Automation Increases Throughput

Omega Plastics, provider of high-quality tooling and low-volume molding solutions, takes pride in offering a variety of tooling solutions to its customers in the medical, automotive, and consumer packaging industries. This 75-person, the 70,000-square-foot shop was looking to decrease lead times and maintain a profit.

Omega’s President/CEO Jeff Kaczperski says today’s increased competition in the industry forces mold makers to be “extremely aggressive” to keep their doors open—and this competition is a key reason for the company’s decision to automate.

Mike Pavlica, VP of operations and finances, elaborates, “We produce more than 400 tools a year, and excel at providing moderate complexity molds fast. Customers come to us not just for their low volume parts, but for our engineering, program management support, and understanding of what it takes to help make them successful.

“To reach our vision of seeing low-volume plastic products launched into production faster, with better quality, and with a lower overall cost than they ever have before requires continual improvement and a very significant investment in the latest technology, training, people, and processes,” Pavlica continues.“We’ve always been a market leader in speed and wanted to maintain that edge while increasing equipment utilization and effectiveness. We needed processes and the right equipment to get more work through the system. Automation was the best way to meet our customers’ speed and cost objectives.”

The Answer Is Automation

After conducting extensive research and visiting a number of EDM manufacturers, Omega Plastics decided to purchase the newly designed Mitsubishi model EA12V and System 3R WorkMaster Robot in an automated cell to address its challenges. MC Machinery Systems was the first company to introduce automation into the company’s thought process. Omega Plastics was impressed by the emphasis MC Machinery places on being “project consultants” over “salespeople.”

“Once we purchased the equipment, we applied some of our own unique manufacturing processes. We customized a mold build tracking system, which combined with the automatic cell, really began to improve. The trick is to get all components of the cell to ‘communicate’ when the robot is talking to our existing EA8 and our new EA12V,” CNC manager Louis Wilson says. “The key to success is having the right equipment, the right people, and the right processes. We have a very flexible and highly-talented team, and we really challenged each other to find the BEST solution.”

The company’s processes are evolving and they are adapting the robot to change out workpieces from their EA12V. “As more time passes, we’ll be incorporating a high-speed graphite mill into the cell. MCMachinery provided us with a solutions-oriented plan that evolved into what we are doing today,” Wilson notes.

Change Is Good

While the company has embraced the many advantages the automated cell provides—increased throughput, the ability to take on more work, and faster timing—they acknowledge that the changes have led to some challenges. “There is so much on the process side you have to work through,” Wilson notes. “It changes your whole system.”

“We’ve had excellent support from Mitsubishi EDM,” Kaczperski says. “We’ve been able to work through tremendous change with no negative impact on our customers. You need to be up for the challenges that come with such a change and be willing to accept change.

“We started this process more than a year ago and began a very aggressive implementation timeline of three months, but it takes about six to nine months before you get proficient,” he adds. “As our sales and productivity increase, we will continue to drive automation—however that looks—whether it is new equipment or new processes. It’s a path that we will continue to go down. As we continue to grow, we’ll do whatever it takes to be an automated shop competitive in today’s environment. It’s really been a nice win for us.”

Reprinted by permission of MoldMaking Technology magazine, copyright 2005, Gardner Publications, Inc, USA.