The Productivity Gains of Compass Technology
Frank Ryan, managing director and owner of MNB Moulds since 2000, has always invested in the latest machinery and computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology and has been using the VISI product suite from Vero Software (Gloucestershire, England) since 2002. "We have been using the software extensively for 3-D tool design and complex machining,” Ryan says. “However, when machining bolster plates, 2-D design information was being passed to the CNC machines for MDI input. This process was labor intensive and open to manual operator error.
"I have visited a number of tool rooms across Europe-especially Germany-where my eyes were opened to what is possible through the use of specialized technology,” Ryan continues. “My goal was to make the company more productive so we invited Vero to study our manufacturing processes to see how they could help. After a number of internal reviews to better understand the process bottlenecks, operator skill levels, etc., a plan was put in place to reassess the tooling requirements, fully train our operators on the latest software developments and move toward fully automated 2-D machining through the use of Vero's compass technology. We have had tremendous success with improving our quality and efficiency over the years with a particularly significant step in productivity in the past 12 months. This is in large part [due] to the investment we have made in automating our 2-D machining and standardizing on an integrated CAD/CAM solution."
Ryan says that MNB was “already a happy Vero customer” but recognized that some of its manufacturing processes could be improved to maximize productivity.
“Not only did we implement additional software, we also moved onto a network license to provide extra flexibility within the tool room,” Ryan explains. “Now that everyone has access to the data, the designers and machinists together can develop a clear plan as to how the tooling would best be manufactured. This includes incorporating multiple inserts in to one block that can be rough-milled, hardened, ground and wire cut into individual parts, (all) unattended."
The advantages of the software consolidation can be easily identified in a recent project for an environmentally friendly milk dispenser. With a firm focus now on ways to reduce packaging waste, milk cartons are certainly one item in the spotlight. Britons consume 9.3 billion pints of milk every year, but only one in four plastic milk bottles are actually recycled. The remaining three cartons go to landfills.
The JUGIT project is aimed at those concerned about the associated environmental impact. Consumers need to buy one jug, then bags of milk to fill the unit. This concept is new to Britain, but milk sold in bags is already a regular choice for 60% of consumers in Canada, Poland, South Africa and China. The JUGIT milk bags are made from very strong low density polyethylene and use 75% less packaging than standard plastic bottles.
MNB Moulds have manufactured tooling for a number of components, including a two-impression tool for the handle, a four-impression tool for the spout spike and an eight-impression tool for the clamping mechanism. "The complete tool was designed, cut and built within a 1,000 hour window,” Ryan notes. ”The implementation of the compass technology has resulted in a 20% increase in our machining productivity and reduced the need for detailed tool drawings, as setup sheets are generated automatically for all tool paths.
“Just for this single tool, we have saved approximately 60 hours of machining time alone,” he adds. “If we roll out these productivity improvements throughout a typical year-10,000 machining hours-I would expect to save in excess of (approximately $84,000) per annum."
Moving to an entirely integrated solution has improved MNB’s business and employee synergy, Ryan concludes. “The improvements in 2-D machining have also saved the cost of one of the turret mill operators who recently retired and whose work has been absorbed within the CNC milling section with the additional capacity created,” he says. “Vero continually develop products that cover the design and manufacturing needs of a tool room like mine and have firmly established themselves as an integral part of our future."
Vero UK Limited
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