MOUNT GILEAD, OHIO — Stadco Inc. has pumped several million dollars into HPM Corp.'s two aging plastics machinery factories in Mount Gilead, but HPM executives here say the biggest move simply has been improving how work flows through the operation.
Los Angeles-based Stadco bought HPM in 1996. Stadco specializes in high-precision machining of aerospace parts. Stadco's president and chief executive officer, Neil Kadisha, has said he wants to triple HPM's sales, to $300 million.
In Mount Gilead, where HPM was founded 120 years ago to make apple presses, the company turns out injection molding machines, extruders and die-casting machines at two factories, a few miles apart. Both buildings show their age, although Stadco did add high-intensity lighting and a badly needed coat of fresh paint to the main building.
When Stadco bought HPM, executives at rival machinery firms speculated on whether Stadco would scrap the old main plant and build a brand-new one.
John Lauchnor, HPM's vice president of operations, said Stadco did look at all options, including new construction, to boost production capacity.
``Initially we had a somewhat high-cost infrastructure. Our lead times were not where we wanted them to be,'' Lauchnor said. But after studying the operation, he said management decided to improve the existing building.
``The facility itself actually is very conducive to our strategy,'' he said.
In the past year, Stadco has invested $5 million into operations at the Mount Gilead facilities. ``Most of what we have done is fairly basic,'' Lauchnor said during a mid-March interview in Mount Gilead.
HPM set up cell manufacturing, reduced the number of suppliers and won a more-flexible union contract in Mount Gilead. The changes have allowed the company to slash lead times.
Lead times for large injection molding machines used to be 20-22 weeks. Today, HPM's injection press lead times are three to eight weeks. HPM can turn around screws now in four to eight weeks, instead of the 10-12 weeks of years past, Lauchnor said.
Cell manufacturing also helped HPM shave off $1.6 million in machining costs and another $1 million in assembly costs in 1997, Lauchnor said.
Given the greater production capacity, HPM now wants to build a $5 million business in selling screws, tie bars and other machined parts on the aftermarket and to other original equipment manufacturers of machinery. Lauchnor said the company wants to boost screw production from 500 this year to 1,000. Previously, he said, HPM turned out about 250 screws a year.
Ferdinand Pranckh, vice president of extrusion systems, said HPM now is selling its well-known Double Wave and Triple Wave screws on the aftermarket, including for use on non-HPM machines. Helping boost output is a Weingartner whirling machine, purchased a few months before Stadco acquired HPM.
John Beary, vice president of manufacturing, said the company has streamlined production.
``Our goal is we'd like to have all our manufactured components, made in-house, move through the facility in two to three weeks,'' he said.
When Stadco bought HPM, the plastics machinery maker had 750 active component suppliers. That number is down to 220 now, substantially reducing costs, according to Lauchnor. ``We're pretty close to where we want to be,'' he said.
Stadco also won greater flexibility with a new, longer, four-year contract between HPM and the International Association of Machinists. The pact, which began last May, allowed HPM to outsource work, such as electrical control cabinets, that it previously made in-house.
In Mount Gilead, HPM's main factory has 200,000 square feet of space. The other plant — the original building from the apple press days — measures 120,000 square feet.
During a tour of the main plant, HPM officials highlighted these improvements:
Decentralized inventory. Workers used to get parts from central inventory in the old D-Bay area. Now the parts are out on racks right next to work areas. HPM has converted the former inventory area — valuable space with overhead cranes — into the final assembly bay for Universal toggle presses. Tie bars are produced in another former parts storage space.
Screws, tie bars and rams all used to be made on the same machine. Now the company is giving each of these processes its own work cell.
Screw and manifold production has been streamlined. Both products used to be shuttled back and forth between the two Mount Gilead factories, Beary said. To manufacture a screw, HPM used to make the first cut in a bar of steel at the main plant, then shipped the screw to the other plant to cut the mixing sections. Screws then went back to the main plant for finishing. Today, all screw operations run in the main plant.
In slide-show presentations, HPM officials depict how the company used to make manifolds. The flow chart is crammed with arrows, running back and forth between the two plants. ``It used to take an average of 14 to 18 days to get that manifold through the plant,'' Lauchnor said. Moving all production into the smaller plant has dramatically cut that time.
In recent months, the company added a control system for its screw hard-facing machine.
The company relocated extrusion product lines into one area. In the old layout, standard extruders were in one area, away from sheet lines.
A large vertical platen machining center has an updated drive, greatly reducing its downtime. Later this year, the company will add another platen machining center — this one a horizontal machine that can cut both platens and clamp cylinders.
Machines get ``pre-painted'' now, during the subassembly stage. Machine assemblers used to fully assemble and test the equipment, then paint it.
To save space in the injection-unit assembly area, screws get stored upright in racks, instead of horizontally.
HPM designed new owners manuals, making them more professional and easy to use.
HPM now has companywide e-mail. Lauchnor said in the future, the company wants to take quotes over the Internet.
HPM is replacing its old mainframe-computer scheduling system with a modern system. When the system starts in June, it will link all four operations: HPM in Mount Gilead; the Remanufacturing Division of Marion, Ohio; HPM's injection press factory in Schwerin, Germany; and Stadco in Los Angeles.
Mount Gilead has added several seats of Pro/Engineer design software.
HPM will show three machines in a 4,000-square-foot booth in October at the K'98 show in Germany, said Stephen Byrnes, HPM's vice president and general manager.