Manufacturing starts with a design and then a plan that’s executed upon to deliver the resulting product. But what sounds simple is in fact an orchestra of factors that makes for complex supply-chain management. Workforce issues further complicate matters. During the absence of key colleagues, many of us improvise and often discover opportunities for improvement. Improvement can mean many different things, but it is best to start from the simplest and work towards the complicated, where additional equipment or automation is the answer.
Automation is sometimes perceived negatively if considered a “replacement” for labor. But on the contrary, automation is a powerful tool to enable the operators’ tasks to be simplified, even to the point of requiring minimal-to-no input from the operator, possibly reallocating precious labor to a value-added process elsewhere in the production stream.
When considering production automation, the furniture industry is particularly challenged in that there is great variance in the fabrics used. When sewing, an operator can go from translucent backing material, to canvas, to leather, all within the same bundle! There are more than 500 fabric types in the furniture industry! This kind of variability can be a hurdle to automation since inconsistent inputs can result in inconsistent outputs.
YKK’s strength lies in not only being a fastening products provider but a collaborator to address challenges across our client base, from materials to equipment to production process. Understanding the particular challenges of the furniture industry, we’ve taken a constraints-oriented approach in helping alleviate labor-intensive, unergonomic practices in highly skilled and repetitive areas.
Here are some frequently asked questions:
Q: Does YKK offer manufacturing equipment?
A: YES! Our department known as the Field Technology Center (or FTC for short) opened its doors back in 1978 to establish YKK as a total solutions provider!
Q: What kind of equipment does YKK currently offer?
A: We have many off-the-shelf designs that are geared towards our fasteners from manual, semi-automatic, to fully automatic. We first started with zipper assembly (cutting, gapping, slidering, installing bottom-stops, top-stops, etc.) and have expanded our offerings to work with other products such as hook and loop, webbing, buckles, snaps, and even the sewing process! We tailor all equipment (or combination of machines) to your specifications, process, and applications, slowly expanding from fastening materials to other processes.
Q: What kind of equipment offerings do you have for the furniture industry?
A: Aside from zipper assembly, snap attachment and hook and loop cutting, we offer sewing setups such as the 2PSM and PAL for efficient cushion/seat-back construction. The 2PSM allows the operator to effortlessly attach panels to zipper chain via an attachment that folds and guides the material through the sewing head. After this first process is complete, the sewn zipper chain and panels are introduced into the PAL machine, which mounts the slider and cuts each unit automatically! Variations of this setup with additional features such as grommet installation are under development.
Q: I want to increase my output, but where do I begin?
A: Always start by self-auditing:
Flow: Walk through the process flow following the work, noting where work-in-process is overflowing or lacking.
Data: Take time-studies and identify labor-intensive processes or stacked operations (if you already have time-studies, verify them and ensure to include handling/setup)
Handling: Keep an eye on product movement in between processes.
After this audit, you will have a better idea of where your constraints are and can address them accordingly.
Q: I would like equipment. Where do I begin?
A: There are a few ways to start. The easiest would be to fill in our online form with your contact info and a concise summary of your needs. Contact us at: *insert Solutions group form web link* and a rep such as myself will reach out for more details and schedule a visit/meeting.
Q: Do the machines include safeguarding to OSHA standards?
A: Yes. All of our machines include labeling and guards to OSHA standards and for general safety. Any additional specifications that may be required should be shared with us so that we can discuss how they can be accommodated (may affect cost).
Q: What if you can’t automate our production process?
A: If we can’t automate, there may still be changes that can be made to allow for automation or, at the very least, room for improvement.
Q: How will I know this improvement actually is an improvement?
A: We generate a cost-labor analysis to better understand the current situation and compare with an estimate of the concept being proposed. With this analysis, you could cross-reference your current production data and review!
Q: Do you sell the machinery?
A: Yes. We do sell equipment, although it’s not our focus. Much like our fastening materials business, we look to offer value-added proposals, which is why leasing is our most sought-after option.
Q: Why should I lease the equipment rather than purchase it?
A: With leasing, unlike purchasing, you are not left to your own devices should something go wrong, since sold items typically have a limited warranty. You will receive technical support (with a promise to receive a response within 24 hours), available both online and over –the phone. Moreover, you’ll have access to our network of technicians located strategically throughout the U.S. You’ll also benefit from warranty coverage on parts where the only expense is shipping!
Q: Is there a qualification that needs to be met for leasing?
A: Every machine request, whether sold or leased, is reviewed by YKK management.
Q: What is the average lead time on machinery?
A: Lead times vary depending on the level of complexity of equipment as well as end destination.
Q: Is training and installation included?
A: Yes! Installation is included for both leasing and purchase options, and training is held during the installation process.
Contact your YKK sales representative or visit our Solutions page for more details.