Plastics Pipeline

Peering into the Future of Plastics in the Automotive Industry

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. May 24, 2016

According to an old Danish prfuture.jpgoverb, “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” This may be true, but if a business is to survive in this world of rapidly changing technology, one must attempt to predict the future and prepare its business for the changes coming.

The plastics industry is no different, especially those focused on the automotive industry. Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the automotive industry, recognizes the need to prepare for the future. In a recent interview, Craig Carrel, President, talked about the changes he sees coming, “Team 1 is excited about the future. There are tremendous changes coming in the automotive marketplace that will create new opportunities for our business to grow and provide value to our Tier 1 customers. The key is to be working with the best Tier 1 customers so that we are partnering with them on the new technology and will be prepared for these changes.”

Although one can’t know exactly what the future holds for the automotive industry, current emerging technology and upcoming governmental mandates do provide a glimpse into it.

According to the CNN 10: Future in Driving report, “A new wave of innovation, led by carmakers and automotive-tech companies, is transforming the driving experience. Thanks largely to on-board computers, our vehicles are becoming smarter, nimbler, safer and more fun ... Fully self-driving cars remain some years away. But new technology in the next five to 10 years will help cars park themselves, monitor the alertness of the driver and even communicate with each other to avoid collisions.”

The YouTube video, Together We Ride, released by Nissan Newsroom in October 2015, gives a clear picture of what this car manufacturer believes is the future of automobiles. “We envision a world where you share your journey with your car, not as a tool, but as a partner. It’s not just about potential about what could be, may be, or what’s possible. This is a promise of a future that’s smarter. Safer. Easier. And absolutely electrifying.”

Emerging technology has allowed car manufacturers to already add many new sensors -- things like, monitoring the traffic around the car (cars talking to each other), monitoring the driver's health and distractedness, and personalizing the interior environment of the car (learning the driver's preferences and automatically adjusting to them).

According to Carrel, “Plastic is a key component of these types of sensors and provides the framework and structure for them.” He then addressed the future of self-driving cars. “We are seeing rapid advancement in systems that will take more control of driving away from the driver. Many are already being added to cars, and more is projected over the coming years. These systems will employ lots of sensors -- cameras, radar, etc. They all will have some plastic components.”

Plastic is also a key component in helping car manufacturers achieve the 2025 fuel economy requirements by Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). According to its website, “Enacted by Congress in 1975, CAFE's purpose is to reduce energy consumption by increasing the fuel economy of cars and light trucks … which will improve our nation’s energy security and save consumers money at the pump.”

In August 2012, Whitehouse.gov announced that the Obama Administration “finalized groundbreaking standards that will increase fuel economy to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by Model Year 2025.”

“Because of their light weight and versatile properties, especially with the upcoming CAFE requirements to 55 mpg by 2025, plastics will continue to play a key role in automobiles,” said Carrel. “We are seeing a renewed interest in material replacement using plastics to help reduce the vehicle weight to improve gas mileage.”

Carrel then addressed the emergence of hybrids, electric cars, and non-traditional fuel cars. “Currently they do not play a significant role in the automotive market, less than 5% market share, but all the major car companies have developed an electric vehicle as one way to achieve the 55 mpg CAFE requirement. No one is predicting they will significantly increase their market share over the next five years, especially if gas prices remain low, but they will continue to grow in importance. The key will be to lower their cost while increasing their range to 300 miles per charge to be competitive with traditional gas engines.”

Automotive industry expert, McKinney & Company, agrees with Carrel. In its January 2016 report, “Automotive revolution – perspective towards 2030,” electrified powertrains are discussed. “Stricter emission regulations, lower battery costs, widely available charging stations, and increasing consumer acceptance will create new and strong momentum for penetration of electrified vehicles (hybrid, plug-in, battery electric, and fuel cell) in the coming years … Over the next decade, electrified vehicles will achieve cost competitiveness with conventional vehicles, creating the most significant catalyst for market penetration. Advances in charging technology, range, and awareness will further improve the customer value proposition.”

The report continued, “At the same time, it is important to note that electrified vehicles include a large portion of hybrid electrics, which means that even beyond 2030, the internal combustion engine will remain very relevant.”

