Press Brake Tooling

Forming a future

By Lynn Stanley

Above: The accuracy and repeatability of the SafanDarley E-brake supports Hytrol’s decision to bring most of its parts production in-house.

Conveyor builder fuels production momentum with lean practices, training and electric press brake technology

May 2016 - General George Patton once said, “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan for tomorrow.” It’s a concept that Hytrol Production Manager Chris Taylor understands. With the precision of a battlefield general, Taylor has executed plans that range from implementing lean manufacturing to purchasing SafanDarley E-brakes, a technology new to Hytrol. The strategy? To equip the 69-year-old company with the tools it needs to continue gaining market share with material handling solutions that “are moving the world.” 

The Jonesboro, Arkansas-based company specializes in made-to-order conveyor solutions for the processing, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution needs of consumer product and retailer customers like Barnes & Noble, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Frito Lay, Pepsi, Kraft and Puma. 

In 2007 Taylor completed a five-year effort to transition Hytrol from mass production to lean manufacturing to both improve customer value and reduce waste. 

“Any company that isn’t committed to removing waste from their operations will be left behind,” he asserts. “You also have to invest in training and technology.” Hytrol ramped up a master lean course to train its workforce of nearly 1,000 people. As a master lean course instructor, Taylor foresees labor will become a big constraint on industrial production in the future. “There are a lot of people leaving the workforce [as skilled laborers retire] and those empty spaces aren’t being filled,” he notes. “New hires will need to be flexible and have the ability to perform multiple jobs. It’s a big undertaking to train so many employees but it shows the company’s commitment to the future.”

FFJ 0516 press image1

Hytrol assembles and tests everything it builds, including sorters that can reach 500 ft.

Power planning

Hytrol’s largest market segment remains distribution and warehousing but the company is gaining traction in the parcel, baggage, manufacturing and food industries. “We put together a five-year capital equipment roll-in plan, which identified forming as one of our strengths,” says Taylor. “In order to meet our forming goals we needed to invest in press brake technology. I was interested in an electric press brake model but the ones I had seen in the past were small.”

Taylor turned to Capital Machine Technologies, a Tampa, Florida-based metal fabrication equipment distributor and service provider. It is the U.S. representative for SafanDarley, Lochem, Netherlands, which designs and engineers press brakes and shears. 

“We had purchased other equipment from Capital Machine,” Taylor says. “They understand customer service. To take a closer look at the principles behind an electric press brake we went to them.”

Because Hytrol already runs 12 hydraulic presses, Taylor was well acquainted with the maintenance issues that can crop up due to leakage and valve adjustments. “I was intrigued by the fact that the electric press brakes didn’t have any hydraulics. When Capital Machine introduced us to SafanDarley’s E-brake we found the higher tonnage sizes attractive.” 

“They had to sell me on it though,” Taylor recalls. “How it could achieve consistent tonnage across the bed without crowning was a new concept for us. But Capital Machine’s field experience and knowledge about press brakes persuaded us to pursue it.”

“I took four of my best press brake operators to see a demonstration at Capital Machine’s Technical & Training Center in Atlanta,” says Taylor. “The SafanDarley E-brake was the one they couldn’t quit talking about.”

SafanDarley’s servo-electronic drive is built on the pulley principle to ensure an even distribution of forces. “By eliminating crowning you achieve the most accurate and constant bending angle along the working length of the press brake,” says Mauricio Gutierrez Matta, area export manager for SafanDarley. “A patented roller drive system in the upper beam ensures a uniform distribution of forces.”

Hytrol took possession of four 100-ton, 10-ft.-long SafanDarley servo-driven E-brakes in April 2015. Easy installation allowed Hytrol to ramp up production on the machines right away.

 “We process 9 million tons of flat steel a year and it all has to undergo some type of forming,” says Taylor. While many material handling equipment builders outsource parts production, Hytrol is equipping itself to bring that work in-house. “When you run lean, it’s important to control all aspects of production so that you have as few breaks in your value stream as possible. A very high percentage of the parts that go into our systems are made in-house.”

Whether it’s a single conveyor unit or a large material handling system, orders are set up by build date. Parts are laser cut and sorted by model number before they enter one of six focus factory streams. Components are kitted then moved to bending, stamping, welding and painting operations before being assembled. 

Taylor runs mild steel, stainless and aluminum from 18 gauge to 1 in. thick. The E-brakes are put through their paces during two eight-hour shifts five days a week. “One of the press brakes is in a different value stream and it runs 24/5,” says Taylor. “We have never had a maintenance call on any of these machines since we put them in our value stream. That’s huge.”

Operators found the SafanDarley’s E-Control touch screen user friendly making training easy. “The control allows us to sequence which bends have to be formed first,” says Taylor. “That feature really helps a new employee get acclimated.”

FFJ 0516 press image2

The E-brake’s intelligent, integrated light curtain protects operators’ hands and boosts higher throughput.

Maintaining momentum

Operators air bend parts using segmented tooling. Precision-formed parts are critical to keeping Hytrol’s massive value streams moving. “Entire orders flow through a focus factory stream at the same time,” Taylor explains. “Everything has to be formed. If a part is formed incorrectly, it creates a break in the value stream. We assemble and test run everything we build regardless of size. For a large retail chain, a sorter can reach 500 ft. in length. These sorters are the lifeline of a distribution center. Our E-brakes are a lifeline for us. If we got a bad part, it would show up downstream and that would mean rework. That is not what you want to see in a lean manufacturing environment. The E-brake’s accuracy is superior to any other machine we have ever had. It forms each part the same way.”

The E-brake’s O-frame design has been engineered for minimal deformation creating a stable environment for parts production. A recent Overall Equipment Effectiveness evaluation on the E-brakes demonstrated their reliability. The lean manufacturing metric identifies the percentage of planned production time that is truly productive. An OEE score of 100 percent represents perfect production: manufacturing only good parts, as fast as possible, with no down time.

“Uptime was 100 percent,” says Taylor. “When I calculated the ratio of fully productive time to planned production time, I got an efficiency rating of 70. I am used to seeing those ratings in the 40s on other machines.”

Safety also runs high on the list of requirements for Hytrol. “An integrated light curtain allows the operator to run the machines without the foot pedal,” says Jeff Price, regional sales engineer for Capital Machine. “The E-brake has the intelligence to sense when the operator is entering and exiting the work space. In addition to safety, the feature can contribute to higher throughput. As fast as the operator can load the part and remove his hand, the press brake is ready to form the next part.”

Taylor is a second-generation employee who has served Hytrol for 24 years. “My Dad, Jackie Taylor, worked here 33 years,” he continues. “I’ve seen the company make a lot of changes to adapt to customer requirements and we’re continuing to evolve. We’re currently expanding our facility by 62,000 sq. ft. to house a new powder coat line.” 

And if the need arises to add press brakes in the future, Taylor says the E-brake is the first machine he will consider.

The manager of three of Hytrol’s focus factory streams says the company kanbans less than 5 percent of its part models. “If someone else can make a product and be profitable, then I can do as well or better in-house and control my own destiny.” FFJ



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