Progressive manufacturing

Posted on 9 Sep 2010 by The Manufacturer

With over 60 years experience in the design, manufacture and installation of pallet racking and shelving storage systems, UK-based LINPAC Storage Systems has clients ranging from SMEs through to the largest multi-national. Tim Brown talks to operations manager, Michael Rudniak, about maintaining advantage through improvements.

Maintaining strong working relationships with some of the biggest commercial companies in the world is no mean task, especially when providing a product absolutely integral to their operation. Through the provision of high-quality products and excellent service, LINPAC Storage Systems has successfully nurtured relationships with the likes of Amazon, Dunlop-Goodyear, Laddaw, P&O Ferries, Matalan, Marks & Spencer, Argos and TNT — not to mention a raft of smaller companies.

“We are extremely proud of the professional service we deliver to all our customers, regardless of their size,” says Rudniak, who maintains it is the company’s UK base that truly assists LINPAC Storage Systems’ ability to satisfy client needs. “When you’re working to tight time schedules, with downtime being critical, the last thing you need is delays due to products being manufactured abroad. At LINPAC Storage Systems we produce everything here in the UK, and with the manufacturing and management all situated at our Milton Keynes headquarters it ensures the entire team works in unison to deliver jobs on time and in budget.” A short chain of command, backed by experienced designers, structural engineers and a state of the art manufacturing facility, gives the company the flexibility to provide tailored storage solutions in very short time frames. “Our UK manufacturing facility at Milton Keynes gives us a distinct advantage in the marketplace; from here we produce the broad range of APEX racking and shelving products on offer,” says Rudniak. “Quality, service and attention to detail are central to our business philosophy.”

Facility improvements
LINPAC Storage Systems’ state of the art manufacturing infrastructure at Milton Keynes incorporates steel forming presses, specialist steel rolling mills, automatic welding machines and one of the largest epoxy polyester coating paint lines in Europe. Ensuring a high-level of technological advance, the company has recently engaged in important infrastructure investments to help improve production efficiency.

Over the last five years, LINPAC Storage Systems has invested heavily in new equipment, helping output increase ten fold.

Recent investments include:

A new bracing line: this has allowed the company to produce both horizontal and diagonal braces on the one line, while simultaneously increasing productivity by 50%.

An automatic welder: which can weld standard beams with an average of 120 beams per hour, five times quicker than manual welding, while producing a high quality automated finish.

A rolling mill: specialising in rolling, forming and boxing the two-part boxed section beam.

LINPAC Storage Systems commissions two rapid colour change powder paint booths at its plant in Milton Keynes.

“The investment continues LINPAC’s commitment to using the latest technology to maintain its strong manufacturing position in the highly competitive European racking market,” says Simon Smith, manufacturing engineering manager. The new booths provide significant improvements in application control of powder to steel components manufactured on the two large conveyorised lines at Milton Keynes.” The LINPAC project team worked with partner ITW Finishing to replace the existing systems with a new specifically configured solution. Operators, teamleaders and maintenance staff have all been involved in the carefully phased implementation, ensuring the two production lines continued producing quality products whilst customer service levels were maintained at all times.

The control of the application equipment and movement of the paint guns are regulated at central touch screens, ensuring optimum settings are maintained allowing the operator to devote more time to checking and controlling both quality and costs.

The main drivers for the £300,000 investment were:
● Significant reduction in raw materials of over 60% by drastically increasing first pass deposition and high efficiency reclaim systems. Repeatability is ensured by using product recognition, seven servodriven axis and central computer controlled recipes.
● Significant reduction in colour changeover times. The systems allow rapid colour changes to take place, improving flexibility of the manufacturing process by reducing colour batch sizes. Colour changes have been reduced from six hours to under ten minutes with only one operator.
● Both systems are now fed by 600kg bulk feed systems, replacing manually fed 20kg powder boxes. These bulk systems eliminate manual handling issues and reduce labour costs.
● Complete compliance with ATEX/ Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 regulations, with built in fire detection and suppression systems.

The project will generate numerous savings of over £150,000 per year, giving a payback of under two years.

“Involvement with our operators has been key and they carry out their own daily/weekly maintenance as a part of the Asset Care programme, ensuring optimum uptime of these critical pieces of plant.” “The project team have worked closely together to ensure the investment was installed as planned and we are already reaping the significant benefits, I’m absolutely delighted with the system and the team”, said Simon on completion of the project.

To assist the company with further advances, LINPAC Storage Systems has employed its own lean management and continuous improvement programme — known within the company as LPOS (LINPAC Production Operating System). Yearly strategies are set up for each department, with goals, objectives and measures reviewed monthly. The LPOS programme has played a major role in ensuring the organisation survived the recession by operating leanly and keeping costs to a minimum. With the aid of every employee working together as a team, the continuous improvement philosophy has proved a great success.

As part of the program, all operators are responsible for quality and regularly raise issues via daily meetings.

These issues are acted upon using different tools and techniques. Continuous improvement techniques including 5S, SMED, TBM, TPM, SPC have been implemented over the last 18 months.

Hand in hand with the environment
The results of these implementations can be easily recognised within the factory, none more obvious than in the environmental improvements that the company has set in place. While efficiency and productivity have been significant driving factors for improvement, environmental protection has also played an important role. According to Rudniak, LINPAC Storage Systems is committed to protecting and enhancing the environment as a fundamental principle of the company’s business. “We believe that the company should make every appropriate effort to avoid compromising future generations’ ability to sustain their needs,” he says.

The company is implementing activities throughout its operations to reduce the use of materials and energy, increase recycling and minimise emissions and wastes to air, water and soil. The management tem also takes the environment into account when updating operation practices, ensuring the company employs any available technological advancement which may assist in reducing its environmental impact.

LINPAC Storage Systems also takes steps to ensure it is aware of any relevant new understandings in terms of environmental science.

“LPOS has also affected our energy and waste efficiencies, with questions being raised and actions taken, which have resulted in the current improvements,” says Rudniak. “Of all the improvements carried out last year resulting in savings, benefits and an improved working environment, the one considered the main success was the SMED exercise carried out on our main Rolling Mill, which reduced the change over times from four to 1.5 hours and resulted in improved lead-times, planning and productivity.”

Other improvements have included:
● The reduction of the four stage pre-treatment process to a three stage process saving chemicals, gas and electricity.
● Decreased powder usage without affecting quality levels.
● Reduced oven temperatures.

Planned future investment
The success achieved by LINPAC Storage Systems’ existing improvement programmes has encouraged plans for further changes as company plans to increase export sales to mainland Europe.

LINPAC Storage Systems APEX pallet racking could be considered the vertebrae supporting the operational nervous system at many noteworthy companies. Its popularity is largely due to its high quality which is ensured through the consistent implementation of production improvement techniques.

It’s achievements through continuous improvement also greatly assist the company to remain competitive both in the UK and internationally.

Moving forward, continued production investments will undoubtedly further improve the company’s competitive advantage and ensure its ongoing successes.