Good news for Team 1 Plastics. “A full electric car has a lot less components, metal and plastic, and would be a major shift for companies like Team 1 who supply a lot of precision plastic components in the traditional gas engine,” remarked Carrel. “The key to the future is to make sure we remain diversified across many vehicle systems, Tier 1 customers, and OEMs to take advantage more of the opportunities and minimize the risk with all the significant automotive market changes. We need to make sure we are providing the ‘best overall value’ today, but we also need to make sure we have an ongoing dialogue with them about their future technology and systems and how can we help them become even more successful.”

Topics: Future Opportunities In The Plastics Industry, Trends, Team 1 Plastics, Craig Carrel, automotive industry, Plastics Pipeline blog, technology, value

Competing Globally Operating Locally

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. March 29, 2016

global_business.jpgHow can you, as a local manufacturer, compete globally? According to Houston Chronicle writer, Brian Hill, in his article, “How Can Small Business Enterprises Compete in a Global Market?”, there is “tremendous opportunity for revenue growth through selling … products and services internationally” because “about 95 percent of the world’s population [is] located outside the United States.”

The opportunity is out there. But how do you seize that opportunity? What are the keys to expanding your business beyond North America? What are the challenges to having a global business?

Hill admits that “It is challenging for businesses that do not have brand name recognition overseas to get a foothold in a foreign market.” However, he argues that “One advantage is that American goods and services are highly regarded in other countries because of their reputation for quality.”

For the article, “How Some US Manufacturers are Successful in Competing Globally”, written for Industry Week, Michele Nash-Hoff “… interviewed several companies that do all or the majority of their manufacturing in the U.S. to find out what they are doing to successfully compete in the global marketplace.”

Here’s what she found out that the companies had in common:

  • All of the products are sold to other businesses (referred to as B-to-B) instead of to consumers.
  • The products fill specific needs and requirements of other manufacturers.
  • All of the companies manufacture their products in America.
  • The companies export their products to other countries.

Although not included in Nash-Hoff’s interviews, Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the automotive industry, fits these common denominators:

  • It serves Tier 1 customers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the automotive industry. None of its parts are sold to consumers.
  • All of the parts are manufactured in its plant in Albion, Michigan.
  • The company currently exports its parts to Canada, Mexico, China, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Honduras, and Germany.

From its beginnings, Team 1 Plastics has focused globally. According to Craig Carrel, President, Team 1 has always had an international focus to its business. “Our target market at the business inception was the Japanese transplant automotive suppliers in south central Michigan -- in particular, in Battle Creek. Automotive is truly a global business. All major suppliers are international and have operations around the globe. Thus our competition is global also.” In fact, Team 1’s business has grown with mostly international automotive suppliers – now mainly European with a North American presence.

A key lesson that Team 1 can share is that it takes time for international customers to feel comfortable with American suppliers. And, in turn, it takes time for the American suppliers to understand the international customers’ systems, requirements, expectations and needs. Carrel said that you want to make sure that your company can meet, and hopefully, exceed the customers’ expectations and needs. In Team 1’s experience, once the international customers gained confidence in its abilities, then their relationships and business together grew quickly.

As with any business venture, Carrel pointed out that there are challenges in being globally focused. For example, “Sometimes key decisions require approval from the company’s Headquarters. This can cause delays, change of direction, or a requirement for additional information. You need to be able to provide support for the company’s local operation so that the Decision-makers at Headquarters feel comfortable and will support the decisions made by the local operation.”

To help the relationships and communication, Team 1 encourages and welcomes visits from its customer’s international teams. “We want to make sure we are known as much as possible throughout their whole organization,” Carrel said.

Another challenge is to make sure your company is globally competitive against the best international competitors. Many of Team 1 Plastics’ international customers have created benchmarks to rate their plastic molder suppliers, looking for the best overall value in service, quality, delivery and price. According to Carrel, Team 1 has received high marks in most areas and has been recognized as a top global plastics molder. The ratings systems “force us to continually improve all phases of our company so that we are the number one choice for precision plastic components.”

Although its customers are international and have operations around the world, Team 1 does not need to follow them around the globe. Carrel said, “We need to make sure we are globally competitive but laser focused on being the top plastic molder in the Americas (NAFTA region). At the tier 2-3 level, our main competition is in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.”

