Powered Vehicles: Lift Truck Streamlines Production

Aug. 1, 2008
Crown Equipment Corp. took a page from warehousing and distribution when it revamped its manufacturing process.

As both a supplier and end user of material handling equipment, Crown Equipment Corp. (New Bremen, Ohio) has no shortage of options for reducing costs and increasing efficiencies at its facilities. The lift truck manufacturer recently applied an idea that’s normally used in warehouses and distribution centers. The concept was so unique to manufacturing that the company even applied for a patent.

Previously, the manufacturer’s welding, brake press operations, warehousing and material handling functions for its lift truck door and cover production had been spread throughout the entire plant. Using its own TSP 6000-series turret stockpicker, Crown was able to consolidate these functions into one cell. The single cell handles more than 190 parts in a little more than 20,000 square feet.

The new process employs the concept of cube utilization, a common space-
maximization configuration found in distribution centers. By stacking parts and product, the welders and their work are within a few feet of each other. Parts to be welded and those completed are moved to their proper place in the narrow-aisle configuration by the stockpicker.

Interaction between the stockpicker operator and the welders is based on sight cues much like traffic lights. The lights—green, yellow or red—tell the stockpicker operator which production stage the welder and product is in. A change in light signals the operator to deliver parts, pick up completed work or start picking the next order.

With only one stockpicker dedicated to the welding cell, uptime and reliability are critical. “Our welders depend on the TSP to keep the process flowing,” says Dave Beddow, vice president of manufacturing.

The TSP’s 180-degree turning radius helps maximize space, while its multi-task controls blend multiple load-handling tasks simultaneously, saving positioning time. Crown adds that the truck’s AC lift and traction motors allow for speeds 25% faster than typical trucks as well as smooth and precise acceleration. The main lift speeds are more than 40% faster than industry standards, according to Crown. In addition, the stockpicker is QuickCharge compatible, which contributes to uptime.

“Utilizing the TSP 6000-series allows for uninterrupted productivity, so we don’t have to worry about shutting down the weld cell,” Beddow adds. “The TSP 6000-series has allowed us to rethink the process, providing increased efficiency.”

In addition to saving floor space, Crown was able to reduce inventory by 33%, increase productivity and safety, reallocate labor and significantly improve on-time delivery.

“The TSP 6000 gave us the ability to stack jobs on the line and to work in a very-narrow-aisle environment,” says Beddow. “While it’s common to see a turret stockpicker among distribution center aisles, you don’t see it on the manufacturing floor. This process of production-line consolidation is something that could be beneficial to manufacturing facilities across the country.”

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