Application: Millwork, Moulding, Cabinetry
Roland Boulanger implements a new Door Frame Workcell
When making door frames, you would think of moulding, precision end trimming and coping as separate operations. That may work just fine if you are a specialty shop performing that task occasionally. However, if you are producing thousands of door frames every week, every hand that touches your work in process has an impact on your chances of turning in a profit at the end of the day.
Volume Production vs. Quality Assurance
Boulanger is one of the largest mouldings manufacturers and distributors in Canada. The company offers an impressive range of decorative mouldings for both residential and commercial use. Its products are available in more than 1,000 sales outlets in North America. It employs more than 500 people work at its main plant and its distribution centre both located in Warwick Quebec. With a tolerance of 6 thousands of an inch, Boulanger has one of the most stringent quality assurance programs in the industry.
"Initially we approached Doucet for a vacuum stacker. "Doucet's response prompted us to look at the entire process rather than to limit ourselves to a piece meal approach..." says Paul Turcotte, vice-president of manufacturing at Boulanger. "We quickly realized that we could create a continuous workflow with virtually no interruption from the moment the incoming blanks would be de-stacked to the moment when the finished door frame components are re-stacked". Beyond the obvious productivity gains Boulanger also wanted to put the emphasis on its quality assurance program. "We pride ourselves of being a world-class supplier of architectural wood products and our quality assurance program has been the corner stone on which we have built our reputation".
The Process Integration Approach
Doucet proposed to build an integrated workcell with a compact rectangular footprint. With the finished product ending up beside the incoming blanks point of entry, the same vacuum lifting device can be used to feed layers of incoming boards to the moulder feeder and to re-stack the finished product. The workcell's operator has an opportunity to visually inspect every piece of finished product.
Boulanger's Challenges and Doucet Solutions
In the days when the step-by-step approach prevailed, four operators were needed to reach the volume targets. That was one de-stacking and feeding the moulder, one tailing the moulder and re-stacking. Then the re-stacked product was moved to the double-end tenoner infeed and two more operators de-stacked, fed, tailed and re-stacked.
Built around Boulanger's Leadermac Moulder, Doucet's Innovative Manufacturing Efficiency Solution performs all the handling tasks automatically. The vacuum de-stacker places layers of unprocessed boards on the Moulder Feeder's table, thus enabling uninterrupted operation of moulder.
Upon exiting the moulder, door frame components are placed in an exit magazine, then fed to the double-end trimmer / coping machine by a transversal chain conveyor with lugs. After exiting the trimmer, boards are inverted then placed on a roller conveyor leading to the inspection station.
After the inspection station, door frame components proceed towards the accumulation table, then the same vacuum transfer device completes the production loop by re-stacking the finished products.
The new integrated workcell is manned by just one operator who is also responsible for moulder set-ups and the enforcement of Boulanger's quality assurance program. Beyond the obvious labor savings, hourly throughput has gone up and the automated system never takes sick leaves and will work overtime without demanding additional pay.