Acknowledging that many Presidential candidates are discussing the negative effects and major job losses caused by the NAFTA treaty, Carrel offered a counterpoint based on Team 1’s experience. He said that Team 1 Plastics has been a major beneficiary of NAFTA and the ease of trade between the countries in the NAFTA region. “We have over 20% of our sales going to Mexican automotive facilities and have grown our business and added jobs because of NAFTA.”

Topics: benchmarking, Team 1 Plastics, growth, manufacturing, target, globally competitive

Making Automation Work

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. February 16, 2016

About ten years ago, Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the automotive industry, made a decision to focus on automation on its production floor. Craig Carrell, President and Co-owner, described the change. “One of the things that we’ve changed dramatically is the focus on automation. When we started, there were a lot of people at machines handling the parts; and over the last ten years, we’ve really seen that the way to go is to move out of direct labor. The automation and the information technology Automation_-_Robot_1.jpgpieces have come down in cost, making it advantageous for a molder like us. So we’ve made a big push into automation.”

Every injection molding press at Team 1 is outfitted with some type of automation. Most have a rectilinear robot that is programmed to perform tasks such as extracting parts and placing them on to a nest and/or a conveyor. Some robots inspect the parts; some de-gate the parts and deliver them into final packaging.

Some presses utilize Gate Cutting robots either built into the End of Arm Tooling (EoAT) or as a stand-alone unit. Others have Selective Compliance Articulated Robot Arm (commonly referred to as SCARA robots). These versatile robots can perform many different operations. They can separate parts when more than one part is produced in a mold. They can count parts. They can perform cell packing. And, with different end of arm effectors, they can even do some measuring and testing.

At Team 1 Plastics, automation is used to minimize the manual handling of the parts, producing a more cost effective process. Automation is also used for efficiency of production. Tim Henry, Production Team Manager and Assembly Manager, put it this way, “A lot of what our automation does is designed to cut down on waste. We know that waste eats up profits.”

Even the way that Team 1 has organized its production floor is based on being efficient. Its plant has four production zones: 

  • Zone 1 consists of 11 injection molding machines ranging in size from 40 to 180 metric tons
  • Zone 2 consists of 11 injection molding machines ranging in size from 25 to 180 metric tons
  • Zone 3 consists of 3 injection molding machines ranging in size from 180 to 280 metric tons
  • Zone 4 consists of 3 injection molding machines ranging in size from 180 to 300 metric tons

Automation_-_Robot_2.jpgDue to the role that automation plays in Team 1 Plastics’ production environment, only one Production Operator is required in each zone. Parts in both Zones 1 and 2 tend to be small, and the machine and automation do the majority of the work, including placing the completed parts into a container. An alarm notifies the Production Operator to print a label, exchange the full container with an empty one, and move the finished goods into the Warehouse pick-up zone.

Parts produced in both Zones 3 and 4 tend to be larger and require more Operator contribution. The parts are placed via a rectilinear robot onto a conveyor. The conveyor then moves the parts to the Production Operator who may have a secondary operation to perform, such as a small inspection or layer packing. The conveyors in these zones are capable of running in either direction to accommodate the Production Operator’s work load for that day’s shift, eliminating extra movement by the Operator.

Printers, located at every press, enable the Production Operator to print a label after the parts are packed. The Operator attaches the label to the packing container and delivers it to the warehouse where the parts are scanned and added to the real-time inventory.

Team 1 Plastic’s production monitoring software, ProMon, also enhances efficiency. The software, available on the touch screen monitor located at each press, provides the Production Teams with a variety of useful feature and functions, including the most up-to-date manufacturing standards, a quick reference on what part defects to look for, order status, and run history, and the software gives the Production Team the ability to create Maintenance work requests.

The software also provides guides for the Set-Up Technicians. It provides detailed instructions of how to set-up the job for the specific part to be produced, what process parameters will be running, what alarms should be set, and what conditions they should look for. All of these functions are available to the Team without ever leaving the production zone.

Henry said that production packets, consisting of multiple documents, required for every production run, used to be kept in filing cabinets. Before the production changeover was produced, someone had to retrieve the multiple documents from the filing cabinets and build these production packets. After the job was completed, someone needed to break down the packets and return the documents to the filing cabinets. Sometimes the paperwork was misplaced or outdated, and the packet would need to be recreated before production could be run. This was a necessary, but tedious and time-consuming process. The addition of the ProMon software at every press completely eliminated this packet-building process.

