CLINTON, MISS. - It's a big plant: 750,000 square feet of production space including 180 injection molding machines and 17 extrusion lines, plus warehouse and office facilities. Yet, the Delphi Packard Electric Systems plant in Clinton still has the feel of a small company.
That's because the large organization is broken down into smaller, more manageable business units that operate autono-mously. These cells contain a specific number of presses, each dedicated to an operation or component.
Nick L. DiNardo, superinten-dent of the cable and compo-nents operations, which includes 650 employees and all molding operations, said that in addition to manageability, the cell concept promotes worker cohesiveness.
Employees are ``more intimately involved as a team with the business segments,'' DiNardo said.
For example, the plant previously had all 120 workers in its mold-making, maintenance and repair operations in one location in the building. Now each of the business units has a self-contained mold maintenance and repair area, with a certain number of mold makers who do nothing but work on the molds for that particular business unit.
The plant's molding operations comprise six business units. The newest unit at Clinton is PreMo IV, which uses smaller presses and single- or low-cavitation molds to achieve tight-tolerance molding. It also increases efficiency and productivity and maximizes machine utilization, DiNardo said.
The larger the mold with more cavities, the more difficult it is to hold tolerances consistently within all the cavities. Additionally, when one cavity in a multicavity mold goes bad, the usual quick fix is to block it off and keep on running. That is not good use of machine time, DiNardo said.
When completed in 1996, PreMo IV will consist of 60 Battenfeld presses with 40 tons of clamping force and computer process controls. Hopper dryers sit on wheeled carts that can be rolled alongside the press when needed, ensuring that raw materials are on-hand at all times and allowing for quick material changes when mold changes occur. And they occur frequently.
Because the goal is minimum inventory, each part number for the hundreds of components produced at the plant is cycled every day for that day's production.
``A big part of a company's inventory load is a result of not being able to cycle the different parts fast enough,'' DiNardo said.
In addition to the PreMo business teams, other molding units within the Clinton plant include:
Autofuse, which operates with 12 Van Dorn presses, all with 300 tons of clamping force, that mold nothing but fuse blocks for all General Motors Corp. cars. Like all the business units, orders are molded on an as-needed basis.
Autofuse also represents the plant's first synchronized manufacturing project. Each press is tied directly to secondary printing operations, eliminating the need for moving parts from one area of the plant to another, risking damage and slowing production.
The Excel business unit now comprises 40 presses with clamping forces of 75, 150 and 200 tons. Plans call for the addition of 20 more molding machines. That unit is undergoing a rebuilding program in which all the presses will be upgraded with closed-loop process controls and a conveyor system. If a part goes outside the molding parameters, the conveyor automatically reverses to put the parts out the opposite side of the press.
The Advanced Molding unit has 25 presses with 40 tons of clamping force. The company is adding 10 new machines to the unit, which uses 16-cavity molds because it makes nonprecision parts that have looser tolerance requirements.
The Component Assembly unit is where molded parts coming out of the presses become synchronized with the assembly operations. Any type of molding combined with a secondary operation is done in Component Assembly. Molding of the components is done on an as-needed basis in 12 presses with 175 and 200 tons clamping force. DiNardo said that synchronizing the molding with assembly ensures a minimum inventory of components between molding and secondary operations.
Conventional Molding produces all of the conduit clips and older-style connection systems that the company is phasing out. As this occurs, presses in Conventional Molding are being transferred to Excel.