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May 19, 1999

4 Min Read
CAP facility's inline automationspeeds Mach 3 razor to market

Precise Technology, a $110 million custom molder and mold manufacturer, has invested $5 million in its second customer aligned production (CAP) facility. The 37,000 sq-ft plant in Holden, MA was designed, built, staffed and equipped for a single purpose: producing the unique tray packaging for the Gillette Company’s Mach 3 razor.

The molded trays contain an insert that is inline sputter coated to give a chrome finish (the same process is used to make compact disks). Production also involves pad printing, automatic vision inspection, hot melt assembly and packing into cartons—all done by high-speed precision robotics to avoid contaminating the mirror-like finish.

Though the facility uses first-of-its-kind inline molding automation, Precise Holden was up and running from scratch in less than eight months. The CAP partnering principles pioneered by Precise meshed well with the art-to-part expertise of Gillette’s Program Management and Engineering Implementation Group. Early supplier involvement in mold, automation and systems engineering, and cross-functional team interaction ensured that there were few nicks along the way.

A Partnership

Both companies invested in the CAP relationship. Gillette owns all of the tooling and downstream automation. Precise is responsible for the facility, personnel and molding machines.

Precise Holden employs 45 people, working 24-7 in two 12-hour shifts. It runs nine production lines, each with a Sumitomo SGM series toggle, with minimal human intervention. The closed-loop control presses monitor their own injection molding status and quality. The plant’s downstream automation was developed by E-Media, a Maine-based technology company, in conjunction with Gillette and Precise.

Closing the Deal

Gillette itself is a large, state-of-the-art captive molder and a recognized world leader in using high-speed injection molding and robotics handling. But it had a vision of the seamless integration of molding, decoration, and assembly that the product would require. And, like many companies today, Gillette prefers to outsource secondary services and concentrate on its core technology (in Gillette’s case, manufacturing blades and razors).

In selecting contract molders, Gillette demands high-quality molding presses coupled with superior levels of mold care. Additional factors influencing Gillette’s decision to choose Precise included the molder’s performance serving three of Gillette’s operating divisions and its success with the CAP philosophy. Precise’s ability to maintain strict confidentiality during development and market introduction was also a factor.

Precise welcomed the opportunity to partner with Gillette, which claims to be the largest and most innovative manufacturer of shaving systems in the world. Recognizing Gillette’s success in new product introductions, the molder was willing to make the necessary investments in capital and human resources for the CAP program.

An Automation Overview

Looking down onto the brightly lit, air-conditioned shop floor through a window in the second-floor conference room, you see the presses laterally arranged, injection ends to the wall, directly feeding automated downstream finishing lines. Five 350-ton presses run the tray bases and four 260-ton SGMs run the tray inserts. All of the molding system utilities are behind a drywall bulkhead, out of sight.

The robots (from Hekuma) are programmed to double up the molding machine’s cycle time should the downstream automation stop for any reason, and parts will accumulate until the problem is resolved. A single free-standing touchscreen control station on each line provides up-to-the-cycle production monitoring readouts. Once the inserts and bases are molded, each proceeds through its own series of secondary operations before they are joined. The inserts are sputter coated, pad printed with the Gillette and Mach 3 logos, checked by a vision system, then automatically fed into magazines for transportation to the base lines. Meanwhile, the bases have been molded and automatically placed on a conveyor. A drop of hot-melt adhesive is applied, and the decorated inserts are snap-fit into the bases.

After final inspection, the zero-defect assemblies are automatically stacked into shipping cartons and transported to Gillette, where they feed directly into its automated assembly. There is limited warehousing of finished assemblies at Precise Holden. The CAP plant’s support systems, including its Motan drying/ materials handling and its German-built Kaeser air compressors, are equally impressive. And all production control, including maintenance and scheduling, is through a computerized Spirex program. They’ve thought of everything—even the cardboard boxes and spacers are reused.

Working together, Gillette, Precise, and their automation and moldbuilding partners designed a first-of-its-kind manufacturing capability. And they got it up and running on schedule for Gillette’s 1998 summer introduction.

Contact information
Precise Holden,
a Division of Precise South Grafton
Holden, MA
Raymond J. Veno
Phone: (508) 829-1000
Fax: (508) 829-1088
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.precisetech.com

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