The challenge of offering value to a customer is to reduce cost without compromising the quality or the integrity of a product. But with internationally shipped products like transportation mirrors, the stakes are raised. The competition is the entire world, and American companies compete against imports — especially from China — where cheap and fast is the name of the game.

There are four ways to maintain high standards and lower average mirror cost.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Reduce Labor Content Per Part

When a tool is designed to make a particular part, it is done in a way that forms multiple parts off of the same sheet. This dramatically reduces cost per part in two ways. First, every time a person handles a sheet, they’re handling a multiple of the part to be made. The tools are designed to make anywhere up to 32 parts from a single sheet of material.

Second, the parts are not cut out of the sheet until the very last step, which increases efficiency throughout the entire process, resulting in multiple parts cut at a single time.

The More You Use, the Less You Waste: Prevent Loss of Material

There is always some loss of material in the form of trim — or bone, as we call it — from the area of sheeting around the part. Making multi-cavity tools can dramatically improve the raw material yield, and therefore lower costs.

For example, let’s say there are 50 mm (2 inches) of trim around a 200 mm (8-inch) part. If the manufacturer yields only one part per sheet, 65% of the material is waste. If you have 16 parts on a larger sheet, on the other hand, the bone waste is reduced by half.

Faster is Better: Speeding Up The Process With Automation

Time is money, and — from forming to metalizing — the process is designed to be fast. Part of how this accomplished through the incorporation of automation. Robots on a conveyor now do the precision painting work instead of humans. This takes a substantial amount of labor — and therefore cost — out of the process. The last step is CNC cutting, which produces extremely high quality in a fast, efficient and repeatable way.

With Two Decades Worth Of Tools On Hand, More Are Rarely Needed

Finally, it’s ideal to develop a large inventory of forming tools. Since Replex has been around for over 20 years, when a customer brings in a new part it can usually be made with a tool in the existing inventory. This doesn’t reduce the tooling costs; it brings the tooling cost down to zero. Manufacturers with some time under their belt have the advantage of a greater tool inventory.

It is wholly possible to reduce individual mirror cost without sacrificing quality or shorting employees. It requires ingenuity and experience, but in the end, it benefits both client and company with a strong and cost-efficient partnership.