New plant a model of efficiency
When you start with a clean slate to design a molding plant, what do you get? Ropak Canada Inc.'s new Oakville, Ont. facility.It is clean, bright and quiet, with all raw materials handling and cooling...
When you start with a clean slate to design a molding plant, what do you get? Ropak Canada Inc.’s new Oakville, Ont. facility.
It is clean, bright and quiet, with all raw materials handling and cooling systems isolated from the plant floor, and an automated guided vehicle called Einstein hauling pallets of finished goods to the warehouse.
The main products of Ropak’s Oakville operation are round and square pails, and containers for industrial and consumer markets. The company collaborated with Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. (Bolton, Ont.) to design the 150,000 sq. ft. molding and warehousing facility. The set-up follows a current trend in plant design by moving auxiliary equipment off the floor to a mezzanine. This gives the operators more room for secondary operations at press-side and improves access to the materials handling equipment.
Railcars of polyethylene are unloaded to silos. From there a central conveying system delivers resin to individual stations in the mezzanine above each machine. The loaders and blenders at each station, supplied by Mould-tek Industries Ltd. (Scarborough, Ont.), add colorant and other ingredients.
A central chiller supplied by Berg Chilling Systems Inc. (Scarborough, Ont.) pipes chilled water to the 16 presses.
On the floor, employees manually attach handles to the pails and stack them on pallets. Einstein the AGV picks up full pallets and delivers them to the warehouse. Because of the need to maintain a large stock inventory of pails, most go to the warehouse prior to being printed.
The plant design has been so successful, it is now the model for all new Ropak molding operations. “You wouldn’t believe the new plant in LaGrange, GA,” says David Adams, regional sales manager. “With all new Husky machines, it is so quiet.”
There is one semi-automated manufacturing cell, where two molding machines feed pails to a conveyor line. The conveyor snakes through a wall to the warehouse area, where an automated printing system orients the pails, applies a hot stamp, turns them over and then applies a sleeve label.
All other printing is done in a separate department. Ropak has one silk-screen printer and two offset units, plus a four-color offset that has the flexibility to handle all shapes. “We rely on in-house experience for printing large pails,” explains Adams. “The technology is really in the dark ages.”
Decorating large pails is becoming more critical as a larger number of these containers now reach the consumer through “big box” stores such as Costco.