SPC and Factory Systems are helping to enhance quality, increase throughput and improve customer satisfaction at Black & Decker’s small-motor manufacturing plant in Easton, Maryland.
The 240,000 square foot facility manufactures 57-millimeter motors for Black & Decker. These motors are used in both the consumer and professional models of drills, screwguns, jigsaws, palm grip sanders and small angle grinders. The plant also produces string trimmers and hedge trimmers.
The plant began using manual SPC in 1988 after noticing how it improved quality in a suppliers products, according to Dennis Leppo, SPC/TAI Coordinator at the Black & Decker plant. But the plant operators – called “associates” – resisted the time-consuming need to take readings and plot graphs. “They called it ‘connect-the-dots’ on the shop floor,” says Leppo. As a result, the company began evaluating automated forms of SPC. After moving four competitive products through four areas of the plant, the associates voted on which one best suited their needs. “They chose the Factory Systems system,” says Leppo. “It was the easiest to use. We also liked the modularity and ability to operate either as a stand-alone device or in a network.”
The Pareto and other charts generated by Factory Systems at the point of manufacturing are used extensively by “corrective action teams” who meet weekly to make process improvements. Using Factory Systems’ reports and capability to monitor production in real-time, the teams have helped substantially reduce scrap and rework as well as end-user warranty failures. “We can also see the benefit on throughput,” he adds. “Management is seeing the results at the bottom line.”
Management also reviews monthly reports that show how processes run, machine down-time, statistical analysis and shift and associate productivity.
“We are purchasing a lot of CNC equipment,” says Leppo. “When the equipment manufactures a subgroup, Factory Systems gives us a correction factor on that subgroup. The associates can type that correction offset into the CNC equipment, and the next subgroup will be right on target.
Currently, Black & Decker’s 26 Factory Systems machines are running on a twisted-pair network with commincations handled by Factory Systems’ TQC Manager running on two PC’s. The Factory Systems machines are placed throughout the armature winding lines, motor building, armature shaft manufacturing, steel and cast machine areas. There are interfaces to ESW testers, Marposs E3 amplifiers, Slaughter testers and fixtures with LVDT’s. Information from these gauges flows automatically to the Factory Systems system without associate intervention. Later, TQC Manager will be placed on the front-office LAN when it’s expanded to cover manufacturing, permitting access to corporate database. Factory Systems has developed gear-checking software which will enable additional machines to be placed in the gear areas. The assembly area is also slated to benefit from the Factory Systems Machines.
“We’ve been very pleased working with Factory Systems.” concludes Leppo. “It is a very team-oriented company, and its equipment has helped us to substantially improve our operations.”