Group Dekko (Kendallville, IN) employs approximately 1,500 workers in three divisions spread over 22 locations. The company is involved in wire harness manufacture, insert and injection molding, assembly, roll forming, powder coating, turret punching and metal stamping.

In 2004, Group Dekko began deploying a networked information system connected directly to its processing machines, so that the company could gather production information from its various manufacturing operations. The company decided it would first test the system in its stamping division, then apply what it learned to its other manufacturing arms. The goal was to create a database for both costing and scheduling.

Key to the new system was an operator interface on each of the networked machines that would allow operators to manually enter any error codes that could not be captured automatically by the company’s legacy monitoring systems. Along with error codes and counts, the interface also needed to be able to track uptime and downtime, production time and other metrics. Finally, the system had to incorporate software to store data for later downloading and analysis.

Ultimately, Group Dekko installed a battery of IMPAX TSS-6 touch-screen monitors from Process Technologies Group Inc. (Addison, IL). The monitors employ Windows Excel-based software and can store as many as 64 error codes. Thanks to their intuitive design, they are easy for both engineers and line operators to use. In the case of Group Dekko, information systems engineers spent just an hour or two training small groups of operators, after which they were ready to use the systems on their own. According to Group Dekko Vice President of Information Systems, Chris Edwards, “The operators don’t have to use a mouse and a keyboard. The learning curve is very quick. Within a week, they were up to full speed. We have it on all our shifts.”

In addition, the IMPAX screens were relatively easy to install. In the case of company’s newer presses, Group Dekko found that the new systems worked well with the presses’ existing electronics. In the case of the company’s older machines, Group Dekko’s own maintenance personnel were able to hook up the requisite sensors and cables. “Process Technologies Group just came down for a day to install the IMPAX TSS-6s, making sure they were going to work,” Edwards says.

Once the systems were in place, Group Dekko immediately had a better idea as to how its processes were working, and where they needed improvement. At the strategic level, Group Dekko wanted to give itself 6 to 12 months of real-world data before making any dramatic changes. However, that didn’t stop engineers from learning lessons about their systems right way.

As an example, Edwards points to the stamping division’s packaging station. Although everyone knew it was a center of “occasional problems,” operators had become desensitized to these work stoppages over time. Once installed, the IMPAX TSS-6 showed that, in fact, the problems were causing 30 percent of all downtime on the line-an immediate call to action.

According to Edwards, the end result of identifying issues like this is increased profits. He attributes this, in part, to the fact that better information allows his company to quote more accurately in a highly competitive market. It also helps Group Dekko identify those products that it might want to consider discontinuing.

The bottom line is looking good, Edwards says. “We’re getting additional business because of this, and we’re getting more competitive on the pricing side. It really helps.... It looks like there are going to be more monitors in the future of Group Dekko.”

For more on process monitoring, call 800-272-4784 or www.impaxptg.com.