Fabricating: The Automation Leap
- August 1, 2018
When Global Furniture Group's filing cabinet products division Global File needed to revamp its bending operations to increase production, it turned to Prima Power and invested in an automated panel bender, the EBe.
“Prior to purchasing the EBe, all bending was done on manual brake presses,” says Yosi Shachar, general manager of the Concord, ON, facility, one of three Global File manufacturing plants in Ontario. “When your goal is to increase production, you must take the training of your brake press operators into consideration. It takes a great deal of training time to make sure they understand what makes a good part.
“Unfortunately, the cost of labour in Ontario is getting very expensive. We had to increase our production. After calculating these costs, we concluded that we may as well invest in an automated machine like the EBe, which is equal to six people minus the operator. So the gain is five extra people. If you multiply this by two shifts, it’s a gain of 10 people. Three shifts is a gain of 15 people. That was when the decision was made to invest in a machine that will bring us the production capability we needed, without the restrictive labour costs that are becoming a major component in fabricating our products.”
Up to last year, Global File bent all its metal on manual brake press. In 2017, Shachar purchased the Prima Power automated panel bender.
The EBe servo electric panel bender is designed for each fabricator’s production requirements to achieve maximum productivity, quality, and repeatability. The bending operation is fully automated, from the loading of flat punched parts to unloading of the finished product.
Global Furniture Group manufactures furniture solutions, including chairs, desks, workstations, and storage. The company’s filing cabinet division, Global File, has three manufacturing plants located in Ontario. The 32,516 sq m (350,000 sq ft) facility in Concord, ON, is the most modern and designed to build some of the company’s high end products.
“We produce a wide variety of metal cabinets,” explains Shachar. “We sell worldwide through the Global Furniture Group. We build metal desks for offices, schools, the military, and we have expanded lately to building a lot of garage products. We make standard products and also make variations of these products which are designed for specials needs or features, and special areas where people want to use a metal cabinet that is customized for their needs. We can make in excess of 1,000 cabinets per day. Each year we go through millions of tons of sheet metal–mostly cold rolled steel and sometimes stainless steel.”
The EBe is available in models with a bending length up to 3,880 mm (149 in.) and a maximum opening height of 200 mm (8 in.). The new construction features actuations of the bending blade movements (vertical and horizontal) by NC servo axes instead of hydraulic cylinders. The upper tool movements are also made by another NC servo axis.
The EBe provides the high bending quality required in demanding applications. The quality is achieved through control of bending axes, fast and smooth bending motion, programmability, and rigid construction immune to variation in thermal conditions.
Bending automation for productivity
An increasing number of fabricators are facing a situation where large volumes are being replaced by the need to produce small batches on a just-in-time basis. In traditional bending with brake presses, setup times, technical limits in producing sophisticated components and the requirement for skilled personnel may prove problematic in such manufacturing tasks.
Prima Power's automation solution focuses on setup rather than material handling (loading, rotation and unloading are manual). With options such as ATC (Automatic Tool Change) and a barcode reader, the machine makes the setup automatically and activates a new part program.
“In the dollar range that we are dealing with, many times a trained operator will find another job after a few years. The Prima Power EBe has never left us or suffered any back pain, sick days or emergency leaves since it was installed. We trained it by programming it, and it is busy all of the time making highquality parts.
A machine with extra benefits
“We have learned that if you have a machine or a robot that produces parts on a steady basis, it actually pushes the people down the line because the parts are coming at a steady pace, and they don’t stand idle because something went wrong along the process,” continues Shachar. “So the EBe didn’t just make us more productive in making these parts, it actually helped to facilitate production after the machine because there is a perfectly steady stream of parts on their way for welding, painting, and assembly. Once you have a steady supply of parts, there are no excuses, there are no delays, there are no stops.
“If you set up six brake presses to make one part, if one of them goes out of tune, every one along the line is waiting. We see not only the savings in labour, but actually a much larger increase in productivity because no one is waiting. The EBe just runs.”
“We see the entire office module as changing a bit,” says Shachar. “Today, people like more open surfaces, more sofas, and more mingling. We started producing different products that will accommodate the coming change in the market that will take place during the next 10 years. We are focusing more on open desks, lockers in lobbies, etc.
“People don’t like to use key locks anymore, so we developed an electronic lock. We are putting these locks on almost every product because the industry is going keyless, but people still need very secure areas for briefcases and personal items. They sit down at a desk where they can charge their cell phones and sit on a comfortable chair or sofa and they can do their work. The new theory is the more comfortable you are, the more productive you are.”
The EBe has allowed the company to produce more parts with less training “...and the parts are perfect,” says Shachar. “In today’s world where labour is a huge factor in the cost of the product, the EBe has allowed us to stay at home with our own people, instead of going offshore, producing better parts than we have before.” SMT