Efficiency even determines where Team 1 stores each mold. The company used to store the molds at one end of the plant. Someone had to go get the tool when changing to a new part and take the previous tool back to the storage area. Now, the molds are stored near the presses which use them. Henry explains, “Storing the tool directly where you’re intending to use it is another example of eliminating waste.”

And, as mentioned previously, waste eats up profits.

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, automotive plastic components, efficiency, automation, production monitoring software

2 AM Production Emergency?

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. January 19, 2016

What happens in your plastics manufacturing facility at 2 AM when your production team is struggling with a part? Is it automatically a “5-alarm” emergency? Or, do your employees have the information they need to make an informed decision – like knowing that enough product has already been made for the order so they can shut down the part for the rest of the shift?

Does your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software provide real-time production information? According to Glenn Nowak’s article, The Value of Real Time, “Too many manufacturers miss out on critical decision-making pieces of the puzzle because of a lack of timely production details. A lack of real-time information can cause crippling effects throughout the entire enterprise. Live data, on the other hand, can reduce the loss of time, resources and, ultimately, money from the bottom line.”

Your ERP should provide the information that help your employees make a good decision at 2 AM. Nowak pointed out that “Out on the shop floor, the robots and work centers are gathering tremendous amounts of data. Production details regarding performance and maintenance are being tracked, as is in-depth information about the products being made.” That data should be readily available to your employees whenever they need it.

Maybe you don’t have an ERP – many small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) don’t, according to the article, ERP a Big Challenge for SMBs, by Drew Robb “…87 percent of potential ERP buyers fall under the SMB category, which it defines as companies with annual revenues of less than $100 million. The vast majority of these companies do not currently possess an ERP system.”

ProMon.jpgTeam 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the automotive industry, developed its own production monitoring system, called ProMon, that allows a paperless production and quality system on the manufacturing floor. Networked thin-client computers, located at each of the presses, deliver work instructions and quality check points. The touch screens allow the machine operators to interact with them. The operators can quickly and easily record any quality checks they made on the part. And, they do have the information they need to make a good decision at 2 AM.

Gary Grigowski, Owner and Vice President, said that Team 1 Plastics does a “…good job of integrating technology that services what our customers need. Whether it is our ability to easily take in orders, quickly integrate them, consider impact of new order on scheduling, or integrate 100% automatic quality testing.” Speaking of the ProMon system, Grigowski said that “since it was internally developed, it is specifically designed for Team 1's systems and can easily be updated to make it more efficient.”

Joshua Nye, IT Manager, echoed Grigowski on the advantages of Team 1 Plastics’ proprietary ProMon software, “The biggest advantage by far is customization. Basically, if the data exists, we can deliver it to you just about anywhere you want it, and how you want it displayed … If you go with a canned [third-party developed software] system, there will be minor tweaks and views you can create; but overall, you fit into their system rather than their system changing to fit you. Our system is specifically built to work in the way Team 1 has been designed to work.”

But, proprietary software comes with its own set of challenges. Your internal IT department must be able to program the software, including updates driven by customer or employee requests. Nye said, “The priority is always to get the application you are working on fixed or updated with new features as they are needed, however with a steady flow of requests, new ideas, etc., it isn’t always easy to keep up on properly documenting the code, creating, or revising any knowledge base.”

And, with proprietary software, the IT team is literally on their own – there is no Support team that they can call. “When we have a problem or an issue arise, we are the only ones that can really fix it. There is no support center to call to work through the issue; there is no FAQ on a product website to lean on. Big software companies have the developers, and they also employ technical writers and such to create their knowledge base, FAQ, and support sections,” said Nye.

Maybe these IT challenges are more than your company wants to handle. In that case, there are lots of third-party software ERP options for you. And, there is a lot of advice on choosing and implementing them.

Manufacturing Tech Insights dedicated its entire December 2015 magazine to ERP systems, including its list of the Top 10 Manufacturing ERP Solution Providers for 2015.

The Resources section of SoftwareAdvice.com’s website has articles, e-books, and research to help you, including Key Criteria For ERP Software Selection, which offers “guidelines and tips before embarking on an ERP selection project.”

