Demag Plastics Group plans to spend about several million dollars for capital improvements at its Van Dorn Demag injection press assembly plant in Strongsville during the next six months - including a new technical center for customers.
The investment plans, announced Nov. 7, come after decisions to close three other Van Dorn facilities and relocate some of those operations to the Strongsville headquarters plant. A lean manufacturing effort in Strongsville has freed up space for the new work, officials said.
Bill Carteaux, chief executive officer of Van Dorn Demag, said the company is taking steps needed in the U.S. plastics machinery market, which has been in a major downturn for three years.
``It would be foolish to continue doing business as usual,'' said Carteaux, who also is co-executive managing director of Demag Plastics Group. ``We've made some tough decisions in order to strengthen our business and do what's best for our customers and employees.''
Demag Plastics Group has four other plants, two in Germany and one each in China and India. DPG is part of Mannesmann Plastics Machinery GmbH, based in Munich, Germany.
Van Dorn's 275,000-square-foot Strongsville plant is gaining two operations that are being relocated from other locations: spare parts and service, screw manufacturing and injection unit assembly work.
In late September, Van Dorn announced it was closing its screw factory in Fountain Inn, S.C. A month later, MPM officials said Van Dorn's 3-year-old Molder Action Network will close. The Molder Action Network, which handles parts and service, is located just a few miles from the headquarters assembly plant. Both operations are moving to the headquarters plant.
Also, Van Dorn is selling another South Carolina facility, a plant in Duncan that machined parts such as toggle components, platens and some items for injection units. The new owner will continue supplying those parts to Van Dorn.
Company officials are calling the changes and capital spending a ``total plant reorganization'' in Strongsville.
In an Oct. 30 tour, Brian Tapajna, lean manufacturing manager, explained that grouping machines, employees and components in a more logical order allows space for the new work. In another change, parts are now delivered to the shop floor under a just-in-time system. Stock clerks gather parts for each job and prepare kits of parts to other employees who build machines and subassemblies. In the old days, assemblers had to leave their work areas to go find needed parts, wasting time, he said.
Employees are cross-trained to build all Van Dorn models. In the final assembly area, Van Dorn used to run a dedicated assembly bay for its HT toggle-clamp presses, with its own specialized crew. Now the same bay turns out HTs, the all-electric IntElect machine and the vertical-press Newbury line.
``The whole point of this is to create a more flexible workforce,'' Tapajna said.
Van Dorn has used the techniques of lean manufacturing and kaizen for the last 28 months. This year the company accelerated the program, promoting Tapajna, a nine-year employee, to the newly created post of lean manufacturing manager in May.
Teams of plant employees meet regularly, kaizen-style, to discuss improvements.
Tapajna pointed to another example of the changes, in the area that assembles linkages. After reviewing the old layout, a lean manufacturing team recommended adding new linkage assembly work for the vertical presses and IntElect machines-while at the same time reducing the amount of space used by one third.
Again, employees were cross-trained. ``It used to be independent cells, with dedicated staff. Now we have a complete work cell focused on all the linkage assemblies,'' Tapajna said.
Part of the freed-up space will house machine-controller cabinets, which had been assembled in the Molder Action Network.
Lean manufacturing changes to HT production also opened up space for the new 5,000-square-foot technical center. Officials want the demonstration facility to be an attention-grabbing showcase, located right in the heart of the plant.
``It's going to be one of the first things you see when you walk out on the plant floor,'' Tapajna said.
Visitors also should see some cosmetic changes. Crews are painting the factory and refurbishing the floors right now.