Computers handle shop floor rough stuff

Computers handle shop floor rough stuff

S&Z TOOL & DIE CO. INC. WAS LOSING PROFITS RELYING on outdated manual inventory systems and production lines. With its existing system, inputting and updating inventory took as long as 12 hr, during which time the company's presses were at a stand

A vehicle-mounted M-Station computer screen shows forklift drivers at S&Z where inventory is located, the press it goes to, and other job specifications.

Rugged I-Station computers withstand the chips, grease, and fluctuating shop-floor temperatures at S&Z to monitor the company's press production.


S&Z TOOL & DIE CO. INC. WAS LOSING PROFITS RELYING on outdated manual inventory systems and production lines. With its existing system, inputting and updating inventory took as long as 12 hr, during which time the company's presses were at a standstill while materials were located and changed. The metalstamping company wanted to automate the system but needed computers that could withstand the shop's production-floor environment — metal filings, grease, and fluctuating temperatures.

"Not only did we need a computer system that could handle our shop floor, but also one that worked just as well mounted to a forklift as sitting on a desk," says Mike Brueggeman, director of information systems at S&Z. The company chose M-Station vehiclemounted computers and I-Station fixedmount units from Glacier Computer.

M and I-Stations are true PCs running Dos, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Embedded XP operating systems. This lets S&Z interface with its current network and write programming based on input from press operators, forklift drivers, and supervisors. "The ability to bring rugged, full-blown computing power to the far reaches of the shop floor or distribution center is an invaluable data-collection and management tool," says John Geary, vice president of Glacier.

S&Z has 23 I-Stations and 14 M-Stations. It mounted M-Stations on nine forklifts and at five shopfloor kiosks for monitoring time and attendance. Twenty I-Stations are on presses, and three are at kiosks for also monitoring time and attendance as well as tracking sales orders.

"The new system captures every stage of production from receipt of components and raw material through shipment of the finished products," says Brueggeman. When coils of steel arrive, a vehiclemounted unit generates a special serial number and barcode label for each coil and every piece it subsequently produces. With coils labeled, the shop easily updates inventory as it moves in-house or in and out of the facility. When an order comes in for the lot, the vehicle-mounted M-Station screen shows the coil's location, the press number, and job specifications.

As presses run, I-Station screens show continuously updated production and job information. This ensures operators and floor supervisors that the job is running correctly and lets them immediately revise mistakes.

"By pressing a screen button, press operators alert team members on forklifts that a refill coil is needed soon. This saves 15 to 20 min of production time the operator wasted by stopping the press, walking the floor to find the forklift driver, giving him the job information, waiting for the coil, and loading it onto the press," points out Brueggeman.

Screens also show operator performance, including job start and end times, press strokes/min, and the percentage of up-and-down time on the press. All this information available at the touch of a button increases workforce accuracy and productivity.

Glacier Computer
AMHERST, N.H.

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