In EnterpriseAppsToday.com, Drew Robbs shares his 7 ERP Implementation Tips:

  • Avoid ERP Rigidity
  • Consider ERP Customization Needs
  • Involve Upper Management in ERP Implementation
  • Focus on Early ERP Expectations
  • Get Right ERP Implementation Partner
  • Pay Attention to Reporting
  • Head to the Cloud

Forrest Burnson, summed up what you need to consider when shopping for a third-party ERP system in his Enterprise Resource Planning Software Buyer Report – 2015, “For prospective buyers, the task of selecting and implementing a new ERP system can be daunting. When selecting a solution, buyers should take into account not only their current needs, but what their needs will be five or 10 years down the road, as well as whether they’ll be able to integrate existing and future data in the new system.”

Burnson continued, “Buyers should also weigh the benefits and drawbacks of different pricing models, and ensure they have a clear understanding of what the total cost of ownership will be depending on which path they take. Finally, they need to consider how well-equipped their IT department is to handle such a massive undertaking, and should seek outside consulting and implementation services if they are unable to do it in-house.”

Whichever ERP system your company uses, make sure that it provides the information your employees need at 2 AM.

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, effective communication, Plastics Pipeline blog, technology, ERP, production monitoring software

Ensure Your Team is Rowing in the Same Direction

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. December 15, 2015

Are all of your company employees striving for the same target? Do your employees even know what the target is?

Think about this … can you imagine a competitive rowing team being successful if one of the members of the team is rowing2.jpgturned around in the boat and rowing in the opposite direction from the others? Or, maybe they are all rowing in the same direction, but they don’t know where the goal line is. Would they be successful then? It’s highly unlikely.

You’ll probably agree with this statement: Having your team know what your business target is and then having everyone work together is a key to a successful business

But, you may be wondering, how do I achieve this?

Consider incorporating Open-Book Management.

“Making the economics of a business transparent, involving all employees to understand and share in the improved financial results, is a recipe for success,” according to Bill Fotsch, Founder and Head Coach of Open Book Coaching. “Labeled, the ‘Open-Book Management Guru,’ Fotsch has helped more than 400 companies boost employee engagement and increase customer retention over the past 25 years.” “The trust and focus on the common good captures the employees’ hearts while the information captures their minds. Open-Book Management creates an empowered, learning organization.”

In the Harvard Business Review article, A Winning Culture Keeps Score, Fotsch wrote, “In many businesses, however, people have no clue what winning would mean. More profits? A higher stock price? How can I affect those? Maybe ‘winning’ just means making my KPIs—or not getting laid off. Employees can’t get excited about winning, because they never know whether they’re winning or not. They need a score to tell them.”

Open-book management can help. It focuses the employee’s attention on a “Key” number -- “the one number that, if improved by a significant margin, will leave the business healthier and stronger at the end of the year. If that number is headed in the right direction, you’re ahead. If you hit an agreed-on target, you win.”

Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the automotive industry, adopted an open-book management philosophy with workers in 1999 so that all Team Members would have the information to act like owners in their jobs. This allows them to focus on a “Key” number with regular updates to help guide the company toward success.

What makes a number “Key?” According to Fotsch, “You can’t pick just any old metric and call it a key number.”  He suggested these three attributes: “It’s directly connected to the financials. It’s not imposed from on high. It’s for now—not forever.”

For Team 1, the “Key” number is Operating Profit. Team Members work together to achieve the financial target of the company – surpassing the pre-determined minimum yearly operating profit. Once this target is achieved, everyone who is eligible earns a bonus.

Why is Operating Profit the “Key” number for Team 1 Plastics? According to its Bonus Plan Summary, it is Operating Profit that creates and drives the bonus. Operating Profit is their best indicator of success - accurately reflects how the Company is doing. And, Operating Profit is easy to calculate and understand.

Each month, Team 1 Plastics holds an “Open-Book” Meeting, sharing the company’s finances with the Team members. The meeting allows for open and honest discussion, allowing the Team Members to ask questions and understand how the company is doing. “We have monthly meetings where we go over our financial statements,” said Craig Carrel, President. “All of our Team Members know what it takes to be successful and share in the related bonus plan.”

