It was in early 2018 that an Automation Team was officially formed at Team 1 Plastics. Its creation made it possible for Project Engineer Curtis Long to effectively work alongside members of the company’s Engineering and Maintenance departments who had previously worked on End-Of-Arm-Tooling (EOAT) concepts, designs, or builds.
The Automation Team’s goal was to combine those existing in-house skills and equipment to improve overall production efficiency and lead times by minimizing machine downtimes and improving part quality by better handling and packaging. In addition, Long explained recently, “We do take into consideration other factors such as Production capabilities and how the EOAT may impact our Metrology/Quality operations as well as evaluations of production parts.”
Long and the Engineering and Maintenance department members of the Automation Team are scheduled to meet every other week to make sure they stay current on each project, but also remain flexible – a strategy that seems to be working out well. Since the team’s founding, the company has been able to handle more internally designed/built EOAT and some other production and assembly equipment.
In fact, the organization of the Automation Team has helped create a better flow of ideas for each specific EOAT, starting with finalizing the injection tool design, working around the capabilities of Team 1 Plastics’ machines and robots, and planning each action of the post-molding operation until parts are packaged.
“This has helped take some of the pressure off our New Product Process technicians, as well as some members of the Maintenance department, allowing better use of each member’s time,” Long reports. “This enables each department to better utilize its members for certain tasks that may jump up in priority and require their critical attention.”
The Automation Team is working hard to address some current challenges. For instance, with varying workloads across each member and their department, some of the EOAT still require outsourcing to meet internal and customer expectations. So, one challenge they face is accepting which projects the Automation team can handle internally and which is a better option to outsource.
“We all take pride in our work here at Team 1 and want to make sure things are done right the first time,” explains Long. “Taking the time to dissect and evaluate outside sources takes time and must be prioritized into someone else’s schedule at Team 1. Again, varying workloads for each Automation Team member and department creates an interesting dynamic for this. It is something we are looking to improve upon to ensure Team 1 exceeds expectations and ultimately provides quality parts and service to our customers.”