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Harvard-Cherokee helps power the internet with fast, reliable manufacturing system

From contact to completion, the system took 37 days to create

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The customer:

Harvard Cherokee, LLP

The application:

Telecommunications industry assembly/ manufacturing operations.

Harvard Cherokee manufactures Alcatel Litespan 2000 telecommunications cabinets for Southwestern Bell Communications (SBC). The Litespan cabinets are digital-analog converters and relay systems designed to operate in outdoor environments. The cabinets convert digital signals from fiber-optic carriers to analog signals carried on copper lines. They are the basic framework that allows SBC to offer broadband connectivity including Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) to its customers. This connectivity in turn provides SBC's customers with high-speed Internet access. In the rapidly changing world of telecommunications, Harvard knew it needed a reliable, fast, scalable assembly operation.

The situation:

Harvard Manufacturing Texas, an Austin based company specializing in value-added distribution as well as engineering, furnish, and installs of telecommunications equipment, desired a location in the Dallas area for expansion. The company had an empty building and needed to become operational in a short amount of time. Harvard's plans specified that the empty facility had to be operational in 37 days. "In order to satisfy the customer, we had to be up and running in a short amount of time. The timeframe was very critical to our success," said Bud Davis, Harvard Cherokee's Engineering Manager.

The desired solution:

Harvard wanted to implement efficient assembly processes and meet an aggressive schedule. "We're currently geared to assemble more than 1,250 Litespan cabinets a year," said Harvard's Operations Manager Marcus Fechenbach. "But this year, we'll double our output." This meant that the company needed a scalable, flexible assembly operation able to handle the anticipated higher workload.

One of the goals of the design was to avoid a second working shift. "We'd much rather focus on one, very efficient shift than deal with a second one," Fechenbach said. "It's just more effective to handle the same workload in a single shift. We needed an operation that allowed us to do the work without the additional shift."

The solution implemented:

Components are staged on gravity conveyor on one of the subassembly areasHarvard chose a central assembly lane fed by subassembly lanes on both sides for the Litespan Cabinets. The cabinets are rolled down the line on high capacity dollies between two rows of storage racks. The racks are equipped with gravity carton flow track on the lower level. Channel banks, fuse panels, rectifiers and other assembly components are fed from both sides of the central lanes by sub-assembly lines. In total, there are seven work cells on the line, and each cell requires about 90 minutes to complete. Workers along the assembly line are protected from pallets or boxes that could potentially fall into their work area by safety netting that was installed along the backside of higher-level pallet positions.

The side subassembly lines are on Hytrol gravity conveyors, allowing workers to easily move product to various stages of completion. The conveyors are laid out to allow the shortest possible distance between the subassembly area and the flow racks. Overhead rail systems support balancers, making the subassembly process much more efficient and ergonomical.

Details are vital, and much of the process is focused on assuring proper testing and packaging are done in order to make it easy for field technicians who will eventually have to work on the Litespan units. For instance, Harvard stresses details like the need to clip plastic bundle ties so that there are no sharp edges present inside the cabinets, since technicians must frequently access the interior of the cabinets.

The results:

The assembly process is made faster and more ergonomical with tool balancing units.Cisco-Eagle and Harvard worked together to create the operational system in just 37 days from initial contact to completed installation. The new manufacturing system easily handles Harvard's current workflow, and will definitely be able to accommodate the projected doubling of production.

The company's business partners took notice of many of the ways that Harvard designed its assembly processes and are redesigning their facilities to take advantage of the methods and equipment Harvard has employed in its operations.

"We really had a timeframe issue," said Harvard's Fechenbach. "It meant a lot to us that the various elements could be put into place so quickly. We were also impressed with the wide variety of products and services Cisco-Eagle has to offer. Cisco-Eagle accepted a large portion of the workload which allowed my staff to concentrate on the other numerous aspects of making a start-up venture fully operational".