At Beaumont, we think differently to find solutions to problems. From day one, our founder John Beaumont didn’t want to just accept the easy button answer, and instead shared his mantra: question everything. From the foundation of the company, the mantra “question everything” has been passed down to each company and their operations. Beaumont Advanced Processing demonstrated this core principle when their team developed an innovative and cost-effective solution that benefits both BAP’s customers and employees.
The BAP team found themselves in a position that a lot of manufacturing companies were in during the COVID-19 pandemic: not all production slowed down, and the production of medical products in particular had an increased demand. This high volume demand meant that BAP wanted to add third shift and weekend operations but did not have the staff levels to match. There were also concerns with running a cleanroom environment unattended over the weekend- what happens if there’s a problem at the machine and there’s no one in the lab? The ask BAP presented to Beaumont’s engineering group was to figure out how the team could monitor injection molding machines without being physically present. The easy button answer would be to pay the cost of having an existing system set up on the equipment. This would have required a significant investment from the company, so we started looking at different options.
The first simple option that came up was using webcams on the machines for staff to login from their phones and view which ones were running. However, we ran into the issue of employees going home and trying to enjoy the weekend, but instead they were pulling up their phones all the time to check on the machines. This created a lot of added stress.
The next step in the solution was brought about by our maintenance engineer who presented the idea of using a home security app to monitor the machines. He worked with the engineering team to set up the system on the machines and app to alert users when the press would send a signal. With this free app that came with the purchase of the security system, the BAP team could be anywhere and have peace of mind that they would be alerted should a machine need attention. The next issue to tackle was someone would still need to go into the lab to get a press up and running as soon as possible after receiving an alert. This meant that the person responsible would have to travel to the lab, clear the alarm, pull the parts that were under the machine, reset the alarm, reset the heats, and wait for the machine to come back up, all of which took up a significant amount of time.
After discussing how to make this system work better for our team, our maintenance engineer suggested that he could build and mount a pneumatic arm on the machines to reset them. Just as someone would use the security system app to turn lights on or off in their home, BAP’s system would actuate a finger to reach out and reset the alarm, and another to reach out and turn on the heats for the machine. Now the person responsible could save time by resetting the machines from their phone. Then, after waiting an hour, they could then go to the lab to simply pull the parts out and press the “go” button and be up and running right away. This final solution allowed the team to see what machines were running, know that there would be enough parts to meet customer demands, and not have to interrupt their personal time to make it all happen. The bonus? All of this was achieved at just a fraction of the cost of the easy button solution. As the BAP team learned more and more about what they could do, Director Eric Bowersox saw his team go from a reactive problem solving approach to proactive. They started looking at additional sensors to add to the machines to get a head start on any issues that arise with the convenience of the system and app. The success of this plan gave our teams the confidence in setting dates, creating plans, and being able to address any issues right away. This confidence directly translates into how our teams work with our customers for even their most complex injection molding challenges. Process Engineering Manager Ryan Gustafson says, “It allows me to prioritize what my people are going to be doing the next day. If a mold went down, I can make it our first priority the next morning to get it back up and running and find out what happened.” Production Manager Rylan Smith also finds a lot of value in the team’s innovative solution. He shares, “Order volumes increased as our customers needed more parts, and with this we were able to get more parts out the door to fulfill their needs. Setting up the system to avoid personnel having to come in on the weekend was a huge morale booster.” BAP’s innovation not only improved business from a personnel standpoint, but for profits as well. The increase in production and morale was supported by this innovative system that was achieved at a fraction of the cost of traditional systems. BAP’s system cost under $10,000 total to set up on all our machines and fixed all the problems we set out to solve. Comparable systems would have cost $60,000-$70,000 to implement, and also required recurring subscription fees. Innovative and creative solutions are part of business as usual at Beaumont Advanced Processing. Eric Bowersox says, “We always have to ask the questions, ‘Why are we doing what we do? Is this the right thing?’ Not just doing this because this is what I’ve always done, I’m just doing this because it’s what the guy who did the job before me told me. We call that tribal knowledge, and we try to challenge that every day by doing something because it is the best solution. And that is what Beaumont as a company tries to do. We’ve expanded into these four companies [BAP, Beaumont Development, Beaumont Technologies, and the AIM Institute] that are always trying to provide something to the injection molding industry, and doing it in a way that can help everybody improve- including ourselves. We are always trying to improve, our goal is to improve the injection molding industry, and that is how we approached this problem.”
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