Achieving the best in operational efficiency at your package-manufacturing or converting operation means designing in your needs, the right level of automation and other advancements up front. So said panel members at last week’s Converting Influence fall meeting in Appleton, WI.
About 50 industry professionals were on hand at the Bordini Ctr. of Fox Valley Technical College to hear the thoughts of Pat DeLorey, vp of DeLorey Solutions LLC (Franken, WI), a supplier of flexographic-printing consumables and specialty machine fabrications; Hubert Meagher, director of metrology services at Oasis Alignment (Rochester, NH), a provider of 3D-metrology, precision optical alignment and related mechanical services; and Jim McHugh of ROL-TEC (Green Bay, WI), a supplier of urethane products, industrial rubber rollers, molded parts, ceramics, journal repair and replacements.
DeLorey pointed out three basic factors to achieving efficiency in your machinery operations. Converters must have: 1) A clear understanding of product/equipment capabilities; 2) technical knowledge of the equipment; and 3) a commitment to training operators and technical support personnel.
“Converting and papermaking were art more than science in the former days,” DeLorey said. “There were no in-process gauges. Now, there’s online automation for weights, colors, all characteristics and properties. The same for warehousing, which was done manually for collation of product to fit orders. Now, it’s fully automated.”
Operational efficiency today also means having “people to maintain the equipment to do all this automation,” he continued. “It requires answers from raw materials through final product weights, color. The only way to do this efficiently is to know what you need and all the related costs. Then ask, ‘Do the costs outweigh the efficiency benefits?’ You need to anticipate problems, issues, deliverables—all upfront.”
Be energy smart
The use of recycled materials and more efficient, lower-energy use are parts of the latest advances. At ROL-TEC, McHugh explained how there were several steps including widespread computerization and technology investment necessary to it achieving record production months while eliminating overtime. Automated accounting, order-taking and invoicing “were related efficiencies that then go into the production,” he said.
“Energy costs in 2008-09 spiked, so efficiencies were added such as automated lighting, heating and cooling,” McHugh continued. “In winter, air is cleaned in the rubber-roller manufacturing area and reintroduced rather than new air brought in and heated. If there’s a cost to be saved, save it right away.”
Meagher brought up the importance of scheduling service work regularly, particularly during outages or extended downtimes. These efforts can help avoid breakdowns coming amid times of high production demand.
Process efficiency, too
Operational efficiency also extends to entire processes, not just one production machine, DeLorey explained. “We had an engineer who developed an Excel spreadsheet to determine how many hours, meetings, travel, etc., was needed to do a particular job. It helped create a consistent process proposal so a different engineer could take over the work, hand it over easily to a customer so that they knew what was required.
“It was later rolled out to the entire company. It made a consistent proposal across different disciplines to manage it better and be more efficient. Efficiency isn’t just for production lines but for processes, too.”
When it comes to quality, the three panel members agreed that meeting customer requirements is the goal, not exceeding them because this costs more money. Don’t over-engineer unnecessarily, DeLorey said, “rather than just pushing for the sake of pushing. Understand what’s required first and design toward that goal rather than working blindly.”