FREMONT, CALIF. — New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. has pushed operating parameters on three 2,860-ton Ube injection presses to achieve significant cycle-time reductions in molding car bumpers. "We basically reduced cycle times on bumpers from 70 seconds down to a range of 49-58 seconds," Pascal Renouil said in an interview at Nummi's huge complex in Fremont. "Our target is 51 [seconds]."
Renouil manages maintenance, engineering and product development for Nummi's plastics section.
Also, Nummi reduced the cycle for truck bumpers, known as valance panels, from 65 seconds to 51 or 52, he said. That helped create machine time for trials on nine new molds arriving from Japan.
Next, Renouil will seek lower cycle times from three 3,000-ton Milacron injection presses.
Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. formed Nummi as a joint venture in 1984. Nummi manufactured 160,759 Toyota Corolla and 49,967 Chevrolet Prizm compact cars and 156,395 Toyota Tacoma compact pickup trucks last year.
"We are maximizing the equipment capacity" for current bumper production and preparing for a model change beginning in September, Renouil said. "We are trying to retain [faster cycles] for the new parts." So far, the improvements involve dry-cycle changes.
Shorter cycles open machine time to run pilot trials. "We need to create some windows in production through cycle-time improvement," he said. The project started in January 1999, and trial began in mid-May this year.
Auxiliary suppliers helped Nummi.
"We've optimized delay times for hydraulics, trimmed down lag times and worked with a supplier for a quick-mold-change system," said Jason Forgash, regional sales manager in Ann Arbor, Mich., with Ube Machinery Inc. "We've maximized what we have out there." Plans are pending for two more mechanical and software program improvements.
Aioi Seiki Inc.'s Pascal Engineering Inc. subsidiary in Elk Grove Village, Ill., provided automatic coupling systems that facilitate faster connection of tubes during a mold change, said Mark Takarabe, Pascal sales manager.
Part-removing robots also operate faster. Shelbyville, Ky., distributor InSol Inc. supplied improvements for Ichikoh take-out robots on two Ubes. A Mitsubishi controller interface operates with one of the robots.
Star Automation Inc. shortened times for the standby position-and-extraction sequence for its take-out robot on the third Ube press, according to Jerry Perelgut, service manager with Star in Menomonee Falls, Wis.
Nummi began operating the Ubes in 1997 and the Milacrons in 1994, in part because nearby molding shops were not equipped to rapidly mold and paint large parts.
"We didn't focus on cycle-time reduction until last year," Renouil said.
The Ubes mold bumpers on a three-shift schedule, but the parts are painted on two shifts, creating inventory management problems.
"By reducing the mold cycle times, we are looking at getting the two production lines in sync," he said. Renouil seeks to reduce in-process inventory by 70 percent.
The Ubes use software controllers from the Allen Bradley unit of Rockwell International Corp. But limitations arose in accessing the proprietary controls on each of the Milacrons. "We need help from the supplier," he said.
For the model change, Nummi will install new paint jigs and reprogram robotic devices that apply high-gloss paint. One painting facility handles front and rear car bumpers and truck valance panels, while a smaller line paints instrument panels for cars and trucks.
Nummi uses a high-flow grade of Toyota's proprietary olefin polymer for bumpers and valance panels, talc-filled polypropylene for quarter-trim parts and a high-flow-grade Noryl blend of polyphenylene ether and polystyrene for instrument panels, he said.
In 1994, Nummi invested about $55 million to build a 65,000-square-foot facility and create in-house plastics processing capability. Initially, the new facility made Tacoma panels and Prizm and Corolla rear bumpers. Painting started in 1995. Previously, a Canadian supplier made those parts in Ontario and shipped them to Fremont.
Another 35,000 square feet and additional equipment entered service in 1997 and broadened the shop's big-part orientation.
Plastics operations employ about 110, including five in engineering functions, 66 in plastics processing and 27 in maintenance of molds and equipment.
The hot labor market in the San Francisco Bay area challenges Nummi and other employers to stay competitive with compensation packages.
"Our turnover on the [plastic processor] engineering side is about 2.5 years, which is not too bad around here," Renouil said.
Nummi has about 4,500 employees at the 211-acre site.
Plastikon Industries Inc. and Injex Industries Inc., both of Hayward, Calif., and Stoesser Industries Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., manufacture smaller plastic parts and deliver them on a just-in-time basis to Nummi production lines.