Allied Plastics continues making strategic capital investments that enable it to react faster to growing demand and evolving OEM customer needs.
“We’ve been pursuing additional equipment to increase our capacity for quite a while now,” says Mike Stark, Director of Operations at Allied Plastics. “Most recently, back in February, we started looking at various equipment options to set up an additional trimming cell. We saw a new CNC trimming machine come onto the market in early May. We bought it and had it installed in just a few days.”
The new CNC trimmer was spec’d out exactly like the machines Allied Plastics was already running. This helped simplify and streamline the machine’s incorporation into the existing operation. Additionally, Allied Plastics has an advantage in that its in-house technical staff are well-versed at installing new machinery like a CNC trimmer.
“We don’t have to hire a third party to install and set up our new equipment,” says Jon Larson, OEM sales manager at Allied Plastics. “That’s a big reason why we are able to purchase a new piece of equipment and get it up and running so quickly. Our maintenance crew is so talented. They make it look so easy, almost like it’s plug-and-play. There’s a lot more to it, obviously. But the bottom line is that they were able to get our new CNC machine up and running quickly. That’s of benefit to not only Allied Plastics, but also our customers and their changing needs.”
Investments help keep pace with changing OEM needs
Allied Plastics now has nine CNC trim machines, four robot trim cells, 14 formers, and two extrusion lines. Stark says more investments could be coming down the road. But in the meantime, he feels really good about his team’s ability to produce at an extremely high level.
The new CNC trimmer has been set up to help produce Allied Plastics’ expanding lineup of proprietary products. This helps free up existing CNC machines to keep up with regular orders from OEM customers.
“Right now we are running a lot of JIT (just in time) for our OEM customers,” Stark points out. “Many of our customers have much volatility due to supply issues that lead to drop-in orders. We need to be able to react to their needs. The addition of this new CNC trimmer gives us another tool in our arsenal to be able to do that. It is definitely going to help us with throughput.” That means Allied Plastics has to produce smaller orders faster and more frequently. That requires a highly efficient operation that is properly equipped to react nimbly.
Investing in technology neutralizes labor challenges
Another trend that has emerged in more recent months relates to staffing. A year ago there was chronic unemployment across the country. Today many companies, particularly manufacturers, have a chronic inability to find enough workers to keep up with growing demand.
“We’ve been running longer first and second shifts in order to keep up,” Stark says. “The new CNC machine will really help us increase our production capacity with the people we have on those first two shifts.”
Another important benefit of having technologically advanced CNC equipment relates to the concept of human error.
“Nobody makes a mistake on purpose,” Larson says. “But it happens, and that’s another advantage of installing another CNC trim cell. This machine takes away the potential of operator error. It just doesn’t make mistakes. We still manufacture some legacy parts that are set up to be routed by hand or with a fixture. Adding CNC capacity allows us to move many of those parts to an automated trim cell. That is better in the long-run from a quality standpoint.”
There is also a safety advantage to be gained.
“Having another CNC trim cell allows us to further reduce the number of hand tools our employees are having to operate on a daily basis,” Stark says. “As we’ve continued to invest in equipment like this, Allied Plastics has become an even safer working environment.”
Safety is part of efficiency and productivity — all of which are part of quality. Allied Plastics continues to focus on improving in all of those areas. Investing in cutting-edge equipment is a big part of that focus.
“If you’re sitting still, you’re not moving forward,” Stark says. “We are working hard and making the right investments that enable us to react quickly to our customers. In the 25 years I’ve worked here, the plane has yet to level off.”
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