Assembly in Action: Workbenches Endure Ups and Downs
However, Hamilton Sundstrand is not your typical world traveler. The company manufactures aircraft actuation systems that operate critical flight control surfaces on many of today’s civil and military fixed-wing aircraft, such as business jets, turboprop and turbofan transports, fighters, bombers and the space shuttle.
Yet, for a company that spends so much time thinking about flight technology, Hamilton Sundstrand has its business operations firmly planted on the ground. The company attributes much of its success to an ongoing commitment to producing innovative, quality products at competitive prices. It maintains this reputation by ensuring that its manufacturing processes operate at peak efficiency. For example, a recent project focused on reducing cycle time and improving productivity on the assembly shop floor.
"We began by creating a new floor plan for the assembly area. Each work-cell was organized according to product type to promote workflow. In addition, because we wanted to improve organization and working conditions, we upgraded some assembly equipment," says Mandi Cottrell, manufacturing engineer at the Rockford, IL, location.
The company focused on improving the ballscrew actuator cell and decided to replace its fixed-height workbenches. The existing assembly benches needed replacement because they were chipped and marred from years of use. Because the shop floor workbenches had to support the weight of heavy tools and parts, plant management had previously welded an extra leg to the benches to ensure workbench stability.
"It’s really quite ironic," says Cottrell, "because the old benches were originally height-adjustable, but the leg modification precluded manual adjustment. Fortunately, we learned from that mistake and searched for workbenches that were more reliable."
Hamilton Sundstrand chose Lista International Corp.’s (Holliston, MA) Height-Right adjustable workbenches. The height of the work surface can be adjusted 15 inches. With their rugged construction and 1,200-pound static load capacity, they will not tip or shake, even at full weight capacity.
The workbenches are arranged in four groups of two around the perimeter of the actuator ballscrew cell. Each workbench combination is next to a parts rack, which contains various components used for product assembly.
"The layout is ideal for workflow," says Cottrell. "Parts move from stock into the assembly cells for final assembly. Perhaps more importantly, the ballscrew cell is now completely self-contained, and assembly technicians can work more efficiently."
To facilitate tool accessibility and organization, one bench in each group of two features hanging modular drawer storage cabinets. Employees store small tools and parts, including holding fixtures, wrenches, drivers and gauges, in these drawers.
Because of their modular design, the drawers can be reconfigured at any time to accommodate changing storage needs. Cottrell claims that the benefits of the hanging drawer storage cabinets for holding tools cannot be overstated. "With the old system, assembly technicians had to leave the ballscrew cell to retrieve tools and parts needed for the assembly process. The cabinets have saved us valuable retrieval time, which will ultimately translate into reduced cycle Arial," says Cottrell.
To further enhance organization, a FlexWorks accessory system is mounted above each workbench. Six storage shelves are secured to each workbench to accommodate parts bins for gears, nuts, O-rings, bolts and fasteners. Having the bins within reach improves organization and ergonomics. It also enables assemblers to work more efficiently.
Additionally, a pivoting, overhead fluorescent light and power strips add convenience and comfort. With these accessories, the workbench surfaces are always well-lit, and electricity is readily available for power tools. The result is a workspace that is ergonomic, versatile and functional.
"Employee feedback has been extremely positive," says Cottrell. "The flexibility is especially appreciated, because assemblers can adjust the workbench height to suit their own comfort level, whether standing or sitting.
"We are very pleased with the workbenches," continues Cottrell, "because they have helped us better use space and time."
For more information on workbenches, call 800-722-3020 or visit www.listaintl.com.