In 2011, Plastic Components, Inc. (PCI) set out to create a manufacturing facility unique to its industry – a completely “lights out” manufacturing plant that could operate without human intervention. The goal behind its new second building on Bunsen Drive was to eventually operate twenty 50-ton machines 24/7 without operators and ensure that the entire process of molding the component is automated. From the central material handling system to the automated box conveyor system, all parts will be run without human interaction.
Based on experience at its original facility, PCI was able to design a more efficient plant that will allow it to maximize the utilization of the facility. The use of an automated material handling system, overhead cranes and automated packaging system, all monitored by IQMS software, allows PCI to run the machines at Bunsen Drive completely “lights out.” All of the production is monitored and scheduled from PCI’s main facility on Morse Drive using IQMS RealTime™ and other modules that are currently in use at Morse Drive. Additionally, the plant was designed with scalability in mind. Any addition to the current facility will be convenient and will not involve changing any of the automated systems in place. With the core infrastructure in place, expansion is as easy as adding the next machine.
One of the primary challenges PCI faced was the inherently risky idea of running machines without human interaction or human involvement. However, using state-of-the-art technology (IQMS) and monitoring the facility with the use of a network of cameras has allowed PCI to be confident and comfortable with production. A second challenge was the fact that PCI employees had little experience with some of these systems before implementation. However, its maintenance and operation teams trained for weeks on these pieces of machinery and are now confident with using them. PCI employees felt it was important to challenge themselves and use new technology to continue and improve their knowledge base. While there was certainly a learning curve, PCI feels that it was well worth the investment of both time and funding.
Company and industry benefits were quickly realized as the plant became live. Running a facility without any operators, monitored by IQMS technology, obviously improves the profitability of those components, allowing PCI to deliver the lowest possible cost to its customers. PCI has also created a point of pride for members of its organization as every department had a role with the creation and design of the new facility. It was with everyone’s input that this facility was created. Ultimately, the new “lights out” facility has allowed PCI the opportunity to continue its growth and demonstrates that reinvestment within an organization can lead to very successful outcomes.
At this point in time, PCI has yet to register a quality defect from components run at Bunsen Drive. One of the strategic drives at PCI is an effort to eliminate waste and find a way to do things better. PCI feels that the Bunsen Drive facility reflects its organizational commitment to be as efficient and as creative as possible. The successful planning would not be achieved without the IQMS software.
Watch a short 30 second video of PCI's lights out facility.
Plastic Components, Inc. (PCI) is a low cost, world-class producer of small and medium sized plastic injection molding parts, consisting of fully automated production and industry recognized engineering support. Its 40,500 square foot plant in Germantown, WI operates using Toyo and Nissei molding presses with top of the line analytical ERP software (IQMS), expert engineering support (Moldflow) and operational excellence (RJG technology). PCI is ISO 9001-2008 and ISO 13485 certified.