ACHRNEWS

Improving Efficiency On The Assembly Line

July 16, 2003
Companies and manufacturing facilities are constantly looking for new ways to improve workplace efficiency. If you can make work easier on the assembly line, you can increase productivity and create a better product. In some cases, you might even create happier and more comfortable employees.

All of these goals could be accomplished in a simple way. Many factories have realized the benefit in implementing spot cooling. A small, portable air conditioning unit has been the answer for many companies looking to do things better and faster.

MovinCool portable air conditioning systems have been used in many manufacturing facilities to ensure the health and safety of workers, as well as to help create better products. AUTECS, an automotive component manufacturer, utilizes MovinCool’s Classic Plus 26 (seen in the photos above and below) to cool airflow sensors on the conveyor belt.

Faster Production

Automotive Electronic Control Systems Inc. (AUTECS), located in Anderson, S.C., is a major automotive component manufacturer. The company produces thousands of HFM5 airflow sensors, which are used to measure the amount of air going to an engine’s combustion chamber for the purpose of maximizing fuel efficiency.

The process of creating these tiny systems that can fit in the palm of your hand requires several stages. The electronic module is assembled, and then a plug-in sensor is dropped in. The sensor’s silicon encapsulation then needs to be cured in an oven, which reaches temperatures of 121 degrees F.

The next step on the assembly line is to program the sensor, but first it needs to cool after exiting the oven. Pallets of sensors fresh out of the oven need to be taken off the assembly line and stacked up. After they cool, the sensors are programmed and sent on their way.

But letting the small sensors cool on their own took approximately 30 minutes. This slowed down the manufacturing process considerably.

Eric Garvin, senior engineer for AUTECS, believed that there had to be a better way to keep the manufacturing process moving. As a temporary solution, Garvin borrowed a portable air conditioning system from a common area of the facility and tried it out on the assembly line. The spot cooler was a MovinCool system, and it helped to decrease the amount of time necessary to cool the sensors. But Garvin knew he could do even better.

The engineer worked with a local MovinCool distributor to find a portable system that could speed up the cooling process even more. After investigating system options that would work best in the factory environment, the distributor recommended MovinCool’s Classic Plus 26. The system is a two-ton model that can provide up to 26,000 Btuh of cooling.

Garvin installed the Classic Plus 26, and even equipped it with a duct system using a lexan tunnel above the conveyor belt. Now, when the sensors come out of the oven, they run under the duct connected to the MovinCool portable system. The sensors no longer need to be taken off the line and are cooled immediately. In fact, AUTECS reported that the cooling process for the sensors has dropped from 30 minutes to under two minutes.

Better Products

According to John Doran, manager of DENSO’s MovinCool department, spot cooling has been beneficial for many companies that create everyday products. Not only has spot cooling made it possible to produce products more quickly, but to create a higher quality product.

For example, MovinCool portable systems can be found at the Sunshine Bakery. The systems help to cool the company’s cookies as they ride the conveyor belt from the oven to packaging.

Doran explained that the jelly filling in the company’s fig cookies was “molten hot” when the cookies came out of the oven. In the past, the cookies were packaged right after they came out of the oven. The cookies then cooled in the packaging, which caused them to stick together.

The Sunshine Bakery installed a MovinCool portable A/C system right above the four-foot conveyor belts. The cookies were immediately cooled and then packaged, creating a fresher and better product.

Doran said that several bottling companies have also purchased MovinCool portable systems to help in the quality of their products. Both glass bottles and plastic bottles are manufactured in a similar fashion. The hot liquid is poured into a mold and is then cooled to take the shape of a bottle. According to Doran, it is during the cooling process where mistakes can be made.

“The longer it takes to cool, the more chance there is for defects and the bottle can lose its shape,” he said.

Portable A/C systems can cool the bottles faster to minimize the chance of defects. They can also eliminate condensation that occurs inside a plastic molding. Doran explained that products made from hot liquid plastic run the risk of not cooling completely, which can create a defect on the surface.

Cooler Employees

One of the major keys to increasing productivity is to enhance the comfort level of workers. MovinCool has supplied spot coolers for some of the hottest working situations.

Portables were used at a brick factory in Macon, Ga. Doran said that many employees worked near the ovens where the concrete blocks are cured.

“Just walking into the area where the bricks are made was unbearable,” he said.

According to Doran, a portable A/C system was installed and provided cool air directly on workers in the factory, creating a better work environment.

MovinCool has also come in handy for home appliance manufacturer Sunbeam. The company’s irons are manufactured at one of its plants in Louisiana. The aluminum plates found on the bottom of the irons are created at the facility. Machines at the plant take hot liquid metal and forms it into the plates. It is the job of several Sunbeam employees to take these plates and hang them on racks to cool.

“It was so hot that workers could only do the job for 20 minutes at a time,” said Doran.

The company installed a MovinCool portable air conditioner in the area where the aluminum plates are formed and cooled.

“Employees can now work in that area for an hour and 30 minutes at a time,” said Doran. “This became the prize station among employees.”

For more information, visit www.movincool.com.

Publication date: 07/21/2003