An effective production flow involves work stations and equipment to be arranged in a sequence that supports a smooth flow of parts and materials with minimal delays. Implementing an efficient production flow leads to increased production and flexibility, as well as a reduction in capital requirements.
Anoplate, an industry leader in surface engineering, faced a production flow dilemma. The company offers vacuum impregnation services to seal leak paths and eliminate failure modes that could develop from outgassing, chemical compatibility, or bleed out of pretreatments in porous materials. Anoplate processes high value, complex die castings for some of the largest and most respected aerospace, defense, information technology, and recreation companies in the world. The castings often have thin walls with small blind taps.
Anoplate’s operations span across two buildings. Its headquarters comprises of its offices and vacuum impregnation operation. The second building, located across the street, houses its vapor degreasing and plating operations. Anoplate uses in-house batch impregnation systems to process the die castings. The batch system aggregates various parts and processes them in large batches. Before impregnation, parts are processed through vapor degreasing.
Despite being well versed in vacuum impregnation, the company could not efficiently process complex castings due to three limitations of their batch systems.
- Contamination-Extra steps were needed to get clean, sealed parts. Cured sealant and oil remained in through and blind tape holes, requiring the operator to hand wash machine and tap holes after the process. Also, many parts required double impregnation.
- Sealant usage-The system processing baskets were the cause of high sealant “drag out”. This drag out led to high sealant use and increased material costs.
- Ineffective production flow- The process routing (degrease, impregnate, plate, and finish) had parts traveling between facilities multiple times, constantly placed in and out of transport dunnage. The amount of handling increased the risk of damage, reduced the control of inventory, and increased the cost of processing.
The company laid out its vision, and Godfrey & Wing responded with the lean, front-loading HVLV vacuum impregnation system, customized to address the company's challenges.
To eliminate contamination, Godfrey & Wing designed custom fixtures to maximize the number of castings per cycle and protect critical machined features. The HVLV's advanced wash cycle was programmed with an aggressive wash to flush sealant from blind holes and machine features.
After impregnation, the part is centrifuged to recover unused sealant. The sealant is returned to the sealant reservoir for use in subsequent cycles. The HVLV recovers unused sealant before the wash, which eliminates sealant drag out, and risk of contamination.
Recognizing the company's desire to place the system in the same building as plating, Godfrey & Wing designed the HVLV to align with production. HVLV's modular footprint requires 96 square feet without any floor changes. Godfrey & Wing also studied how the HVLV would integrate with Anoplate’s order of operations and concluded that with the HVLV, Anoplate's vapor degreasing process could be eliminated.
While the system sounded perfect, Anoplate conducted rigorous sample testing before investing. Samples were processed at Godfrey & Wing's headquarters on a machine identical to the HVLV proposed to Anoplate. The results demonstrated that the HVLV not only sealed the leak paths, but eliminated contamination, and reduced sealant usage. Also, the company was able to see firsthand how the modular footprint could easily fit into its existing production line. With these results, Anoplate purchased an HVLV.
The HVLV was installed, operators and maintenance were trained, and the system was processing parts in under two weeks. Since then, the HVLV is addressing Anoplate's challenges.
- Eliminate Contamination-The system’s custom fixtures and thorough wash processed all parts successfully and without any trace of residual sealant contamination.
- Minimize Sealant Usage-Sealant drag out has been greatly reduced, and sealant costs have gone down by 50%.
- Improve Production Flow-The HVLV operates alongside the plating operations. By delivering parts directly to the impregnation system, labor costs have been reduced by 50%, and production throughput has increased by 30%.
"Considering our challenges, the HVLV has been a very effective solution delivering unrivaled quality for our advanced manufacturing environment." Said Jesse Campbell, Anoplate's Vice President of Engineering, "This system has also changed our perception of vacuum impregnation equipment in that it is simple to use, and the look is sleek and modern."
The HVLV has created a competitive advantage to Anoplate's vacuum impregnation services. The system has transformed its impregnation business by reducing costs, increasing quality and improving efficiency.