A New Economic Reality: Looking at the Lean Side of Manufacturing

September 1, 2010
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The recession has prompted many manufacturers to find ways to use innovative technology and applications more efficiently.

Standardized, modular systems can be combined and expanded.


The recent economic crisis has had far-reaching effects in nearly every industry around the world. For manufacturers, the recession brought with it the need to take a hard look at the efficiency of production processes and resources-or, in some cases, the lack thereof. With belts tightening across the board, manufacturing companies quickly came to the realization that survival and success were contingent on reevaluating operations, updating outdated and ineffective processes, and making production more streamlined and leaner as a whole. To this end, many have found ways to use innovative technology and applications more efficiently.

It is becoming increasingly important for electronics manufacturers to use precision dispensing for the casting materials used to seal and bond their products.

Liquid Sealing

One case in point involves the increased demand for fluid-sealing applications, which allow manufacturers to dramatically increase efficiency, maximize the use of equipment and resources, and reduce both inventory and costs. Until now, pre-formed sealing rings, also known as O-rings, have been the sealant of choice across a range of applications. The problem lies in the fact that O-rings come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, widths and materials, and nearly every piece of equipment calls for a different kind. This requires a highly precise application that can become confusing. In addition, keeping the right number and types of O-rings in stock to address various needs on an ongoing basis can quickly become a cost burden.

Liquid sealing solutions, on the other hand, offer manufacturers much more freedom in the selection of seal designs and materials. In addition, they streamline the application process and provide clear advantages for efficiency and costs. In the past, however, using fluid sealing was considered risky due to uncertainty about its ability to resist heat and its compatibility with lubricants and fuels. In the automotive industry, for instance, many manufacturers shied away from liquid sealants for this very reason. Lately, these fears have subsided, thanks to some recent developments in the field that have made liquid sealing materials more durable and heat resistant than ever before. In the automotive sector in particular, fluid sealing has now become the de facto standard for sealing control casings such as ABS and ESP.

In addition, many emerging fields-including medical technology, photovoltaics and solar energy-are increasingly reliant on fluid-sealing applications. In photovoltaics, for example, liquid sealants are used for terminal boxes on solar modules. Obviously, these sealants must not only provide long-term stability but also a high level of resistance to excessive heat and pressure.

Rotary indexing tables can consolidate four or more production steps in a single cell.

Automated Dispensing

As the use of fluid-sealing applications increases, it brings to light another growing trend in industrial manufacturing: the replacement of manual sealing processes with automated dispensing systems that can ensure total accuracy while scaling up to support high production needs. As another response to the fragile economy, this trend extends beyond liquid sealing to all types of dispensing processes in many different industries. In the electronics sector, for instance, as products like cell phones, remote controls and laptop computers grow ever smaller, it becomes increasingly important for manufacturers to use precision dispensing for the casting materials used to seal and bond their products.

The concept of automation in manufacturing is certainly not new, but it is one that has unquestionably improved with age. With the notion of lean production principles permeating nearly every aspect of manufacturing, companies are pursuing strategic concepts and tactical approaches to systematically improve their processes, reduce waste, and, most importantly, eliminate errors. Machines that can support these lean production principles not only allow manufacturers to achieve higher levels of efficiency, but they also accommodate a total shift in workflow to what is called “one-piece flow.” This enables manufacturers to produce their goods on demand, which can significantly reduce inventory, accelerate turnaround times, increase productivity and ensure cost transparency.

Interestingly, lean production is not only about automation; it actually emphasizes a balance between automated and manual processes for optimal efficiency. Fully automated production lines are not necessarily the best fit for every manufacturer. Small- to medium-sized manufacturers, in particular, can benefit from a combination of the two processes. After all, the principle of one-piece flow dictates that machines should only be in operation when there is actual demand for the goods they create. In this case, the costs for pausing fully automated production lines can be completely prohibitive. Instead, a modular solution makes the most sense-one that is affordable, efficient, and delivers top-quality output.

Effective Solutions

Today’s equipment providers have risen to the occasion by offering a variety of reliable, cost-effective and space-saving solutions that meet these complex requirements. Ultimately, they know that standardized, modular systems can be flexibly combined and expanded, which will better position manufacturers to meet both current and future needs. This means allowing customers to simply pick and choose the modules they need and specify the level of automation they require.

Innovative concepts, like the rotary indexing table, can consolidate four or more production steps in a single cell to further improve efficiency. For instance, one machine that can simultaneously dispense, pick/place, screw/crimp, apply sealing beads, and more can deliver considerable cost savings and ensure maximum flexibility. Of course, the return on investment (ROI) benefits are also significant. In addition, modular systems such as these can be easily expanded and upgraded as needed, growing as the company grows and ensuring the highest levels of precision and quality throughout.

Ultimately, manufacturers of all sizes and across a wide range of industries-from medical technology and alternative energy production to automotive and electronics-are learning their lessons from recent events. They’ve decided to increase their focus on lean principles as a means not only to survive in the new economic climate, but also to drive sustained profitability over the long term. More than ever before, they are proactively seeking out the trends and solutions that will enable them to implement a robust, yet scalable infrastructure, one that can ensure production flexibility and cost transparency for many years to come-whatever the economy may bring.

About Scheugenpflug

Scheugenpflug is a supplier of automated mixing, metering, and dispensing systems for resin and other industrial materials. The company offers a range of modular solutions that deliver varying levels of automation to manufacturers of any size, across any industry.

For more information, contact Scheugenpflug at 2125 Barrett Park Dr., N.W., Ste. 104, Kennesaw, GA 30144; phone (770) 218-0835; fax (770) 218-0931; e-mail sales.usa@scheugenpflug-usa.com; or visit www.scheugenpflug-usa.com.


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