Rug Finishing Plant Uses Conveyor System to Improve Customer Service Ergonomics
Pre-planning and careful identification of performance goals paid off
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Burlington House Area Rugs
SIC Code: 2273 (Carpets and Rugs)
Burlington House Area Rugs, a subsidiary of Burlington Industries, operates three facilities in Monticello, AR: a spinning plant and two finishing plants. At the spinning plant, raw fiber is spun into yarn. The yarn is shipped to the first of the two finishing plants to be tufted into rugs. The rugs are then transported to the second finishing plant for coating, dyeing, and other operations, after which they are returned to the first finishing plant to be stored, packed, and shipped to customers.
Prior to the installation of the new conveyor system, the plant used two parallel lines of powered roller conveyor to move cartons of finished rugs through the packing process. The cartons moved by power conveyor to a taper, followed by a strapper. Next, the cartons, which were then ready to ship, were manually moved to trailers or a floor staging area.
When an item in the floor staging area was due to be shipped, employees used hand trucks or dollies to move it to dock bays and into outgoing trailers. Because all of the carton handling in this area of the plant was performed manually, company managers were concerned about the potential for handling-related injuries.
The desired solution:
- Create a more ergonomically correct workplace
- Substantially improve material handling processes
- Increase operational flexibility and responsiveness
- Integrate automatic data collection into the operations
- Enhance customer service
- Improve flexibility
Rick Hudock, the plant's Project Industrial Engineer, called Cisco-Eagle. Hudock and Cisco-Eagle analyzed the shortcomings of the old design and co-designed a new approach that links together all the operations in the area with a single, powered conveyor system.
"What we wanted to do," explains Hudock, "was to try to meet several different goals using one system. We wanted to create a better, more ergonomically correct workplace for our employees. We knew that we couldn't eliminate all of the manual handling in this area, but we felt that we could substantially improve our materials handling operations. In addition, we also wanted to improve our ability to meet the needs of our customers. To do that, we needed to make the operations in this area more flexible and more responsive. Integrating automatic data collection into these operations was also on the list. And of course we needed to be able to cost-justify any new system that we chose. We really wanted to modernize these operations."
Working over the course of two long weekends, Hudock and other Burlington managers teamed up with the field installation crew from Cisco-Eagle to install the new conveyor system. According to Hudock, this approach to project scheduling minimized downtime in this area of the plant. The pre-planning and careful identification of performance goals paid off in a quick ramp-up and in a system that matches the real-world needs of the plant.
With the new conveyor system in place, work begins as orders are received via EDI from the company's headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina. When the inventory control system determines that all of the items required to complete an order are in the warehouse, the rugs are loaded into totes and released to the packing area.
The totes are then transported to points alongside the plant's two parallel lines of packing workstations. Here, rugs are packed into a wide variety of different sized cartons. Workers in this area also attach customer-specific labels to each rug, and affix a bar code label to the outside of each carton. Once a carton is packed, the employee slides it onto an outgoing conveyor for transport to taping. The two conveyor lines coming from packing merge, then feed the cartons into strapping and taping machines.
Next, the cartons flow into a long loop of minimum-pressure accumulation conveyor. The cartons then travel through a scanning location where their dock destination is determined. The information is transferred to the system's primary logic controller which activates an overhead pusher at the appropriate dock location. The cartons then flow onto an extendible conveyor that transports them into trailers for loading. Because of the added conveyor automation in the sorting and packing process, the benefits of the new system are clear to employees who work in the packing and shipping operation.
Much of the potential for handling-related injuries has been reduced or eliminated, and both customer service and system flexibility have been improved. In addition, order-filling/shipping errors have also been reduced.
- Products Manufactured: scatter rugs and area rugs
- Total Square Feet: 175,000
- Number of employees: 1,200
- Maximum daily throughput: 8,000 to 9,000 cartons
- Average daily throughput: 3,500 cartons
- Total length of conveyor system: 440 feet
- Type of sortation: overhead pusher
- Merge points: two with a "traffic cop"