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Relocating Machine Tools

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

Victor Hugo, French dramatist, novelist and poet

Author: V. Narayan

Location: 2.1.2 Automobile Parts Manufacturer


The company had three large factory buildings at this site. Building No.1 was 150,000 sq. ft., Building No.2 was 90,000 sq. ft., and Building No.3 was 60,000 sq. ft. in area. The production facilities for fuel injection bodies and spark plugs were in the first building, where the main store was also located. Critical component parts of the pumps—namely the barrel and plunger—were produced in the second factory building. A layout of the factory is shown in Figure 22.1.

There were wide fluctuations in market demand for the company's range of products. Flexible production processes were used and batches ran for a few months at a time. It was necessary to change the layout of the machinery to suit the production process for the specific item being produced. This meant that we had to relocate some machines to suit the process. The production planning department had a dedicated layout planning section to design these changes.

Each machine tool required several services. These included power supply, air supply for operating the pneumatic controls and actuators, water supply, and cutting oil or emulsion. In order to facilitate rapid layout changes, the design of the factory allowed the services to be provided on a plug-in basis (see Figure 22.2). There were overhead bus-bars suitably encased in sheet metal ducts, with power sockets located about 10 feet apart. This enabled the ma-

Layout of factory

Figure 22.1 Layout of factory

chines to be wired up in a new location fairly quickly. Similarly, there were overhead water and air pipelines along the bus bars about 15 feet above the floor. These had outlets with valves, also located about 10 feet apart (see Figure 22.3). This design enabled us to make utility connections safely and quickly.

To move the machines, we had to empty the cutting-oil/emulsion tanks. Once transported, we refilled them at the new location. Most of the machines did not have permanent foundations, just vibration damping pads. A few items like presses had heavy concrete foundations and, hence, remained in one place. The production planning layout section identified the machine tools that

Section showing overhead utilities

Figure 22.2 Section showing overhead utilities

Details of service connections

Figure 22.3 Details of service connections

required shifting. Most of the movements were within a building, but some were between buildings.

The company designed and built many of the special purpose machine tools (SPMs) they needed for manufacturing their product range. This work was done in Building 3.

In this company, the work ethic was very strong. Staff accepted flexible working practices. People were expected to meet their targets—this was part of the company culture. The "not-invented-here" disease had not taken hold in this environment. People were used to drawing conclusions after proper analysis. The company was nearly 20 years old, and their staff had seen many changes during its rapid growth. The concept of moving precision machine tools from one location to another was not common practice elsewhere. In this company, it was the norm and the factory itself was designed to facilitate such movement.

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