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Job shop puts profit in single part orders.

Job shop puts profit in single part orders

The right combination of machine-tool fixturing, a larger table on its machining center, and a pallet changer, has enabled Laser-Tronics, San Marcos, CA, to efficiently manufacture parts in quantities of one.

"Rather than just improve our capability to make parts in small lot sizes, we decided to shoot for the ultimate--we wanted to be able to make money on a single-part order," explains owner Jim Tankersley.

Laser-Tronics, which specializes in laser marking and cutting operations, produces parts that require a variety of machining operations performed on its Fadal 6030 CNC vertical machining center.

A pallet changer from SMW Systems Inc, Santa Fe Springs, CA, was selected to minimize downtime for changeover on short runs. Laser-Tronics also wanted to be able to accommodate overnight delivery on some orders which meant that little or no time would be available for setup.

That's where the larger table on the machining center came in. It enabled Laser-Tronics to apply the pallet-changing system and still have space left on the table for at least one setup for the overnight orders.

"Much of the time we have a different setup on each of the two online pallets in the system," explains Tankersley. "With an additional setup or two on the machine table, we're in a position to produce any of three or four parts on a moments notice."

One objective in installing the pallet changer was to conserve floor space in front of the machine and still provide the operator with complete, unobstructed access to the entire machine table area.

Instead of buying the "drawbridge," a section of pallet guide rail that links the changer table to the pallet-locating feature on the machine table, the pallet changer was mounted on rollers so that it could be moved aside when not in use. The changer index table was purchased with the ability to index in 90-deg increments (allowing side loading and setup) and the traditional 180-deg increments.

The SMW pallet changer allows Laser-Tronics to respond quickly to overnight orders that require a setup on one of the pallets while in the middle of a part run. "Rather than have to tear down a setup for the current run, set up for the emergency run, and then set up again for the original job, all we do is switch pallets and push a few control buttons and we're running the new part," says Tankersley.

The pallet changer also minimizes downtime for part inspection. Though some runs load 20 or 30 parts on a single pallet, Laser-Tronics, like most shops, likes to complete one part and inspect it before running the rest of the parts. In normal practice, the machine would sit idle while inspection--which can take a significant amount of time--was done.

"With our pallet changer, we simply pull the pallet while we inspect and replace it with another pallet so that the machine is making money for us while inspection takes place," says Tankersley. "This also keeps us from rushing the inspection operation, which is always bad practice."

Another wrinkle that Laser-Tronics has added to the pallet system's efficiency is the use of a grid system for mounting tooling and fixtures to the pallets. Each pallet is machined with double holes and tapped holes on a square grid pattern. This pattern is also used on other machines in the plant, eliminating the need to adjust each fixture to achieve accurate location when setting up a new job and allowing the same fixtures to be used on other machine setups.

For more information from SMW Systems Inc, Santa Fe Springs, CA, circle 375.

PHOTO : Operator loads pallet changer as machining of another part proceeds. Pallets can be switched in less than one minute.

PHOTO : Three different parts can be run on setups with fast response time.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Manufacturing Solutions
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:636
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