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First prize for the "Best Assembly Idea 2011" went to the "Pick-by-Shutter" ejector workstation. Although this particular workstation is not used in a plastics processing facility, details of it may spur processors to enhance or redesign the workstations in their own facility. It also is one potential answer to the multi-faceted question, "How can higher-cost labor countries keep their manufacturing industries intact?"

PlasticsToday Staff

August 11, 2011

2 Min Read
Workstation design saves time, wins award

First prize for the "Best Assembly Idea 2011" went to the "Pick-by-Shutter" ejector workstation. Although this particular workstation is not used in a plastics processing facility, details of it may spur processors to enhance or redesign the workstations in their own facility. It also is one potential answer to the multi-faceted question, "How can higher-cost labor countries keep their manufacturing industries intact?"

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 The “Pick-by-Shutter” ejector workstation won first prize for the “Best Assembly Idea 2011”.

J. Schmalz GmbH, a manufacturer of vacuum clamping systems (such as ones that can be used to feed sheet into a thermoforming machine) and other handling technology, won the award, which was presented as part of the 23rd German Assembly Congress in Munich by the iwb (Institute for Machine Tools and Industrial Management) of the Technical University of Munich. The "Pick-by-Shutter" workstation shortens times for assembly, set-up and inspection, according to the company.

These  workstations are designed to help employees at Schmalz assemble vacuum generators from individual components. According to the company, the stations led to a sustainable improvement of efficiency and working conditions during assembly.

The workstation is equipped with small gates that open or close based on the product variant. Closing windows to parts not needed for a particular product prevents the wrong components from being removed, reduces search times to a minimum and supports the "zero set-up time" principle. The vacuum generators are tested during the primary processing time, further reducing the overall cycle time. Even employees without extensive training can operate a "Pick-by-Shutter" assembly workstation after a short induction period. The company's kanban system ensures a lean and efficient flow of material.

"This award really motivates us and affirms our conviction that economically viable production can take place on-site in Germany," said Wolfgang Schmalz, co-managing director of J. Schmalz GmbH, at the award ceremony. Schmalz employees play an active role in continuously improving the company's processes. "Our employees' expertise and experience are our most valuable assets. We implement their ideas as part of an ongoing process of improvement. Both the company and our staff profit from this approach," added Kurt Schmalz, co-managing director of J. Schmalz GmbH. The company is based in Glatten, Germany and has a plant in Raleigh, NC.

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