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CIM investments pay off.

CIM investments pay off

How does a company reduce shipping-related non-value added labor by 30 percent; cut order entry-to-shipment turnaround time from 5 days to 24 hours; eliminate a major part of the work-in-process inventory; and reduce set-up time? By committing to computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM).

Allen Bradley invested $1.8 million U.S. in automating its Canadian facility's sheet metal cell. Another $540,000 U.S. was spent on an automated carousel storage system. In addition to updating, A-B retrofitted the facility with its own controls. This hefty investment paid for itself in just 23 months.

The communication architecture for the Cambridge, Ontario facility includes programmable controllers, universal input/output (I/O) and contact modules, plant floor terminals, computer numerical control, a VISTA 2000 cell controller, and an advanced data network.

Computerization has allowed plant floor personnel to produce both custom and stock parts inexpensively and accurately. "The workforce on the shop floor is utilizing the computer to assist them in conducting a job," explains Dave Baxter, A-B Canada's director of information systems. "We're now able to change the product and get that knowledge to the shop floor at record speed."

In the updated sheet metal cell, a computer-controlled, seven-shelf automatic storage unit stages and feeds the steel sheets for production and punching and shearing.

Once parts are sheared, a programmable logic controller (P/C) sends diverting information to a sorter, which then diverts smaller parts to any one of 58 bins.

In the automated warehouse, a computer develops pick plans from orders entered into the system by the sales force. Shipping personnel work from those plans.

Orderpickers work with an automated storage system, consisting of eight horizontal carousels on two levels, with four carousels on each level.

Two people on movable pods on both levels can pick up to 20 orders from the carousels at a time. A computer terminal situated on each pod tells the operator what goods to pick.

To maximize picking efficiency, carousel movement is computer coordinated. "The computer, knowing where the stock is located, will bring the appropriate location to the operator," explains Dave Carse, A-B Canada's vice president of manufacturing.

Software produces bakery labels on demand

Fresh baked goods need to be sold immediately. Arnie's Bakery, which has been in business since 1905, has never had a problem with fresh quality, but in order to maintain that reputation it needed a new print-on-demand, labeling system for attractive labels.

The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based bakery ships to fifty area stores, to four of its own restaurants, and to a number of institutional customers, 6 days a week. Its existing labeling system required the ordering, storing, and inventory of printing plates for 200 different labels. Labels were printed in advance and stored, often to become obsolete because of price and/or ingredient changes.

Code dates had to be printed on each label as a separate operation, and new product introductions had to be held up, often 6 weeks, until new printing plates arrived. Another encouragement for change: retail customers wanted UPC bar codes on labels for check-out counter scanning.

In order to improve labeling efficiency and provide flexibility, Arnie's installed a software program that stores all necessary label formatting and copy information. Operating on an IBM PS-2, the software controls two on-demand label printer/applicators (Label-Aire). Now when a label is needed, an operator calls up the label format on the screen and revises information such as date codes, quantity to be printed, or a change in ingredients, and then prints on command.

"The system now in place has solved our problems," affirms Robert Sonneveldt, president and part owner. "It saves us approximately 96 worker hours per week, permits immediate changes in label copy or creation of a label for a new product, reduces label wastage, and allows us to print the necessary bar codes."

Hand-helds improve receiving operations

By using hand-held and fork lift-mounted computers, Crown Equipment slashed order receiving and checkout from three days to four hours.

For Crown, the portable system replaces paperwork-intensive procedures that took up to three days to complete.

With the new system, data can now be transmitted from anywhere in the plant. Mike Borger, manufacturing projects coordinator, said "The information we are getting is much more timely and accurate."

Before the new portable system was installed, stock handlers had to first locate a fixed position terminal to input work-in-process information. They sometimes waited until they had several reports before going to a terminal. Upon finding a terminal, lift truck operators had to dismount and enter the data, disrupting their cycle.

Now, on the receiving docks, workers are now equipped with portable, hand-held computers that communicate with the company's mainframe via radio frequency (RF). When a shipment arrives, receiving clerks, with laser scanners attached to the computers, scan bar codes on the incoming materials. This information is then directly transmitted by RF to the mainframe. The mainframe then compares the bar code data to a purchase order.

After the order is confirmed, operators count and inspect it. Inspection data is also transmitted by the computers to the mainframe. Once the data is accepted, a receiving document is printed. In some cases, this receiving document tells clerks where to stock the material.

Time is also saved with Crown's qualified vendor list. Shipments from companies on the list are neither counted nor inspected. Instead, they are automatically received once the order - via either the hand-held or forklift-mounted computers - is matched to the purchase order in the mainframe.

Label printer cuts time, errors

It's tough keeping track of over 10,000 stock items in a total area of 25,000 sq ft, especially if all the stock labeling is done manually. Yet this situation actually existed at the Mobile Subscriber Systems Corp. Employees in the stockroom hand wrote labels and applied them to boxes as required.

"We got good information on the labels but it was a manual effort, so it took more time," says Andrea Beals, an industrial engineer at the Taunton, Mass. facility.

This process was time-consuming, labor-intensive, and error prone. Legibility was also a problem. There had to be a faster, more accurate way to label stock coming in from outside vendors.

To meet these needs, the company choose a thermal transfer label printer and a data entry terminal that connects to an existing data base and a main-frame computer.

Now when items are received, the mainframe generates a receiving department document with bar coded fields containing part numbers, lot numbers, and account numbers.

An operator scans the fields, sending this information to the data entry terminal. The terminal, which stores all required label formats, responds to the scanned information by asking the operator how many labels to print. It then prompts the printer to produce the required labels.

