The Manufacturers Association for Plastics Processors Inc. (MAPP) has announced winners of its annual Innovations Award. This year's category was automated manufacturing solutions.
Winners were honored Oct. 7 at MAPP's annual Benchmarking and Best Practices Conference, held Oct. 5-7 in Indianapolis, where the group is based.
MAPP recognized six companies — three with annual sales of more than $15 million and three with less than that amount. They were chosen from among 23 final entries.
In the $15 million-plus category, paint container injection molder KW Container of Troy, Ala., took first place, followed by contract automotive injection molder Beacon Engineered Solutions of Leominster, Mass., in second and Crescent Industries Inc., an injection molder and mold maker in New Freedom, Pa., in third.
KW Container upgraded a work cell to improve worker safety, minimize operating costs (saving $178,000 a year), increase output more than 2½ times, and slash annual labor costs.
Beacon Engineered Solutions, formerly Donnelly Custom Manufacturing Co. addressed the manufacturing complexities associated with 1,900 active molds and an average of 25-40 mold setups per day on its 39 injection molding presses. By investing in training, technology and equipment, the company developed the flexibility to deal with fluctuating demand, saving a projected 7,500 labor hours by the end of this year.
Crescent Industries took over assembly for a client and devised an automated assembly process that helps cut lead time by two weeks, saves $10,000 annually by reducing scrap and rejects, and saves $81,000 a year by eliminating the need for two full-time operators.
In the less than $15 million segment, automotive injection molder Champion Plastics Inc. of Auburn Hills, Mich., came in first, with custom injection molder Noble Plastics Inc. of Grand Coteau, La., in second and medical injection molder Natech Plastics Inc. of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., in third.
Champion did away with the manual placement of an adhesive promoter on a part by using plasma treating. The process allows the company to use labor more efficiently and resulted in substantial return on investment. Over the life of the program, Champion said it expects to save $850,000.
Noble improved operational efficiency with an automation campaign affecting several processes: monitoring, messaging, tasks and reporting. By automating how data is captured, shared and used to predict efficiency, Noble achieved an integrated workflow that allows workers "to make better decisions swiftly."
Natech called on a robot it named Captain America to help it improve working conditions and cut labor costs. The captain, a six-axis collaborative universal robot, or cobot, provides packaging employees with some relief from the "extremely exhausting" job of keeping up with a high-volume, high-cavity tool with a relatively low cycle time. The job previously required two or three operators to pack the parts; now only one is necessary — and that person no longer has to stand in an awkward position for eight hours a day.
Winners were voted on by the group's members and selected by their peers.
MAPP, a nonprofit trade organization, was established in 1997 and has grown to more than 500 member companies. The Innovation Awards are part of the group's Best Practices Awards series, which also includes safety and educational outreach awards.