Assembly in Action: Carts Promote Visibility, Productivity
September 21, 2007
Australian Automotive Air Pty Ltd. (Croydon, Victoria) manufactures air conditioners, engine cooling systems, instrument clusters and fuel system components for the automotive industry.
Australian Automotive Air Pty Ltd. (Croydon, Victoria) manufactures air conditioners, engine cooling systems, instrument clusters and fuel system components for the automotive industry. Recently, the company contracted process design and training company Industrial Conveying Australia Pty Ltd. (ICA, Melbourne, Victoria) to help it upgrade its material handling system. Specifically, Australian Automotive wanted an adaptable system that didn’t require the use of forklifts or other heavy lifting equipment. The company also wanted a lean setup that would encourage staff to maintain their work areas in an orderly fashion, be easy to upgrade and provide workers with visual process cues.
Central to the resulting system was a series of “drawbridge” carts from Creform Corp. (Greer, SC). Constructed from Creform plastic-coated steel pipe, joints and hardware accessories, the carts incorporate multiple tilt-up shelves, which are supported and lift-assisted by gas-charged struts. In operation, as the shelves are cleared of inventory, they are raised up and out of the way, providing access to the items on the next level down. Because parts are clearly visible at all times, the carts help reinforce the physical connections between the company’s various manufacturing processes, thereby promoting a continuous flow of moving stock so that nothing is stored.
“The ICA proposal to include the Creform system and its implementation has seamlessly linked all aspects of our production plant,” says Australian Automotive’s Andrew Coulson. “We are not a warehouse. Our system is geared to receive, manufacture, assemble and ship to our customers’ immediate requirements. The Creform structures are the tools that help us succeed…. A major element contributing to that success is the fact that the cart concept provides for complete visibility, so if one of the stations in any of the sections is short of components or parts then we instantly know something needs to be addressed.”
As an added benefit, because the drawbridge tilt shelves, when raised, provide virtually unlimited access to lower levels, there is no need for the access clearance required with conventional stationary shelving. As a result, each cart can accommodate more levels than it would otherwise, minimizing the cart’s footprint-to-load-capacity ratio.
To further improve parts access, the shelves on the Australian Automotive carts are fashioned with hinges at each shelf’s midpoint, making it that much easier to see the parts on the lower shelves.
Depending on the application, shelving materials can be fabricated from wood, plastic, metal or a lightweight grating material. Shelves are available with foam dunnage for part protection or shadow boards for organization. The shelves can also be compartmented to prevent part impingement.
In those cases where the shelves will be used for over-the-road transport, the shelves can be spaced so that they each help hold parts in place in the shelf below. In addition to minimizing the risk of product damage, this approach eliminates the need for supplementary in-process packaging. Creform also offers latches that provide secure shelf lockdown during transport.
The drawbridge carts can be configured with a towing hitch for transport behind a tugger. Towing tongues and latches are available that allow multiple carts to be trained together to optimize vehicle utilization. The carts can be equipped with either stem-style or bolt-on casters, which are available in a variety of wheel materials and sizes to facilitate travel over most surfaces.
“A lot of detail went into the customization of the units, with input from the operators, to make each workstation...as efficient as possible,” Coulson says. “Where necessary, our Creform system units have been designed to accommodate very specific parts, components and containers, yet the system allows for easy modification of structures to suit different products, engineering changes, larger sizes, etc., as customer orders come on board. ICA and the Creform System of carts are large contributors to making Australian Automotive Air more productive.”
For more on carts and material handling call 800-839-8823 or visit www.creform.com.
For more on process design and implementation, visit www.icaust.com.au.