By definition, a job shop produces specialized products in relatively small batches, and this is true of metal forming companies who specialize in rolling steel sections. Such companies often develop a variety of customers who turn to these bender/rollers for their expertise in bending structural steel, steel plate and steel sheet.
One type of customer orders a “one-off,” that is, a unique product like curved steel for a sculpture. On a larger scale, architects may design a wavy roof made of curved steel beams whose design will never be duplicated. The structural steel fabricator may order this curved steel once and then never have another project like this again.
Another type of customer makes the shop operate more like a contract manufacturer fulfilling the same parts on a repetitive basis. Curved steel tubes that form the arms of a front-end loader or tractor are a product that a Bender/Roller could supply as a contract manufacturer. Curved plate for gutters on “big box” stores also represents this type of repetitive business.
The type of work a Bender/Roller handles has implications for its place in the supply chain. The flow of the incoming raw material when the company is functioning as a job shop requires suppliers who inventory a wide variety of steel sections since the demand is unpredictable. On the other hand, when the Bender/Roller is functioning as a contract manufacturer, the inventory a supplier maintains is more limited and more precisely matched to the predictable requirements.
The type of customer also has implications for the layout of a metal fabrication firm. Job shops are often organized by grouping similar equipment together. Roller/Benders, for example, might group the section benders together, the welding equipment together and the hole punching equipment together. Contract manufacturers, however, tend to create work cells combining several different types of equipment which are dedicated to manufacturing just a few similar parts.
Many companies operate as both a job shop and a contract manufacturer. Prototypes produced in the job shop mode often become repetitive orders produced in the contract mode. Nimble companies are able to adapt to the ever-changing demands of the marketplace.