And the Team Members appreciate the Open-Book management. Andrew Zblewski, from Team 1’s Maintenance department, shared “Team 1 is a very unique company. The monthly open book meetings allow me, the employee, the opportunity to see the vision of the company as well as the knowledge of any concerns that may affect me personally and financially. These monthly meetings also allow us to voice concerns and ask questions in an open and honest atmosphere. This stops any rumors or fear feelings from growing out of control and allows us to feel more secure in our positions.”

Elaine Luca, Accounting Specialist, shared her perspective, “As the Accounting Specialist at Team 1 Plastics, I see on a daily basis all aspects of the company’s financial information.  It brings a ‘trust’ factor knowing that this information is shared with all Team Members. This open book policy gives Team Members an understanding of how the company is doing; it opens the door for them to participate with questions or comments.”

Open-Book Management has worked for Team 1 Plastics. “With a company that is comprised of Team Members who conduct themselves as owners, better decisions are made at all levels because all Team Members have a vested stake in the outcome,” said Carrel.

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, automotive plastics, team, open book management, profits, transperancy, target

Which Check-Out Lane Do You Use?

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. December 1, 2015

You’ve just put the last item in your shopping cart and head to the check-out area of the grocery store. If you’re like me, you scan all your options for checking out and quickly access which option is best for you that day.

Which lane is fastest? Should I use the self check-out machines? Do I want the convenience of a cashier? Do I have a previous experience with that cashier? Is the cashier efficient and accurate?

In just a few seconds, the options are weighed, my decision is made, and I steer the cart for the lane I’ve chosen.

As a manufacturer, you have similar options on what is the best solution for assembling your product. Sometimes, it makes sense to assemble all the parts in house, like using the self check-out option. Maybe the parts are from several different suppliers or maybe you make all the parts in your plant.

Other times, it makes sense to have some of the parts assembled by a supplier, like the convenience of a cashier. Maybe the same supplier already has several of the parts. Shipping parts separately adds time and money … more shipping containers, more work for the receiving department, and more storage space required.

assembly.bmpThink of Team 1 Plastics like an efficient, accurate cashier. Team 1 can coordinate with you to produce the assemblies you need. Led by Shelley Lewis, hired in 1990, Team 1’s Assembly Team focuses in on assemblies that have at least one of its own molded plastic parts. It works closely with you to purchase any additional components such as springs, pins, and inserts, or painted or electrical components.

It’s very difficult to expect someone to do something perfect 10,000 times a month, but the four assembly machines used by Team 1: Grease Machine, Knob Machine, Hot Plate Welding Machine, and Float Stalk Machine, have safeguards to detect operator errors. For example, an operator must insert a spring and attach felt to a plastic case for a product that Team 1 assembles. The tool used by the operator will detect whether the part has these items and will not allow the Grease Machine to cycle if either part is missing.

In addition, each of these machines ensures quality parts by incorporating error proofing (poke yokes) or laser and vision systems. These minimize quality defects like missing components and non-functioning assemblies. For example, parts sealed together by the Hot Plate Welding Machine undergo a Leak test to ensure that the seal is correct. The tool testing the part measures the seal for air and tests the PSI. The testing tool will mark the part if the seal passed the quality test.

It may not always make sense to choose Team 1 Plastics as your “check-out cashier” for light assemblies, but when you do, you can be assured you will have a good experience.

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, plastics, efficiency, manufacturing, team, assembly, value

How to Reduce Unscheduled Downtime

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. November 3, 2015

Unscheduled Downtime can cost you time and money, and potentially a loss of customers. No one wants that! So, how do you reduce Unscheduled Downtime?

Team 1 Plastics has developed three practices that have dramatically reduced the amount of its unscheduled down time.

The first practice is its daily Huddle Meetings. Representatives from each of the departments meet together each morning to discuss any problems that have risen during the previous 24 hours. They also share updates on any current Hot Topics. The Huddle Meetings encourage the flow of communication and ensure that each item is being handled appropriately and allows prioritization of the most critical issues at hand.

The second practice is Preventative Maintenance. Team 1 does a complete mold teardown after 25,000 shop count hours. And, each machine has a complete screw and barrel replacement after 5,000 run hours.

