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Thread: how do they do it ?

  1. #1
    Associate Engineer
    Join Date
    Jul 2019

    how do they do it ?

    good morning,
    i am an ME retired and i have a question , please. i come from the automotive industry and see now a days that the after market ( mostly chinese ) manufacturers are supplying major body parts for cars that have been long out of production.... whole floor pans and quarter panels and roofs etc for cars that haven't been made in 40 years or more. i have seen the presses and dies required to make these parts and while the presses are certainly generic , the dies were huge in their own right and unique not to mention hugely expensive.... yet here these guys are making parts where , at best they can sell a couple hundred of each . for a dozen different cars. some product lines are so extensive that you can build virtually a whole shell from aftermarket body parts. they aren't using the old factory dies dies because , often these parts aren't particularly accurate so somehow they are making these multi million dollar dies and amortizing them over a VERY small number of parts... how are they doing this ?



  2. #2
    Administrator Kelly Bramble's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Bold Springs, GA
    Good question – one that I have been looking at for many years as Design for Manufacturing and Assembly trainer and consultant. I’ve visited the manufacturing floors of an unknown number of companies and spent countless hours within engineering offices of well more than 120 organizations from all over the world. With that said let me summarize why countries like China and others are so much more cost effective at manufacturing than the US or our EU competitors.

    I'm going to summarize my observations but please do not politicize this discussion as I will delete. I'm working on a white paper with much more details so you might keep watch for when I publish on Engineers Edge.

    First, know that the cost of everything is a wage for somebody whole or in part. If a society has high wages everything costs more than one than one with less expensive average wages.

    The cost of living for a typical middle-class life in China is less expensive. China has managed the cost of living drivers to prevent significant inflation. Costs like medical care, transportation, food, education and so on. When the cost of living drivers are controlled there is less demand for higher wages, less inflation pressure – it’s that simple.

    Exchange rates – US dollar is the world’s currency for trade. With lots of demand for our dollar it drives up the value, gives the dollar more purchasing power and the Renminbi less – thus China is cheaper to buy from Dollar-to-Renminbi perspective.

    Culture – the Chinese working class are motivated to get the job done when compared to US workers. No there’s not slave labor in China but there is an unending supply of people to the tune of more than a billion. This can also be said about Mexican labor – they hustle. Yes, I'm saying it out loud - they are better employees on average.

    The total cost of running a business is much cheaper in China – again China has managed the cost drivers in their country. Materials, medical care, electricity, facilities costing, transportation and of course overall labor costs and so on. Cheaper business costs = cheaper products.

    Business investment – the Chinese appear to be more willing to invest in cost cutting technology then US companies. A machine or software that does the work of ten workers cuts total production costs. There’s lots of resistance to change in the US – particularly from labor. I’m sure you've heard it "Why change that - we've always done it that way" said.

    Technology has changed in today's world we can take an existing sheet metal shape laser scan it and export to multi-axis machine center and poof, we have tooling in less than ten hours effort. Combine that with less expensive wage business environment and you have a cost-effective product to sell in America.

    The simple truth is that China is just beating the US and others in the mass production manufacturing world. They have managed their country differently, created a much more competitive business environment from within and with the rest of the world.
    Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

  3. #3
    Principle Engineer
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Are they multi-million dollar dies? Years ago, when the earth was thought to be cooling, auto makers used a free machining, low melting alloy called Kirksite for fender dies.

    More recently, near net shape dies have been made using lost foam cast iron. Metal savers in the base reduce weight.

    For really low volume perhaps a concrete mold and some hammers? You can see some beautiful hand formed metal at next week's EAA convention in Oshkosh.

    As a kid the stamped metal ceilings in stores were interesting. I was told that the ceiling and border were laid out on a floor with multiples of wooden pattern blocks and the sheet metal was placed on top and a layer of sand was driven down on top the metal to force it to conform to the pattern blocks as people walked on the sand tamping it.

    Perhaps exploring one of these old methods will lead to an answer. Lots of clever people have been forming metal over the millennia.

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