A new ``flexible-flow'' production has enabled Dr. Boy GmbH & Co. KG to cut assembly times and speed up delivery of the small-tonnage injection presses Boy builds in Fernthal, Germany.
In January, Boy changed from its past manufacturing system of where a team of people worked on each press, while the machine sat in place from beginning to end. Now, the presses move on wheeled skids that are connected to an under-floor conveyor chain. They also can be raised and lowered to improve ergonomics for employees, according to Managing Director Alfred Schiffer, who runs the company with his brother, Carl Schiffer, Boy's chairman.
``All machines are manufactured in the line. There's not 10 of this and five of this. We're producing them totally as the orders come in. Verticals. Horizontals. Whatever size,'' said Alfred Schiffer in an interview at Boy's K 2007.
In a way, Boy is returning to its roots - with a strong dose of modern thinking. Max Schiffer co-founded Boy in 1968, pioneering the use of a moving assembly line to build injection molding machines. ``It was very unique in machinery at that time,'' Alfred Schiffer said.
Boy also was a simpler company, with just one model of machine. That made Boy well-suited to a fixed-belt assembly line.
As Boy started to add models and new sizes, the company dropped the assembly line in 1987, and began group assembly of stationary machines. European industrial thinking also had changed, and team assembly was seen as a way to better motivate workers, according to the Schiffer brothers.
Now times have changed again, as Boy now has even more offerings and options - even though the company still limits production to machines under 100 tons of clamping force.
A rigid assembly line would not work today, Alfred Schiffer said. ``The flexibility is there through the fact that you can, at any time, disconnect every single machine from the conveyor belt/chain and put it out on the floor, or put it back in. There's a coupling between the wheeled skid and the conveyor chain,'' he said.
Boy purchases components from outside suppliers, then Boy employees do final assembly in Fernthal. Under the flexible flow system, dedicated crews pre-build clamping units, injection units and other subassemblies, near the assembly line, so that parts don't have to be carried a long way. ``We have a minimization of flow of material in the while plant,'' Carl Schiffer said.
All parts are delivered in the correct time and place along the line. The arrangement also has allowed the company to better control its inventory of parts.
Boy ran seven presses at its K show booth, to demonstrate micromolding, clean room molding, insert molding and other processes. Boy also molded baby bottle nipples from solid silicone, a material the company said is less expensive than liquid silicone rubber. The Boy 35 M press was equipped with a special stuffer unit, mounted on the machinery, and a cold-runner mold.
Boy also used K 2007 to roll out its new Procan Alpha controller, now ready for mass production after the test and pilot phase. Officials said Procan Alpha is easy to use, and features a patented 15-inch, full touch-screen display.
Patented features include an Interactive Learning Controller that reduces times for startup and setup.
Five other Boy machines molded parts in other K show booths of partner companies.