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Garnering Better Shop-Floor Workflow

How five shops have re-arranged their equipment array, and people, to expedite the flow of materials

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By Jake Widman

Finally the opportunity came to do just that. "We had the new building built for our system, for our specific workflow-from the time a job comes through our front door, to accounting, to the art department, to the printer that will produce it, to finishing, to shipping or customer pickup, even the way materials enter our facility," says Ruddy. For example, the structure has one regular loading dock, but it’s also equipped with two drive-in docks because "we have to have the ability to do vehicle wraps," Ruddy says. "We’ve even brought an inter-city bus in the shop for a wrap."

After the construction came the moving in. "We arranged our equipment in such a way that everything’s in a line," Ruddy says. "The art stations are right on the end, so the artists are very accessible to the machine operators."

"When you do billboards, the issue becomes speed and convenience," Ruddy continues. The old Resolution Graphics building only had about 15 ft of space behind the Expedio (a 16-ft-wide UV rollfed printer), so the operators would have to wait for an entire billboard to come off the machine and onto the roller, then turn the roller 90 degrees and unroll the billboard again to finish it.

The new building, however, has about 80 ft of space off the back of the Expedio-"We were very specific about where we placed it," emphasizes Ruddy. "The printer’s output doesn’t need to be spooled up any more-it just flows right out the back and onto the floor, where it can be finished."

That arrangement also has led to the choice of Leister hot air welders for seaming rather than big seamers. "Big seamers are ordered to the width you want and fixed in place," Ruddy says. The Leister units, by contrast, are very small ("about the size of a really small dog") self-propelled robots and can handle any job from 2 ft long to 500 ft long.

The new building is working out well except for one problem-one that most businesses wouldn’t mind having: "We anticipated everything but our growth," says Ruddy. "We’ll probably add another 5000 sq ft and put in another Expedio. We’ll probably put the new one 80 ft away from the first one, across the shop, and both machines will feed into the same area" for finishing.