Workbenches Improve Assembly Efficiency and Productivity
When talking about humble origins, Hypertherm Inc. can match stories with anyone. The company began 30 years ago in a small garage. Now, the Hanover, NH, based company employs more than 400 people and has subsidiaries in Germany, Singapore and the United Kingdom. It produces a variety of plasma cutting equipment that cut most metals and can be used in many manual and mechanized applications.
New product introductions have helped Hypertherm become one of the leading manufacturers of plasma arc metal-cutting equipment. These achievements have contributed to the company’s 15 to 20 percent growth per year. To accommodate this growth, the company recently doubled the size of its main facility to 135,000 square feet. However, this expansion was undertaken for reasons other than additional facility space. The company wanted to implement continuous flow cells and just-in-time delivery. "Batch mode manufacturing would be replaced by a continuous flow mode," says Bruce Altobelli, business team leader. "Productivity would be increased, while inventory would be reduced."
A key element in this restructure was the re-examination of the company’s workbench and storage requirements. The new installation is an improvement over the previous arrangement. In the past, seven or eight employees would work at one long bench, producing subassemblies for each product until they were required for final assembly. This was unwieldy because of the large number of employees crowded into a small area. Subassemblies would also pile up, creating workflow problems. This reduced the workspace’s efficiency.
After careful consideration, the company contacted Lista International Corp.
Lista outfitted Hypertherm’s facility with 55 FlexWorks Accessory System workbenches. The company also retrofitted seven existing workbenches with the accessory systems. The FlexWorks systems consist of two upright posts and a universal top rail. Add-on sets consist of an additional upright and the top rail. Frames are constructed of heavyweight steel and notched front and back for mounting shelves and add-ons. Frames also feature side holes for system accessories.
Hypertherm uses FlexWorks systems with 30-inch- and 48-inch-high upright frames. Five standard section lengths, center to center, measure from 211/4 inches to 451/4 inches and can be used together to cover any length work surface.
The systems are installed throughout the facility. Most are located in the flow cell assembly line. Others are stationed in the printed circuit board area, final assembly area and the quality area. The tool crib area contains a number of the workbenches and an issue counter with double-hinged door cabinets for secure storage of expensive machinery.
Because subassemblies can now be produced more quickly and efficiently, they are provided on an as-needed basis. This helps reduce inventory and keeps workstations uncluttered. Materials used in all subassembly work can now be accepted right at the cells and workstations where they will be used. "This eliminates the bulk of the raw-material storage while simultaneously reducing subassembly production time. Product shipping time is reduced as well," explains Altobelli.
The employees at Hypertherm store a number of items at their workbenches, including hand, electric and pneumatic tools and fasteners. Because employees no longer have to search for tools, productivity has been even further improved.
Altobelli is especially pleased with the flexibility of FlexWorks. "The diverse range of products that we produce necessitates that the workstations be extremely flexible," he says. "Because of its modular design, the system is easily configured to the distinct characteristics of each work area."
Altobelli adds that FlexWorks components can even be adjusted for specific tasks within an individual workshift.
Because employees often work with sensitive electrical components, Hypertherm opted for a static dissipative-paint finish on the systems, which provides essential electrostatic properties.
"When people know that they’ll be able to find things easily, be able to work efficiently and have workspaces that they’re proud of, it’s a great boost for morale," he says. "That may not be something you can quantify, but you know it pays off in the long run."
For more information on workstations, call 800-722-3020 or visit www.listaintl.com.