To help with coordinating the scheduling of the Preventative Maintenance, Team 1 posts a Maintenance Schedule Board in the plant. The five-member Maintenance Team works with the Logistics Team to create a two-week schedule. The schedule ensures that any customer-related issues, such as customer rejects or internal quality control concerns, are given the highest priority. It also allows the company to apply the right resources at the right time and to the right projects.

When a mold nears 25,000 shot count, the company’s Express Maintenance System sends a notification to let Logistics know that it’s time to schedule preventative maintenance. The Maintenance Team tears the die down; then, they inspect, clean, and lubricate all of its components. Any possible defects are photographed, and an analysis of previous samples is made. When all the concerns have been addressed, the die is reassembled and ready for production.

As part of the preventative maintenance practice, Team 1 keeps a spare screw and barrel system for each molding press machine. After 5,000 run hours on a machine, the current screw and barrel is replaced with the spare one. The Maintenance Team inspects the screw and barrel that was removed. If repairs or corrections are needed, it is shipped to an outside vendor for adjustments.

Team 1 admits that to keep a spare screw and barrel system for each machine, it was “… a huge cost up front, but unscheduled down time is down dramatically since we started doing it in the late 1990s.” This preventative maintenance practice has virtually eliminated any quality problems that were related to check rings.

Of course, not all maintenance is planned and scheduled. The third practice to eliminate downtime is Team 1’s preparedness for the occasional unexpected downtime due to a machine issue. This is accomplished by scheduling the Maintenance team to work on two different shifts, and by having all Maintenance Team Members on call 24/7.

By utilizing each of these practices, Team 1 Plastics has greatly reduced its unscheduled downtime, saving time and money, and most importantly, providing exceptional quality for its customers. 

Topics: Team 1 Plastics, preventative maintenance, effective communication, efficiency, unscheduled downtime

Practical Ideas for Effective Communication

Posted by Brenda Eubank on Tue. October 20, 2015

Do you know the difference between “Communication” and “Effective Communication?”

 “Communication” can be defined as “the exchange of information or news” while “Effective Communication” produces “a desired effect which is the result of intentional or unintentional information sharing.”

Every organization strives for effective communication, but it sometimes falls short of its goal. So, what are some practical ideas for achieving effective communication?

Let’s examine some tools and practices that Team 1 Plastics uses to create an environment in which all team members can effectively communicate with one another.

At Team 1 Plastics, information sharing flows in three distinct ways, and specific tools are used to assist each flow. 

  1. From Team 1 Plastics to its Team Members
  2. Back and Forth between Team 1 and its Team Members
  3. From the Team Members to Team 1 Plastics

First, let’s look at some tools used to assist the flow of information from Team 1 to its Team Members.

One of the tools used is SharePoint – a web-based application used for document and content management. SharePoint is available to each team member on any of the computers or kiosks in the plant. A team member can read general announcements, safety information, or access HR forms and policies.

Another tool used is Break Room Monitors. Information on the monitors is kept updated and contains pertinent information to the Team Members, such as important notices, employment opportunities, and company performance updates. The slides on the monitors scroll every 10-15 seconds.

Second, let’s look at how effective communication is achieved back and forth between Team 1 and the Team Members.

The use of email is an effective tool. The Team Members are issued a company email address on their first day of hire. To encourage regular checking of their company email, the Team Members’ electronic pay stubs are emailed each pay period.

Monthly Open Book meetings are held for all Team Members enabling the Team Members to know exactly how the company is doing financially and what strategic planning is occurring.

Another tool is daily production meetings. Each plant department meets to discuss their work production and any issues that may have emerged.

Annual 360 reviews are prepared for each Team Member – managers, supervisors, and hourly employees. During the review process, the Team Member’s peers are given an opportunity to respond to a survey regarding that Team Member’s work attributes. The Team Member and his/her supervisor will discuss the positive and negative findings to the survey with an objective to help the Team Member improve in work performance.

The third flow of communication is from the Team Members to Team 1. The main tools used for effective communication in this flow are surveys.

Each year, the Team Members are encouraged to participate in the Annual Team Member Satisfaction Survey. The questions in the survey are the same each year so that yearly comparisons of the results can be made. Questions include the following: 

  • I like knowing the company financial information that is shared with team members.
  • Within the last year, someone from Team 1 has talked to me about my personal or professional development.
  • How satisfied are you with health insurance?
  • I know what is expected of me at work.

