Baldor Electric Company’s plant at Ashville has won the IWs Best Plants Award 2008. Achievements include predictive maintenance programme that increased machine uptime to 97.8% while reducing maintenance repair cost by 35% over six years; recipient of the Baldor President's Award for outstanding safety achievement in 2007 and 2008; fifth consecutive annual award in 2007 for Outstanding Work In Accident Prevention from the North Carolina Department of Labour. Baldor Electric Company is represented by Baldor Australia .
According to Chris Hoyle, Plant Manager, the plant manufactures power transmission components and is now targeting key suppliers to help them implement lean/Six Sigma. These actions will yield reduced investments in inventory and shorten lead times for both parties.
The plant became a part of Baldor Electric Company when the Dodge-Reliance brands were sold by Rockwell Automation to Baldor in 2007. The facility was originally built in 1979 as a high-volume batch process. Since then, customer satisfaction has fuelled two expansions, raising the number of employees from 30 to 130.
Hoyle explained that at start-up, the plant produced only high-volume sheaves. In 1984, bushings were added to the product mix, and in 1990 synchronous products were introduced. During that time, a make-to-order strategy had evolved. That addition modifies and augments the original production strategy that was geared toward process efficiency rather than customer demand and inventory management. Now with a culture of continuous improvement focused on customer satisfaction, they are meeting market demands for a more diversified product line.
The facility makes power transmission components that are used to transfer power from a motor or drive unit to an output device in industrial applications. That is accomplished using V-belts or synchronous belts on pulley products made at the facility. The coupling products are used to connect input and output shafts for in-line applications.
Products made at the plant are produced from cast iron, ductile iron, steel, or sintered steel. The facility consists of 160,000 square feet and 35 distinct work cells, producing 10,000 finished products. The two primary manufacturing processes are cast iron turning/drilling and powdered metal press/sintering.
According to Hoyle, the facility depends on employee-generated ideas to drive continuous improvements. One example resulted in completing the assembly and packaging steps at the machining cells. By completing the connection from raw material to the packaging of the finished product, they have eliminated all of the non-value-added time associated with material handling between operations and work-in-process.
While connecting processes, the plant has also incorporated load/unload automation in the manufacturing cells. A typical machining cell at the facility includes two CNC turning centres and a vertical machining centre. The load/unload automation helps to counter operator fatigue.
Hoyle further explained that the automation eliminates excessive operator travel during each cycle and provides time for machine operators to perform secondary operations. That work combination varies from gear hobbing, broaching and sawing to packaging product.
The set-up time involved in these robotic cells has also been a major focus during the past three years. The time required for the robot setup has been reduced from 45 minutes to an average of five minutes in three cells. Hoyle concluded that the faster changeover has also helped to reduce lot sizes by 51%.