A conveyor system used by Goodwill's Commercial Services Div. production plant in Milwaukee is customized in more ways than one. The conveyor is configured to meet the needs of the 187,000-square-foot center for work and training, and to the plant's employed participants, many of whom are mentally or physically challenged. The facility is one of four operated in the Milwaukee area by the organization.

Given the facility's size, the operation's scope, and the mission of maximum customer and worker satisfaction, the material handling challenges are formidable. "We stand the test of competitiveness, and we experience the same challenges and difficulties in manufacturing assembly work that anyone else does," notes Kevin Rose, vice president of commercial services.

The engineering staff examines prospective projects from vantage points of streamlined production efficiency and maximum employee participation. From both vantage points, the approach is successful.

In some applications, production has been increased 200 percent by using conveyors. Integrating individuals and equipment is the operation's main task and triumph. The Impac 100 conveyor system, developed in conjunction with Dorner Manufacturing Co. (Hartland, WI), allows flexibility to maintain production, as well as assist workers in preparing cartons, packages and materials for Wisconsin-based corporations.

On a long-term contract for S.C. Johnson & Son Inc.--with whom Goodwill has worked for more than 20 years--participants maintain a speed of 65 to 80 packaging units a minute. The project involves assembly of three components, labeling, cartoning and stretch- wrapping pallets for shipment.

Initial steps for Chuck Williams, process engineer, and Linda Hapka, director of operations for the Commercial Services Div., involve analyzing production requirements along the semiautomated line and deciding how to integrate participants. "We determined the one area we could use participants was at the front end of the line," Williams says.

The conveyor combines a multiapplication controller, serving as a standard part of the conveyor, with more than 60 pre-engineered accessory kits for different applications. Following basic assembly diagrams with each pre-engineered kit has afforded the flexibility to adapt and maintain the system according to participants' needs.

"It has given us an economical, dependable method of designing and arranging the conveyors to meet application and worker requirements. Plus, it enables us to operate a semiautomated line efficiently. We can customize material handling solutions without specialized engineering or design consultation," Williams says.

The system has start-stop buttons on both ends, two emergency stops in the center and a photo eye at the output end, which governs the conveyor and product flow to the main line.

The versatility of the conveyor system makes it valuable from production and worker satisfaction vantage points. Its adaptability simplifies operation for the participants and allows product changes on different projects. It also has increased participant productivity.

The simple design also allows easy maintenance. Adjustments are easily made with an Allen wrench, sparing mechanics the need for special tools to raise, lower or move controls.

For more information on conveyors, call Dorner Manufacturing Co. at 800- 397-8664, visit www.dorner.com.