When Inaccuracy Can Kill

When Inaccuracy Can Kill

MEDRAD Inc. (Warrendale, Pa.) has a corporate maxim with a meaning deeper than the marketing hype: Performance. For Life. As a producer of injector systems used in hospitals, imaging centers, clinics and physicians’ offices around the globe, the statement confirms MEDRAD’s dedication to providing quality throughout their lines of injector systems. It’s performance that can literally mean life and death for patients.

The electro-mechanical injectors, of which MEDRAD produces eight different models, are used to deliver precise volumes, pressures and flow rates of image-enhancing contrast agents during cardio-
vascular and angiography imaging for CT scanning and in MRI processes and ultrasound procedures.

The company also produces auxiliary equipment, including disposable injector syringes, MRI coils, monitors and radiation positioning devices.

According to Dominic Cicchirillo, process manufacturing engineer at MEDRAD, physicians, radiologists and clinicians rely on the injectors for their accuracy. “Doctors and medical staffs, but ultimately, the patients, are depending upon the various injector models we produce to work correctly every time,” Cicchirillo says. “For some applications, the volume and pressure must be precisely maintained at low levels to prevent damage to small arteries and where other tasks may require larger volumes and faster flow rates to ensure defined outlines and image resolution.”

The company received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2003, presented by the U.S. Commerce Department. It has also been named as one of the Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania, and one of its manufacturing facilities has been cited by Industry Week magazine, a Penton Media publication, as a Best Plants Winner in 2007 for its efficiencies, competitiveness, work environment and customer satisfaction.

“We’re continuing to look for areas to improve,” notes Cicchirillo, “in all departments and all job classifications. And, while many may think to improve might mean higher levels of production, one of our more recent productivity enhancements was found in optimizing the plant’s packaging department.”

Material Handling Challenge
It was a challenge that Cicchirillo met head on, helping to develop an ergonomic material handling solution and floor layout that has, in some applications, reduced packaging times by three or more minutes per product.

In the past, as Cicchirillo explains, each packaging associate was responsible for preparing one model of injector for shipment. The packaging, when assembled, would contain the injector, operator’s manual, warranty cards, protective dunnage, plus 10 to 15 accessories (syringes, sleeves, power cord, etc.) as specified on the bill of materials to complete the customer’s order.

Workstation
Flow racks were built
to function in and
around workstations.

“In our time studies of these operations, we found that each operator was spending between 25% to 40% of his or her time walking into the storage areas to pick these auxiliary products and packaging supplies,” says Cicchirillo. “And, then, there was the return to the assembly staging area.”

Part of the improvement in this area was to reorganize the labor into a team concept—everyone supports each other in the product packaging and handles different tasks as needed.

The Solution
The second element to the packaging solution was a new series of flow racks designed and built using the Creform System from Creform Corp. This had a dramatic effect on the smooth flow of parts and components into the assembly areas in the form of labor and time savings. It also freed up valuable floor space for additional storage room and assembly jobs.

“In most of our package assembly stations,” says Cicchirillo, “we’ve arranged the flow racks to feed components into a relatively small rectangular working area.”

Operators need only take one or two steps to reach needed materials and product. Each series of racks at any given station is designed to store from one to several days supply of product. This solution has eliminated repetitive trips for stock to assemble orders.

For other packaging tasks, the assembly stations were moved to the product. In these situations, the Creform-built flow racks were sized with three levels and three lanes to fit under the lower level and within a bay of a standard pallet-style racking system, with the assembly area condensed in aisle ways between the pallet racking. The flow racks provide storage and efficient feeding of components for assembly, while leaving upper rack bays for bulk storage.

All of these flow racks feature easy-maneuver casters, which allow moving them for housekeeping or to reorganize layouts. Plus, since all components flow down the racks in containers, MEDRAD uses Creform’s skate-wheel-style conveyor sections for reliable gravity feed.

“We were able to add six new sections of pallet rack to the storage area, simply because of the space savings afforded by the implementation of these rack-within-a-rack systems,” says Cicchirillo. “With our orders and production typically hitting peaks in the second half of the year, when storage area becomes a premium, the new racks were highly beneficial and economical as compared to alternatives.”

For the first four or five structures built, says Cicchirillo, dimensional requirements were developed. Creform design specialists helped with the configurations. “After these initial pieces,” he says, “we began doing our own design work, with input from the operators, and constructing the flow racks and other units in house. We now keep Creform components on hand to build material handling solutions quickly.”

Continuous Improvement
Cicchirillo says they’ve put together a series of low, knee-high carts that slide under worktables when not needed and hold parts at a convenient height for operator retrieval in production departments. A mini-flow rack was designed and built to store and feed battery packs to assembly, constructed at a height established for comfort in lifting the nearly 20-pound units.

Other projects completed include numerous kitting carts designed to transport specific components for low-volume products from crib areas to multi-product assembly cells. These complement the workstation by orienting and presenting parts for ease of assembly. There is also a 16-position, stationary flow rack with pass-through access to hold all of the different-formed foam dunnage pieces produced to cushion parts during shipment.

Rich Monroe is a technical writer in the Detroit area. For more information, visit www.creform.com.

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