Plating Q&A: Preventive Measures for Expansion

What should we focus on as we implement our expansion plan so that we don’t see unexpected delays or high fall out from the faster cycle time?


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Q. Not too long ago we installed a new plating line and left empty space so that we could expand in the future. What should we focus on as we implement our expansion plan so that we don’t see unexpected delays or high fall out from the faster cycle time?

A. Firstly, I want to commend you for having the foresight to leave space in your line for future expansion. This is more than half the battle as I see it.

Some things to remember to help minimize delays during an expansion period are:

A well-written and thought-out plan with assigned responsibilities

Build a sufficient bank of finished goods so that any unexpected interruptions can be abated

Procure your equipment and chemistry needs in advance by verifying lead times and logistics

Involve your chemical supplier with the other suppliers to ensure there are no surprises

Plan ahead to minimize downtime and overtime if the schedule slips

Have auxiliary equipment onsite ready to install once the shutdown takes place and install as much as possible ahead of time

Extended transporter rails in the future expansion areas installed ahead of time will enable ease of equipment installation

Plan for a safe working environment

As for reducing the risk of higher scrap and rework from the faster process, I would suggest the following:

When first considering expansion, construct a new Time Way diagram for the faster throughput. This should include any additional transporters or transfer shuttles needed to increase throughput

Ensure similar immersion times, lifting times, lowering times and dripping times for the new Time Way as compared to the Time Way that is currently running successfully

Review the Time Way with the chemical supplier and identify any potential concerns then plan for a resolution

Make sure there are ample tanks to accommodate the faster process cycle

Incorporate additional transporter capacity so as not to compromise current time parameters

For a standard hoist line, most of the cycle time for each transporter is consumed in the lifting and lowering of the work bar. In my past experience, during the expansion discussions, the lifting and lowering speeds are always considered viable options for reducing cycle time. I can tell you this is not a good idea. The speeds initially established were engineered based on the flight bar geometry, hydraulic effects of the solution and work bar sway. Changing these parameters could lead to significant increases in scrap or part damage. Stand firm on your current parameters and try to keep these constant. If that is not possible, document risk with a new process FMEA and follow closely. It may cost more to install additional transporters but in the long run, this will surely pay off in scrap and rework savings.

There are many things to consider when thinking about expansion. No one person has all the right answers so in an effort to minimize your risk, include your mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, architects, software engineers and chemical suppliers in your planning. Don’t forget about the waste treatment side of the equation as more production equates to more drag out and additional treatment costs. 

Originally published in the January 2016 issue.

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