System 3R automation puts the meat on lean manufacturing
The 77,000 sq. ft of TNT EDM’s plant in Plymouth, Michigan is a temple to the lean manufacturing approach of innovative owner, Tom Mullen, who operates this highly successful $15 million company with less than 40 employees. Key to this distinctive culture is his harnessing of state-of-the-art robots from System 3R to fully automate production cells throughout this impressive ultra-modern, pristine clean facility.
“In 1978 we began as 100 per cent mold & die but due to market dynamics and increasing global competitiveness our reliance on this sector of the market has been reducing over the years, “ explains Tom Mullen. “Our skills and technology base have given us increasing business from precision production markets especially aerospace, automotive and medical devices.”
Hard high-speed milling of graphite electrodes served by a 220 position WorkMaster set-up in two cells
Hand-in-hand with lean manufacturing is the need to maximize productivity and machine utilization and this is where System 3R provides the ideal solutions – the working relationship having been established some 20 years ago.
“It is our policy to be at the cutting edge of the very latest technology in ensuring we are able to work smarter,” says Tom Mullen. “From our initial usage of Macro and MacroMagnum holders on our wire and die-sink machines, our usage of automation has evolved from System 3R’s Robomatic toolchangers to today’s latest generation of WorkMaster robots, which can serve more than one machine.”
Indeed, System 3R have always worked exceptionally closely with TNT in their product development programme, valuing their feedback in order to modify and refine tooling and the new generation of robots.
TNT sets the standard for 21st Century plant environments
Currently there are 10 production cells, each served by a WorkMaster robot and electrode or workpiece-carrying carousel. This not only allows them to work 24/7 – they get at least 120 hours per week out of each machine – but also it ensures that they can remain lean without any detrimental effects on the quality and accuracy of the output.
Three WorkMasters serve Mitsubishi wire machines; five WorkMasters serve Mitsubishi die-sink machines and two WorkMasters serve their high-speed electrode milling machines. Only one operator is responsible for as many as 10 machines!
“Because we are able to be more efficient we remain seriously competitive – especially in terms of quality, accuracy and speed of delivery,” continued Tom Mullen. “Our set-up times are down to a minimum – as low as one hour instead of perhaps an estimated fifty without System 3R. With over 8,000 3R holders throughout the plant we are guaranteed the repeatable accuracy that our customers demand - to the tolerances that they specify. An additional production efficiency is also provided by 3R ‘Ready-to-Run’ graphite electrode blanks, in a wide range of sizes and shapes, which are factory-mounted onto coins/holders for immediate machining. Together with our robot-served production cells which operate smoothly, continuously and reliably, this all adds up to an impressive package from System 3R.”
Three Mitsubishi Wire EDM double cells operate 24/7 – a WorkMaster in each
TNT EDM is a pace-setter in achieving the highest standards of manufacturing efficiency in what is also an impressive benchmark in working environments that is the envy of the industry worldwide. System 3R is proud to be an important part of this success story.
printer friendly version
Automation in general