The survey is emailed to the Team Members. To encourage participation of the survey, a Music Survey is included. The Team Members can choose what genre of music they prefer to be broadcast throughout the plant. Response rate of participation for the Annual Team Member Satisfaction Survey is generally 60-70% of Team Members. After the survey has been completed, the results are shared with the Team Members.

For the past two years, Team 1 Plastics has participated in the Plastic News’ Best Places to Work survey. 75% of the ranking comes directly from the results of the Team Members’ response to the survey. In both 2014 and 2015, Team 1 Plastic was ranked in the top 10 of this national survey.

Using all of these communication tools, Team 1 can analyze feedback and determine what changes need to be made to improve communication. Effective communication fosters trust and builds positive relationships which leads to excellent Team Member morale and a healthy work environment.

Team 1 Plastics Insures Workplace Safety - Results in 5,000 Days Without a Lost Time Accident

Posted by Daphne Myers on Fri. April 24, 2015

On June 29, 2014, Team 1 Plastics reached 5,000 days without a lost time accident. When it comes to developing an environment to obtain this outstanding safety record, Team 1 has provided work practices and policies that result in proper training to help team members succeed. These work practices, policies, along with communication among team members have resulted in not only reaching 5,000 days without a lost time accident, but a culture of team work that contributes to team member success.  Here is a list of some of the practices that contribute to achieving this remarkable event:

1.) All new team members that work on the floor receive proper training when hired. On the first day of work, the very first step of learning the job is safety. An Orientation List of 23 items is used for training. The first 8 items on the list are required to be completed on the team member's first day. The other items are covered over the first two weeks.

2.) Potential team captains follow a Captain Training Form. Team members must complete this training to be eligible to bid on captain positions. This is an eight week training schedule with many of the items related to safety.

3.) Once a year, team members attend a Policy Review Meeting. During this meeting, team members review all pertinent policies, including any revisions and updates made in the prior year.

4.) Once a month, the safety committee meets to review accident reports, near misses and other safety related concerns.  The safety committee is made up of cross functional team members and management representatives with ownership oversight.  All issues are recorded and assigned to the proper department for disposition.

5.) Commitment to working safely is reinforced in Team 1's Championship Dream which focuses on Team Members Success.

6.) Team Member Satisfaction Survey that is completed once a year addresses safety in one of the questions. Management does what is necessary to make Team 1 Plastics a safe place to work.

In closing, Team 1 Plastics has been recognized for their efforts in maintaining a safe work environment. Since 2012, Team 1 has received two Silver Achievement Awards presented by the Society of the Plastics Industry, SPI. Silver is awarded to worksites with no OSHA recordable occupational injuries or illnesses involving lost workdays or restricted work activity during the calendar year. Team 1 also recognizes the efforts team members have contributed. A celebration took place in late September of 2014 to commemorate the milestone with over 70 employees in attendance.  Safety is truly a team effort.

 

Auto Suppliers Managing Labor and Capacity to Meet Production Needs

Posted by Daphne Myers on Thu. July 10, 2014

A consistent theme in the automotive market for the last couple of years has been concerns about the supply chain being able to manage labor and capacity constraints to meet current and projected production schedules.

An article Labor, Capacity Constraints Remain Concerns for Auto Suppliers written by Joe Boomgaard managing editor of mibiz.com expresses the expectations of future growth in the automotive industry.  With a projected increase of 3.0 percent in production volumes this year, concerns about capacity constraints and the supply of labor continue to be key issues for the remaining year. 

Production in North American light vehicles is projected to be over 16.7 million this year, an increase from the previous year and continues a rising trend over the last several years. In addition, the frenetic pace of vehicle launch activity means new part numbers and all the ramp-up and product validation that comes with these new parts adds to the concerns about the supply base keeping up.

To meet this increasing demand automotive suppliers are looking to add hourly and salaried staff, invest in new plants and equipment while also looking at alternative schedules. The key for automotive suppliers, like Team 1 Plastics, is to have excellent communications with their customers on current and future demand while also developing robust internal capacity planning tools for both equipment and people. Thus, they can project when to add equipment or people so that they are fully capable and ready to handle this additional sales volume. 

Topics: automotive market, Plastics Industry, automotive plastic components, precision components