The large, human-readable alphanumerics the printer produces allow for easy product identification from a distance, and do not smudge or fade after being exposed to the stockroom environment.

A systems integrator worked with Beals to design pre-programmed label formats. Beals estimates having the formats in a data entry terminal more than doubles the speed of the old method of handwriting labels.

According to Beals, the system's biggest appeal is its flexibility. The system can use a data entry terminal, or it can be PC-driven. Beals hopes within two years her division will be able to expand the system's capabilities to include a put-away system for bar code tracking of inventory.

New distribution system tightens inventory

Zale Corporation is the world's largest jewelry retailer, with 2,000 retail stores throughout the U.S.

Distributing merchandise to all of these stores efficiently and cost-effectively was a top priority for Zale's executives - a priority that was not easy to meet with the existing, outdated batch processing system.

Replacing batch processing with an automated distribution/logistics information system has helped the company to receive, manage, and ship merchandise directly from its centralized distribution center.

The company now has tighter control over inventory in the order and distribution cycles and communication between stores and the central distribution center is on a just-in-time (JIT) basis.

The system has enabled Zale to expand its central receiving volume to 60,000 lines/day. With the old system, they could accomplish only a fraction of that.

Says Zale's director of business systems planning, Thomas McCullom: "Zale is enjoying the benefits of (JIT) distribution techniques, and our stores have greater confidence that they will be well serviced with minimal back orders and paperwork."

RFID works in harsh environment

Heil-Quaker faced a problem. Its brand new overhead assembly system couldn't work properly with a standard bar code system.

Parts of the assembly process involved solvents, which eat away at typical bar coded labels. The swaying motion of the overhead conveyor system also was incompatible with the way readers were set up to operate.

Yet, the company needed to track coil carrier movement throughout the plant.

The solution was to equip the overhead conveyor system with a radio frequency identification (RFID) system. The system's low frequency RFID antennae, or "readers" have a range to 12 in., addressing the problems of carrier sway.

The system's electronic labels are sealed in a PVC case, so the cleaning solvents used in the assembly process can not harm them.

The labels were preprogrammed with an alphanumeric code especially for Heil-Quaker's application. When the label moves past the antennae, a low radio frequency signal is sent to a programmable logic controller PlC.

The PlC controls the carrier routing system, while an integrated supervisory system lets Heil-Quaker officials schedule and track production runs.

Since its installation in 1987, working with two shifts/day, the system has experienced few problems.


label printing

provides variety

Keystone Bindery started as a small company established to cut, fold, and collate promotional products for direct mail to credit card customers.

It soon grew into a large company, which created new demands from customers.

Credit card companies wanted Keystone to provide a label showing exactly which items are in each promotional packet and providing a larger lot number code. Keystone handles 5,206,000 packets of mail in an average month - that's 1,363,000 lb of mail.

For this, Keystone required a newer, more flexible label printing system - one that would let Keystone design labels on-screen and program in variable information for each label or for entire runs. The company also needed the system to provide color-coding capabilities for mail sort purposes.

A new computer-based label printing system performs both of those functions. It can also print schedule, shipping, and billing reports.

A label merge feature allows the company to format one set of labels with constant information and one set with variable information, such as mailing zones. These sets can be merged to print one complete label. The constant information is then re-separated and saved for re-use, reducing set-up time and labor.

Dave Lewis, Keystone's vice president, is quite happy with the system's performance. "I love this system. Its uses are only limited by the imagination.," he says. "It has created a whole new method of controlling jobs I never thought possible."


payback for new

weighing system

Cutting labor costs, while still managing to stay ahead, is a major concern in today's competitive marketplace.

To deal with this common dilemma, a major midwestern meatpacker chose a totally automated weighing system.

Before automation, the company used several different scaling areas where operators placed boxes of product on scales, dialed in the tare weight, and wrote the resulting net weight on each box. Weights were recorded manually in a per-shift log.

Now, the work of eight operators is all done automatically. A manually applied label carries the product identification in bar code and human readable formats.

A conveyor-mounted laser scanner reads each label bar code and transmits information to a scale controller, storing all tare weights and weight tolerances. The package moves on to a conveyor scale, where the gross weight is recorded and combined with tare weight information to produce a net weight.

The system verifies that the package is within weight tolerance and automatically prints a weight label.

In addition to cutting labor costs significantly, the system paid for itself in less than nine months.

Integrated software provides long-term solutions

More power. More flexibility. Functionality. Support. Reliability. Speed.

These were the qualities Automatic Systems, Inc. was looking for when officials detemined it was time to update the company's manufacturing software systems.

On top of all these requirements, the system also had to function as a long-term solution for problems associated with growth and market changes.

Originally, the materials handling equipment manufacturer looked for software packages with both manufacturing and construction capabilities. What it found was that, although no software available combined those two functions, an integrated system could fill most of the company's requirements.

The system chosen, Symix, has integrated manufacturing and accounting functions. It also has a powerful fourth generation database that provides both detailed subcontracting and progressive billing capabilities - something the company expected to find only in construction software.

A demonstration period allowed ASI personnel to see how the system could accomplish modifications and customizations. The support staff and custom programming specialists have proved a major plus for ASI as well.

Currently running on a Hewlett Packard 9000 series 25S computer linked to 30 terminals, the system's modules include MRP, shop floor control, inventory control, purchasing, customer order entry, general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and payroll.
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Title Annotation:1991 Casebook/Directory Issue; computer-integrated manufacturing
Publication:Modern Materials Handling
Date:Sep 15, 1990
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