Robotic cell solves
Technology and lean
manufacturing open up
automotive market for
By Kathleen McLaughlin, Managing Editor
Paladin Industries isn’t interested
in the status quo. Investment and
innovation coupled with lean
manufacturing principles is changing how the woodworking company
produces machined components for
the office/institutional furniture, store
fixture and automotive industries.
By pushing the possibilities and
embracing lean manufacturing, Paladin
is tapping the automotive industry, a
revenue stream not traditionally associ-
Panels are sprayed with a heat-activated
adhesive. From there, they move via conveyor
to the membrane presses.
After adding a Fanuc robot to automate its shift knob sanding operation, Paladin was able to reduce
its labor by half.
ated with the woodworking industry, and
producing components on a just-in-time
basis. Paladin’s commitment to technology was recently recognized by the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association
with the Innovator of the Year award.
The company’s commitment to
lean was tested more than two years
ago when it started manufacturing
solid hardwood maple and walnut shift
knobs for an automotive supplier. Paladin had to produce a certain number
of parts per day. Because the sanding
was initially done by hand, the process
required eight people to produce more
than 300 knobs per day. If production fell behind, more labor had to be
added to meet its daily quota.
“No one sanded the knobs the same
and the size and shape is dictated by
the customer and each one had to be
checked with a gauge,” says Larry Bell,
CEO of Paladin Industries. “We had
some inconsistency, and if a knob was
sanded too hard or if the shape wasn’t
right it was a reject.”
Because of fluctuating labor costs
and consistency issues, the production
team researched options to streamline
the sanding process. After consulting with Stiles Machinery Inc., the
team decided to add a Fanuc robot to
automate the sanding operation. “The
robot was a leap for us,” says Bell.
To maximize the investment, the
team developed a lean work cell, which
included moving the four-spindle CNC
router and clustering the robot and
custom boring machine. “Physically
there’s very little movement of the part
between operations and final packaging,” says Bell.
A hardwood blank goes from the
custom boring machine and is sent to
a CNC router. From there, it’s transferred to the robot that sands the shift
knob with three grits of sandpaper.
The shift knob is then given a quick
touch up and is inspected for quality.
“The operation went from eight or
more people to four people,” says Bell.
“Approximately 90 percent of the sand-