Department Profile: Materials
Team 1 Plastics, a plastic injection molding company for the mobility industry, believes that “Building an exceptional company is the result of building exceptional teams with exceptional people.” Today continues a series of articles profiling Team 1 Plastics’ teams – its Departments. Meet the Materials Department.
Name of Department: Materials
Dave Sanford, Operations Manager, has been with Team 1 Plastics since 1998. “I started in Production. Then I moved into Material Handling, then Shipping and Receiving, then I took over Materials as well as Shipping and Receiving, and then took over Purchasing and Scheduling, along with [the other departments]. I did that stint for numerous years, then in 2014 I moved into a Quality Manager position and then two years ago I moved into Operations Manager.” It’s been a great learning experience, all 23 years of it. I feel not only well-rounded but that I also have a good understanding of how all the departments work with each other.
“I’ve been through the good times with Team 1, as well as the bad times,” Sanford recounts. “First the financial crisis (of 2008), then the (Japanese) tsunami (in 2011), and now the pandemic. When we look back at them, they were horrible times to go through, but we learned crisis management steps we’ve needed to keep moving forward.”
Currently, Team 1 is running two daily shifts with four teams: A is the day shift, and B the night shift on Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. C is the day shift and D the night shift on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays; the teams work on alternating Saturdays.
How does your Department support Team 1’s Customers? After an expansion of the Team 1 facility in 2016, the Materials department was relocated to be adjacent to the Production department’s area. Sanford reports that the decision has been a positive one.
“Things are running much more efficiently. We’re constantly evaluating everything because there is not enough room for all of the material to be down there, so we keep reviewing to determine which are the higher usage materials and those are the ones we try to store in this area. The others are stored in the warehouse and brought down as needed.”
Sanford explained that a much-more-efficient storage organization system that has been put in place has also improved efficiency for Team 1. “Materials used to be stored in barrels or gaylord containers identified and organized by the internal part number order on the racks. Now, materials are stored in barrels that are themselves maintained in numerical order with an electronic master list of what’s in each barrel. So, it’s very important that the data be kept up to date, so the wrong material isn’t used.”
How does your Department support Team 1? “Having the material handlers here [in the vicinity of the production team] helps because they are in constant contact with the [production] captains, the dye-setters, and to some extent, the process engineers. It’s great to have them in the same building now so if something special comes up they can go to each other. And it works both ways,” Sanford explained.
“We continue to share usage of the Production Monitoring System. It tells not only the material handlers but anyone else in the plant exactly what is running at what press. The Blend database shows material handlers how much material will be consumed in a 12-hour shift, and how much material is required to finish the whole production run. The old mentality used to be ‘take everything for the entire run to production at one time.’ Now it’s 100 kg are needed, so I need the dryer and two bags, or I need just the dryer, so it really helps them plan out how much material to actually bring out. It’s much more efficient.”
Describe a typical workday in your Department. Materials Handler Linda Allen joined Team 1 about six months ago. “My mother, father, and step-father have all worked here at one time,” she said, musing that Team 1 was, in fact, in her blood. When Dave Sanford joined Team 1 in 1998, Linda’s mother, Karen Converse, was actually his supervisor in the Production Department.
Allen says that in a typical workday, besides transporting needed materials to their production destination, “I clean and fill the dryers for the presses that need to run, and then get the material down here as needed to keep the presses running – if the materials are not down here, they can’t run.” It’s all a learning process, it’s really busy. I pretty much do the same thing every day – but it’s different every day, so it’s interesting! I guess the hardest part of my job is that I’m the only material handler right now, so I have to make sure that everything is done, from the dryers being prepared for two shifts because I do the day shift and the night shift. It gets busy, but the time goes by really fast, so I’m never really bored.
The Matsui dryers are a key piece of equipment for Production because the moisture content in plastics adversely affects the quality of molding. If there is excessive moisture in the resins, it can lead to defective parts. The dryers remove moisture from resins to prevent molding of defective products, their cleaning is essential. Importantly, Allen explained, “The ongoing cleaning of Production’s dryers, presses, and loaders has resulted in the improved overall cleanliness of the final products, and less contamination.”
Share an example of a problem/challenge that your Department encountered and how you solved it. “When Maintenance moved into part of the new building – especially if you compare it to the warehouse and how that’s set up – we condensed the aisles of racks where the materials are stored down to 9-foot aisles whereas before they had 16 to 20 feet aisles, so it’s a lot denser. That required us to purchase new equipment: we now use a Stacker, or walking transportation unit. So, there was a learning curve with that, operating in close quarters, and most people had never used one before. But our team caught on fairly quickly and are efficient at using it,” Sanford replied.
What is One Noteworthy Recent Accomplishment by your Department? “Since the 2016 relocation of our department, Team 1 has improved the overall cleanliness of our materials, as Linda had mentioned,” Sanford responds. “We’ve also isolated, or designated, some presses as ‘clear lens presses,’ but we can’t necessarily do that with our dryers. Any dryer at any time could have had blue material, yellow material, black material, clear, or any color of materials in it, and looking at our overall scrap rate and rejections from our customers, that contamination has been reduced. It’s not zero, but it’s less than it had been. And a lot of that correlates with how the material handlers are cleaning the dryers, cleaning the filters, cleaning the hoppers on the presses prior to changeover so everything really needs to be as clean as possible prior to switching materials over.
“They’ve brought in some new dryers that operate a little differently than most of the ones that we have. And there’s a bit of a learning curve there because they have shutters, and the release of material has to be programmed so that only an exact amount is released from the dryer and goes to the molding machine at one time. That’s opposed to the older style dryers that just continuously release material.”
What does your Department take pride in? Sanford explains Linda’s newest assignment. “Linda has been tasked with not only learning about materials for herself but right when she was getting a grasp on it, it was, ‘Oh, by the way, train somebody else.’ She’s doing an exceptional job as far as making sure her must-do tasks are done and then spending time with the person she’s training. If she doesn’t train him correctly, when he goes to the night shift and she stays on days, if he can’t get something done, at the end of the day it will roll over onto her. So, if you train him as best as possible, it makes your job easier. So right now, Linda is working eight hours Monday through Friday, supporting a production facility that is running 24/7. And her job is critical, because if she doesn’t have the material made up for us or doesn’t have it staged for prep, then the machines go down as busy as we are.”
What are the Current Goals for your Department? “Presently, we are looking for ways to reduce material movement, reduce contamination and prevent unplanned downtimes of presses due to lack of material,” Sanford reports.