Emco Wheaton Adapts To Change With Leantek

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Switching to modular Leantek workstations has enabled Emco Wheaton to introduce highly adaptable production cells as part of its ongoing lean manufacturing programme.

The new self-contained production cells can be modified easily and rapidly to support changing manufacturing requirements and priorities and deliver continuous business improvement.

“We are aiming for maximum flexibility in manufacturing methods and what we manufacture so that we can adapt to changes in the market as soon as possible,” says Brian Langsdon, Production Controller at Emco Wheaton. “I wanted something that I could take apart and adapt whenever I wanted.”

Emco Wheaton has made products for the safe handling of hazardous fluids for over 50 years and is the world leader in design and manufacture of petroleum tank truck equipment. The company, part of Gardner Denver, has recently opened a new facility in Margate in the UK, where it has been based since 1953. For the last two years the company has been adopting lean manufacturing to replace its traditional batch and queue production. The objective is to optimise the overall production process and implement cellular manufacturing and related concepts such as single piece flow, Kanban and 5S to support highly flexible production processes and continuous business improvement.

When it started its lean manufacturing programme the company fabricated its own workstations by welding steel components. These workstations performed well and provided an interim solution but as the programme developed the company recognised that greater adaptability was required so that production cells could be modified and configured to meet evolving production requirements.

“The key benefit of working with The Tube and Bracket Company is the partnership we have developed,” says Brian Langsdon. “We discuss ideas and they come up with a solution quickly.”

Working to Emco Wheaton’s basic specification we devised and built ten workstations with modular Leantek components. The range of interchangeable and reusable components includes tubes, brackets, wheels and accessories that can be assembled into lightweight and manoeuvrable workstations, carts and trolleys that offer greater flexibility and cost effectiveness than comparable devices made from welded steel and similar materials.

The workstations were designed specifically to be self-contained for use in production cells for two of Emco Wheaton’s core products. They include areas for product working and assembly and incorporate ancillary facilities for lighting, power and air supply. Production schedules and other information can be displayed on small noticeboards integrated into the overall design. Each workstation is mounted on locking wheels and can be moved or repositioned easily by one person.

In line with lean manufacturing thinking the workstations have been designed to optimise the working environment and occupy exactly the right amount of space for the process they support. The modular nature of their construction means that they can be modified whenever production requirements change by altering the basic dimensions or by the addition or removal of components.

“The Tube and Bracket Company has given us nice clean workstations which include all the accessories for these production cells,” says Brian Langsdon. “It is key to the factory that everything has its place and it becomes obvious when it’s wrong.”

They assembled the workstations at their factory in Banbury and delivered them to Margate. Small modifications were made during installation to ensure that the production cells were optimised for maximum efficiency. Further beneficial changes were made as the production cells went live. Each workstation originally had two locking wheels but it was soon realised that four would be provide better stability. We supplied and fitted the additional components on site. The workstation noticeboards were also repositioned to make them easier to see.

We couldn’t do this with a welded workstation,” says Brian Langsdon. “If a cell is not right we can take it apart and rebuild it.”

The new production cells will enhanced Emco Wheaton’s lean manufacturing capabilities and help it to introduce single piece flow for its core products. As the company continues its drive towards lean manufacturing it plans to standardise on adaptable modular solutions for its production cell workstations and other equipment.

“One of the challenges with this type of change is that it’s an ongoing process,” says Brian Langsdon. “We wanted to work with a company that understood what we’re doing and could help us provide a uniform solution throughout the factory.”

Trilogiq provides lean manufacturing solutions that help deliver Kaizen-based continuous performance improvement to customers in manufacturing, engineering and production. Its modular Leantek system comprises coated steel piping, joints and fixtures that can be assembled into a variety of solutions including live storage, carts, trolleys and ergonomic workstations for use in Kanban and first-in-first-out stock management and throughout the manufacturing process. These can be modified or reconfigured quickly and easily to meet process change. The company offers a complete range of consultancy, project management, design, build and component supply services.