Hoffer Plastics Corp. finished 2012 by completing another expansion with its latest “focused factory,” a concept developed by Bob Hoffer, founder of the South Elgin, IL company, in 1953. Today, the company has nine focused factories and operates out of a 365,000-sq-ft facility with more than 100 molding machines in operation, including the eight presses added in 2012.
In spite of what we’ve heard about manufacturing’s doldrums and economic woes, Hoffer Plastics has created a firm foundation upon which to grow even in the down times. In fact, Hoffer originated the “focused factory” as a way to make growth manageable, by creating smaller, 12-press “factories” within the evolving and growing facility. Each of the factories within the factory focuses on a specific type of molding process, press or application.
The focus of Hoffer’s newest focused factory is packaging, and the four newest presses from Wittmann Battenfeld ( www.wittmann-ct.com) are running in Plant #4. The newest focused factory is a state-of-the-art plant for high-speed, high-tech molding complete with automation. Wittmann Battenfeld also supplied Hoffer with the robotics, automation, and auxiliary equipment that includes a central material handling system for the new factory.
In addition to the four new Battenfeld machines in Plant #4, Hoffer is running three two-shot and one 240-ton Battenfeld HM machine in a separate focused factory at the plant that is molding multicomponent (PP and TPE) appliance handles for a major OEM. According to Rocky Brewer, director of manufacturing at Hoffer, that particular factory was built in less than three months and is dedicated to appliance components.
Maximizing machine utilization critical to custom molders
All 111 of Hoffer’s injection molding machines are process-monitor capable, and many are equipped with remote, web-based monitoring. Hoffer monitors set tolerances on a minimum of three molding parameters: cushion, fill pressure, and overall cycle time. “Most have an average of five to seven parameters over the course of the production runs,” explains Brewer. “If any parameter goes out of tolerance, the ‘divert’ capability kicks in to ensure that parts that may be out-of-spec are diverted from in-spec parts.”
Establishing the process monitoring on the presses is the first step. An MP2 system contains set maintenance schedules for the presses. “We adhere to these maintenance schedules very strictly,” Brewer explains to PlasticsToday. “All of this has, over the last five years, resulted in our machine efficiency increasing drastically. We monitor that on our company score card in each focused factory and closely track machine utilization. This increases uptime by 10-15%. Currently we’re running at 82%-85% capacity.”
Carefully monitoring and tracking each press increases Hoffer’s capacity without having to do "out of the box" things and lets the company know when it actually is hitting full capacity. “If we get new business our numbers show why we need a new press versus just being more efficient with what we have,” Brewer says. “We delve deeply into that before we purchase a new machine. Uptime is the biggest part of the equation. We put a schedule out each day based on efficiencies as well. If we’re