AIA: Carts Replace Forklifts
Chrysler Group's Indiana Transmission Plant II (Kokomo, IN) manufactures five-speed, rear-wheel-drive transmissions for a number of models, including the Chrysler 300, Dodge Magnum and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 600,000-square-foot plant opened in late 2003 and employs around 480 workers.
As part of an effort to maximize both worker safety and efficiency, Chrysler Group decided to make its facility as forklift free as possible. To this end, the company uses carts from Topper Industrial (Sturtevant, WI) to deliver parts to the assembly line and take away finished product.
Individual carts are equipped with six high-efficiency casters. Two central casters support the majority of the load, while a pair of casters on each side provide balance. The carts are easy to maneuver, turning completely around in 8 to 10 feet of space depending on the exact model. Thanks to sealed bearings in the casters, an operator can easily push loads of more than 3,000 pounds. Carts can be linked up and towed using electric tuggers.
Initially, Chrysler Group, which had previously used a number of carts at its engine plant in Kenosha, WI, ordered about 125 carts for the Kokomo facility. As designers and engineers refined the organization of the assembly process, that number increased to around 500.
Chrysler Group now uses a number of different stock and custom cart configurations. These include tilting carts that minimize the amount of reaching and bending line workers must do to take out the parts in the carts' bins. Depending on the application, the carts can tilt from 15 to 60 degrees. A locking mechanism ensures the load will stay in place. A self-contained hydraulic speed controller regulates the tipping speed when a cart is loaded.
To maximize a worker's limited space at the assembly station, Topper created a "corral cart" to transport up to four smaller dollies loaded with stacks of trays that can be rolled to an operator one dolly at a time. This cart actually consists of a simple framework on casters with spaces that accommodate the stacked groups of trays, each of which travels on its own set of casters. When picking up parts for delivery to the assembly area, an employee simply rolls a stack of trays into the corral cart frame and secures it in place with a locking bar. Each corral cart works as well when it is partially full as when every space is occupied. Arriving at a workstation, the employee releases the stack of trays, rolls it into position and then moves on with the rest of the load.
"The corral carts make it possible to put parts right where we need them," says Chrysler Group materials manager Shawn Cross. "They are easy to use, promoting efficiency and safety."
For more information on carts in assembly applications, call 262-886-6931 or visit www.topperindustrial.com.