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CMP Helps Tool Manufacturer to Increase Productivity,In early 1993, it looked as though the Danaher Corporation's hand tool plant in Springfield soon would be headed where many Massachusetts manufacturers have travelled in the last decade -- to the Sun Belt. By the end of the year, however, plant managers were not only planning to stay in Massachusetts, they were hiring the first of 30 additional employees.
The story of the remarkable Danaher turn-around, which kept 300 jobs in the area, is one of Yankee ingenuity, state- of-the-art Japanese manufacturing techniques, strong community support and CMP expertise. CMP Engineering Professor James Smith customized an animated computer program of his own design so it could guide Danaher engineers to radically alter manufacturing methods and dramatically boost plant productivity.
Massachusetts officials, such as Governor William Weld, want to see Danaher's success story repeated in other factories across the state. In a press conference at the Springfield plant in late 1993 and again in his 1994 State of the State address, Weld praised Danaher management and workers for successfully standing up to "the very real threat" that the plant's jobs would be moved south.
"UP AGAINST THE WALL"
The 120-year-old Springfield plant, originally built to make railroad cars, now makes ratchet wrenches for leading consumer and profes- sional hand tool brands such as Sears Craftsman, Alien, NAPA and Matco. It is a key part of Danaher's Tool Group which manufacturers a broad range of hand tools, components and accessories for consumer, industrial and professional markets. If you're a weekend do-it-yourselfer or a professional mechanic, the odds are you have a ratchet in your toolbox made at Danaher's Springfield facility.
The most significant manufacturing problems Danaher faced were not issues of product quality, but of quantity and cost. Productivity at the Springfield facility had significantly jumped in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, thanks to the acquisition of new machining technology and the adoption of "continuous improvement" techniques. But the plant needed to increase output and reduce costs even more to justify keeping its ratchet manufacturing operations.
"We were up against the wall, working as fast as we could, with big backorders still staring us in the face every day, " Danaher's Manager of Manufacturing, Cary Crossman remembered. "The company's Southern plants maintained they could make the wrenches more profitably, and there was serious talk of moving operations there."
NEW MANUFACTURING TECHNIQUE
Danaher engineers planned to boost output and profitability and decrease lead times by adapting "single piece flow manufacturing." This manufacturing method, used at other Danaher Tool Group plants, configures all manufacturing and assembly areas into tightly-designed "work cells." Each cell is self-sufficient, with all the machinery and processes needed to make the product, from start to finish. The process dramaticaly cuts manufacturing times by eliminating any time spent handling batches of parts. Quality checks also are built into the single piece flow system. Well-trained and experienced operators "run" each manufacturing cell, moving parts from one machine to the next.
Crossman and his colleagues devised several possible manufacturing cell configurations that promised to boost production levels to higher levels. CMP worked with them to find the best possible cell configuration, one that would maximize operator and machine efficiency, as well as product output.
CUSTOM ANIMATED SOFTWARE
After consulting with the Danaher engineers, CMP staff developed an animated digital simulation of the cell that not only would visually represent the machine configurations, but also would allow for the real time modeling of material flow and manufacturing processes and determine the best possible cell design. Dr. Smith and engineering graduate student Hemart Gosavi studied the cell configuration options, determined and summarized the necessary variables and plugged the figures into the real-time computer program. Their task was a delicate one. Tiny margins of error within the program would translate into significant inaccuracies in production projections.
The development of the program and the completion of the project took about six weeks. The simulation mapped the flow of all the different parts moving through the cell, tracked the operators as they moved from machine to machine, recorded the variables involved in operating the cell and quantified the performance of the different cell options. The visual depiction, in real time, and the resulting reports enabled Danaher engineers to compare different cell options and determine the most efficient combination of layout, operator travel paths, manufacturing process sequence, machining and assembly procedures.
CMP DELIVERS EXPERTISE, ASSURANCE AND INFORMATION
"We gave CMP the data and relied on their expertise," said Danaher Senior Engineer Muhammed Awais. "The results of their study gave us the information and assurance we needed to build the cells."
The cells designed with CMP assistance are part of an ongoing, factory-wide movement towards flow manufacturing methods. CMP also is using computer programs to set appropriate machine speeds and feeds for the various sizes of tools made at the Danaher plant. The data is helping company engineers to control tool breakage and extend tool life.
"CMP is great for plants like ours, where we need someone who is familiar with specialized cutting-edge technology, " concluded Crossman. "We're too busy and stuck on the mundane day-to- day routines of manufacturing to be able to deal with all the problems on our own."