Lightweight Pallet System Helps Ilinois Manufacturer Meet Delivery Expectations

Discover how a lightweight pallet system allows this company to box and ship parts the same day to their customers.

Running a job shop means dealing with problems and solutions every day. Many problems involve the successful shipping of completed workpieces to the customer. One scenario might go like something like this: You have a customer who is very successful in the air cylinder business. In the past, you have been successful shipping product, but the customer's requirements for this family of parts is making it difficult to continue to meet the delivery expectation. This might seem like a nice problem but it is now a thing of the past at Tri Part Screw Products, Inc., in Machesney, Illinois.

Donald Schuur, the President of Tri Part Screw, explained it this way, "We were always able to get product out to our customers, it just took too long. We knew to run one part at a time…wasn't the most efficient way. One part required five times to complete all drilling and tapping operations, including their individual set ups. We needed a better solution to machine these parts."

"Jakob Tool System (Elgin, Illinois) presented us with a concept to place 40 parts, each measuring one inch square, on a single pallet. This concept accommodated five rows of eight parts (40 parts). Each row represented a progressive set up and machining operation. A completely trained component was removed from row five and rows one through four were successfully moved to complete the machining cycle," said Robert Flaningam, Plant Manager and Secretary-Treasurer of Tri Part Screw Products. "As a result, each machine cycle produces eight complete parts. This allowed us to box and ship parts the same day to our customer. This investment represented a great step forward in productivity and turnaround time."

A more direct comparison of a before and after situation could be described as follows: Previously, one batch of parts required five days of machine time to complete, one part at a time, with five different setups. With the Jakob system, eight complete parts were produced per machine cycle (which means that complete parts were obtainable every 30 minutes). The increased productivity of the Jakob pallet system provided for part cost production to be constant, regardless of variations in the batch size, because setup was no longer an issue.

Mr. Schuur further explains, "20 to 30 percent of the cycle time savings for these parts alone came from the setup reduction, index moves, and toolchange times. Before, we needed to run a batch of parts through the machine five times. Each run required a separate setup. The necessary toolchanges were repeated for every part and setup, as were the index moves, from the home position to the part. With the new progressive palletized system, setup times have been completely eliminated and the necessary toolchanges are repeated once over forty parts and as is the index move from the home position to the parts. Additional savings were realized in handling time. Before, the operator repeated the opening, closing of the door, and the replacing of the part for each and every part and setup. Now the opening and closing of the door is repeated over 40 parts, one time, and the replacing of the parts is accomplished by changing the pallet carrying 40 parts which is a mere 30-second operation.

"Another feature of the Omni-Lock pallet system we really like are the lightweight pallets," said Mr. Flaningam. Any of the three models of pallets: the 40-piece pallet, the 28-piece pallet, or the 9-piece pallet are easily loaded. While one pallet is placed in the machine, the other is on the workbench where Gayle Scott, the machine operator, is reloading the pallet with blanks and shuffling consecutive operations from one row to the next. In doing so, she is using a pneumatically operated screwdriver for efficiency to unclamp and clamp the parts at a set torque to achieve consistent clamping force.

Her supervisor, Curt Lithgar, was responsible for the continuous operation of the machine and for preparing of the next setup. He explains, "Between the three different pallet designs we run the entire family of parts, which includes 12 different part numbers. The pallet system has now been in operation for over three years. That translates into well over 500,000 parts produced for our customer and we continue to grow."