DELMIA QUEST software has delivered impressive results to Yorkshire plastics mouldings firm, Fourfold Precision Mouldings.
DELMIA QUEST, a factory simulation tool, was introduced to Fourfold by Northern Technologies, leaders in Northern England for technology transfer, product, process design and development. Explained Northern Technologies manufacturing specialist, Paul Bateson: We have developed a deep understanding of QUEST following years of successful application. As soon as this relocation challenge had been outlined to me, I felt certain a DELMIA QUEST model would deliver superb results for Fourfold, and it has.
Fourfold was, until a few weeks ago, operating on a cramped site in 19th century mill buildings in a Yorkshire village. The layout of the various machines, manufacturing processes and clean room had developed over many years, constrained by the limitations of an old building with restricted access. Now, without disruption to its output, the Company has managed an ambitious relocation to large, modern, purpose built premises.
Martin Wilson, Fourfolds MD, commented: This move represents an enormous investment in the Companys future. Some three and a half million pounds have been spent on new equipment, infrastructure and our new building. Thanks to the opening up of many more new markets in the plastics moulding arena, we have been able to quadruple our turnover during the last decade. Our new, lean manufacturing operation will enable us to operate more efficiently than ever before and thus increase our profitability still further.
Although there is only a difference in size of a few thousand square feet between the old and the new Fourfold Buildings, the similarity ends there. Leaky Northern Lights and an ill sited warehouse were just two of the disadvantages of the old set up. All finished product had to be carried through the mould shop prior to transportation, as did all the raw material. It was proving almost impossible to keep expensive equipment at a consistent temperature and humidity level and the constant inefficiencies of product flow kept personnel busy unnecessarily.
Paul Bateson spent three months working with the Fourfold management team on the relocation, starting with a close observation of manufacturing process. He then accurately laser measured all equipment and their footprints before generating the first many QUEST layout variants. The production line at the new plant is now broadly U shaped; with deliveries leading to the granulation and colour mix area and then to the mould shop. Next to the mould shop is the state-of-the-art clean room, with both the clean room and mould shop having ready access to secondary operations and dispatch areas. Although not substantially bigger than the old factory, there is now significant room for expansion, owing to the more logical layout. A new gantry crane serves the whole of the mould shop replacing an old block and tackle, which made changeovers to new products time consuming. In addition, changeover times for tools have been reduced by better access to tool storage and the utilisation of the overhead crane.
Paul Bateson said: During my 15 QUEST model iterations, I was able to involve almost everyone at Fourfold, so the best results were achieved. When I was showing the latest model to the management team, I used my laptop and for bigger groups, including shopfloor workers, I showed the model via a projector. In this way, the real issues that needed to be tackled came to the fore. We were even able to build in the lead times for the ordering of various new equipment, as well as prepare the pipework concepts. I find that only when people can really visualise their factory or process can the right decisions be made.
One of the biggest areas of wastage in the business is machine stoppage, as every time a machine is stopped, 10kg. of materials are wasted. With 21 machines and the cost of materials varying from 800 per tonne to 3,900 per tonne, unnecessary stoppages have a significant effect on Fourfolds bottom line each year. The improved process flow at the new factory has decreased the number of stoppages significantly. By grouping production machines by process, and sharing robotic resource between them, the Firm has already been able to reduce staff levels. In one instance, a single worker looks after six machines, which would have been impossible in the old factory. Despite maintaining the same level of automation and actually reducing the payroll, the production capacity of Fourfold has increased.
Martin Wilson concluded: While it was difficult maintaining two partially operational plants as we switched production from our old building to our new one over six weeks, the benefits to us as a Company have been tremendous and QUEST even helped us through the logistical nightmare of this transitional phase. If you just take one of our product lines, the plastic shot glasses, we estimate that ultimately, costs savings of up to 10% can be achieved. This is because we can take advantage of lower material costs now we can order in bulk and store the materials in a silo, and this benefit is combined with reduced scrap levels and more efficient use of labour in the clean room.
Fourfold Precision Mouldings is a family firm based in Keighley, Yorkshire. Its original parent company, a press tools manufacturing company, was founded in the 1946. The rise of plastics in the 1960s saw the founding of Fourfold Mouldings. Originally the company specialised in compression moulding, though now its business has switched entirely to injection moulding. Its product range is large, encompassing plastic shot glasses, automotive parts, adjustable bath and shower feet and audio speaker components and cabinets.