Problem: A molding shop that employs about 110 people needed more control over resins and processes as it has grown.
Solution: A new materials-handling system and ERP system have provided predictability and visibility.
By Karen Hanna
“Everything was in gaylords sitting at the press, and some of it was hand-fed, most of it was probably drawn up by an air-powered loader sitting on top of the machine. But there was a loader on each machine, and the maintenance required and the space taken up … when I look back now, I can say [it was a] total mess,” Plant Manager Eric Haddad said.
But a multimillion-dollar expansion — including a 9,000-square-foot addition to the warehouse targeted for completion Nov. 15 — has afforded the opportunity to not just get bigger, but better. Two systems that play a role in everything the company does — a materials-handling system devised by Conair and an ERP system from IQMS, now known as DelmiaWorks — have made all the difference, according to Haddad, National Sales Manager Nick Roth and CEO/CFO Bruce Dixon.
“The two big things that we had going on here were space constraints, which this material-handling system and the warehouse expansion have totally fixed for us,” Haddad said. “... And then, as with any plastics company ... there’s so much that goes into molding a plastic product and getting it out the door. Understanding all the costing and everything that went into that and keeping track of it in an organized fashion used to be a task for us.”
Reining in resins
Conair worked with PPE to create a plan incorporating existing equipment with new equipment — including a D600 Carousel Plus dryer, 5485 drying hopper, vacuum pumps with dust collectors, vacuum receivers and new tubing. Overseeing everything is a new SmartFLX flexible conveying control system with a resin selection station.
“What they did was took something from the 20th century and brought it up to the 21st century, where you don’t have labor-intensive chances of mistakes being made,” said Vinnie Carpentieri, the regional sales manager for Conair who worked on the plan before turning the project over to the local vendor that implemented it.
With a portfolio that includes over 30 different resins — many of them hygroscopic — the plant already has seen the benefits of the new system, which has been in place about six months, Haddad and Roth said.
“One of the problems that we had quite often was, if you had a gaylord that [the IMM] was drawing from, we had to rely on the operator to make sure that gaylord doesn’t … run the machine out of material. … The new Conair system has completely eliminated that, which is a huge improvement,” Roth said.
As it has grown, PPE, which employs about 110 people, invested in a new ERP to get a better handle on all the activities it engages in as it turns resins into a range of parts, including spools, canoes, kayaks and other custom products.
Steve Bieszczat, chief marketing officer for DelmiaWorks, said an ERP can tie all the processes within a plant to create a “connected factory” — including in spaces like PPE’s soon-to-be-completed warehouse.
“For the people who don’t have an ERP system … there’s a point when your business gets big enough and complex enough, that you’re putting more energy into keeping balls in the air and expediting things and trying to recover from missed activities, missteps, shortages, last-minute needs,” he said.
Difficulties in providing estimates to customers, or being able to analyze trends, might suggest that’s where PPE was.
With its ERP system, Dixon said, the company has leveraged data and launched into the “big leagues.”
“We were on a kind of an upward trend, but what catapulted us to a hockey stick kind of a climb was in 2018 [when] we purchased an ERP system known as IQMS, which is the Mercedes or Cadillac of the plastics industry,” he said.
The system provides users the insights they need to accurately price products and effectively schedule machine time. With it, they also can better manage their inventories of raw materials and finished parts — a benefit that by itself can spare workers tens of hours per week spent in frustrating searches for items in the warehouse, Bieszczat said.
For Roth and his customers, it’s brought predictability.
“The IQMS has made my life so much easier. … With the quoting module in the system, it is very user-friendly, very accurate. It keeps all the history of every quote that we’ve ever done, so we can always go back to something. With the old ERP system, we didn’t really have these capabilities. ... With the Conair system ... it has just streamlined the material in our building to help everybody across the board on the floor. It’s really brought the company to a different level, just those two things right there.”
There’s a new sense of calm, order and organization, Haddad said.
“It’s so much more efficient, there’s less room for error. It leaves time for improvements and thinking about what we’re doing and paying attention to what we’re doing, and gives people a sense of understanding, they’re not just in this chaos where there’s just stuff piled into a work center and they’re thrown in there to do whatever they have to do to get it done. It’s much more organized,” he said.
Conair Group, Cranberry Township, Pa., 724-584-5500, www.conairgroup.com
DELMIAworks, Paso Robles, Calif., 805-227-1122, www.3ds.com/delmiaworks