he added.

Related:Industry Voices: Is Micro-3D Printing the Future for Tiny Parts?

No matter what shape your part consolidation strategy takes, the key to success is to do your homework, according to Walker.

“One of the huge pitfalls … is not understanding what the design requirements really are,” he said. “The design intent of the part, at the end of the day, has to be fully understood before you can start going down some paths of trying to re-engineer something.”

About the Author(s)

John Carpenter

Director of Sales and Estimating, C&J Industries

John Carpenter serves as director of sales and estimating at C&J Industries, whose manufacturing campus is 214,000 sq. ft. with a walkway joining the newly expanded and renovated facility. In fall of 2023 ground was broken for a 25,000 sq. ft. addition and a Class 8 cleanroom. Capabilities include 56 presses ranging from 20 to 500 tons of clamping pressure, 3 class 8 cleanrooms (soon to be 4), a white room, automation, and assembly. For information visit www.cjindustries.com or call (814)724-4950.

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