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December 6, 2002

4 Min Read
A downturn investment for upturn efficiencies

It takes staring the tiger in the eye to keep the doors open in this economy. Going lean with a new materials handling system is one molder?s solution.

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U.S. Farathane?s central drying system has as many as 17 drying bins on one dryer. It reduces energy costs and material waste while increasing available floor space and safety.

A leading, lean-thinking, Tier One automotive supplier doing about $65 million in sales has one word for those who say it?s time to cut and run: ?Nuts!? U.S. Farathane (USF), headquartered in Sterling Heights, MI, has invested $1.2 million into a state-of-the-art materials handling system designed and built by Motan Inc.

Andrew J. Greenlee, president and CEO, has this answer for those concerned about making a substantial investment in this economy: ?We chose to regard the present industry circumstances as an opportunity. The investment we have made now, ready for the upturn, will pay dividends when our production efficiencies at Utica can be realized in a more dynamic market.?

USF, which ships nearly 60 percent of its business to the Big Three?DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors?has three plants in Michigan, totaling almost 200,000 sq ft of production space. The 86,000-sq-ft plant in Utica, MI, its largest, houses 47 presses, 75 to 720 tons, all of which are being progressively replaced with larger, more modern machines.

USF is making a specialty out of multimolding underhood components and an ever-increasing number of interior parts. The Utica plant runs nearly 30 different materials, 24/5, 3.5 million lb/year, including specialized urethanes compounded by USF. The efficiencies already gained from its new materials handling system have sped USF?s pursuit of lean perfection at the Utica plant. For starters, it has realized savings of 15 percent on materials through the reduction of spillage and scrap.

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Motan installed three rows of central drying bins at the USF Utica plant. Mezzanine mounting allows easy access for draining, cleaning, and system monitoring. Materials are stored below.

Three-phase Installation
Greenlee says the decision was made to install Utica?s Motan system in three phases to support ongoing products and to minimize downtime. It?s on the plant?s mezzanine. Material storage is below. Motan?s Luxor 1200 dehumidifying dryer was at the core of phase one.

It has 16 drying bins, ranging in capacity from 100 to 400 lb, feeding 16 molding machines. Integrated material receivers with proportioning valves that allow regrind to be added, centralized vacuum pumps and filters, and centralized PLC controls operating under Motan?s Linknet information and control system were part of the phase one package.

Phases two and three had virtually identical specs, differing only in the number of drying bins and machines being served?14 bins and machines in phase two, and 17 bins and machines in phase three.

Lean perfection is the elimination of waste, including wasted time. Each phase of the installation had to be completed by Motan in six weeks with minimal delays in between. USF?s engineers pitched in and helped Motan beat the clock with time to spare.

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Removal of dedicated drying equipment on the shop floor has allowed USF to maximize utilization of its facility by freeing up space to efficiently position its molding machines.

Eliminating Costly Waste
?We significantly reduced the amount of space taken up by gaylords of material at the presses and greatly reduced the number of material handlers in our plant. The plant is much cleaner and there?s better plant flow. It?s a safer working environment when it comes to the handling of our material, and our ability to process material has never been better. Scrap and dial-in time have also been greatly reduced,? says Greenlee.

The new materials handling system saves energy, too. Utica used to have a dryer at every machine. Each had a motor and heating elements that gobbled up expensive energy. Removing the dedicated dryers also freed up space for more efficient positioning of the presses.

Storing the materials directly below the mezzanine released an entire warehouse at Utica for other uses. And, as alluded to by Greenlee, it used to take seven people to look after materials. Now, only one is required, allowing more effective use of labor.

?We believe in controlled growth and lean manufacturing,? says Greenlee. ?The Motan system optimizes the efficiency of our production plant at Utica and is an important factor in our ability to produce consistently high-quality components, however complex.? Cut and run? USF has cut its materials handling waste with its investment, and its plant now runs a whole lot better.

Contact information
U.S. Farathane Corp.
Sterling Heights, MI
(586) 978-2800
www.usfarathane.com

Motan Inc., Plainwell, MI
(269) 685-1050; www.motan.com

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