Shaving Set-Up Time Goal For PNM

Sept. 19, 2006
Investments in horizontal machining and pallet system boost productivity.

Dave Counts sees successes in shaving five seconds from set-up and machining times.

DAVE COUNTS CONSIDERS IT GREAT progress when he or one of his company's 52 employees can shave five or 10 seconds from their set-up time.

"We our of the mind-set that we have to make something 'twiceasgood,' so if we can get five seconds better at doing what we're doing, we are making progress," Counts says.

Counts is the president of PNM Company, a contract shop that serves the aerospace, electronics, medical, food processing, automotive, lighting, government, and commercial manufacturing markets.

While the shop runs a strong quality-program and maintains a low scrap rate, Counts says he has been focusing on reducing set-up time to boost its productivity. "Set-up time is the key to everything. You have to reduce it as much as possible," he says.

PNM recently invested in and installed four horizontal machining centers and equipped them with a pallet-changing system as one way to address set-up times. The 19-year-old company operates four horizontal milling machines fed by a 13-pallet automatic changing system, four vertical milling machines, nine lathes/ turning centers, two Bridgeport vertical mills and a broaching machine. The company has sales of about $7 million a year, and about 60 percent of its machined parts are low-volume runs, which Counts defines as parts that are in lots of less than 30 parts per day.

Its pallet system allows it to mount as many as 45 parts on each of the tombstone pallet faces that are fed into the horizontal machining centers. Different parts can be pre-set on the same pallet faces, and the machines are programmed accordingly.

Presetting parts on the pallets led to PNM cutting part set-up time for one job that typically has lot sizes of 90 parts by 75 percent, from two hours down to 30 minutes, Counts says. And, he has numerous similar stories about reducing set-up time.

Also, the pallet system and horizontal machines allow PNM to set up jobs so that they can run for eighthours attended by one machine operator — whose primary function is to do set-ups while the machines cycle parts — then run for 16 hours in a lights-out, unattended mode.

The operator typically can set up workpieces on 17 pallets in an eight-hour shift. With an average four-minute machine cycle time, each pallet has 12-hours of run time, and multiple pallets queued for the machine allow for well-over the 16 hours of unattended run time.

"We have been in the business of selling labor, and I think we have to get out of that. Now, I am viewing our operation as selling "real estate" on the tombstone," Counts says.

The shift to the pallet-changing system and horizontal machining centers has increased PNM's productivity, but Counts says he is working to boost the company's productivity to reach sales of $200,000 per employee. Reaching that goal — which translates to about $10.5 million in sales with 52 employees — will make the PNM operation world-class in Counts' eyes. With its current amount of sales, PNM now reports $134,000 in sales per employee each year.

PNM Company Fresno, Calif.
Number of employees — 52
2006 sales — $7 million
Markets served — Aerospace, electronics, medical, food processing, automotive, lighting, government, and commercial manufacturing

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