Canadian Plastics

No room for error at auto interiors plant

Reliable equipment and employees keep an uninterrupted flow of instrument cluster finish panels moving from Collins & Aikman Plastics Ltd.'s Mississauga injection molding plant to Ford's St. Thomas, O...

January 1, 1999   Canadian Plastics



Reliable equipment and employees keep an uninterrupted flow of instrument cluster finish panels moving from Collins & Aikman Plastics Ltd.’s Mississauga injection molding plant to Ford’s St. Thomas, Ont. assembly plant, sequenced for immediate use on the assembly line.

The Mississauga operation supplies parts for Ford’s Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis vehicles on an In-Line Vehicle Sequencing (ILVS) basis, meaning parts are shipped just-in-time, sequenced for integration on the assembly line. The correct color and model combinations must be produced and assembled in the requested order, then racked in order in a reuseable bulk container, and placed in correct sequence for delivery by truck to Ford’s St. Thomas, Ont. plant.

The Mississauga molding plant is a recent addition to interiors supplier Collins & Aikman. The purpose-built facility started operating in 1997, and is ramping up to full production as new automotive parts programs begin. The plant produces air registers and ventilation components for several OEMs, using 44 Nissei and Toshiba injection molding machines.

One difference at the Mississauga site, says plant manager Greg Brown, is that the parts for Ford are actually produced in sequence, instead of being produced in batches and picked from a warehouse to fill orders, which Brown says is the case at many ILVS facilities.

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To begin the sequenced assembly operation, information from Ford is received 24 hours in advance of anticipated delivery. Bar-coded labels based on this information are printed at a workstation in the Mississauga shop to identify the sequenced assemblies.

Brown says the plant only keeps 24 hours of inventory on hand in case of a production or delivery glitch. “That’s the level of trust we have with Ford. We haven’t had any problems since the program with St. Thomas was launched.”

It requires a high level of communication and cooperation to maintain this kind of just-in-time, sequenced delivery, he adds.

Preventative maintenance is key to keeping all the equipment running smoothly, and the plant is setting up a Kanban system to manage inventory levels of consumables such as clips, colorants, etc.

Low workforce turnover

Because the parts produced by C&A Mississauga require a lot of manual assembly, the company has taken steps to make the work environment more pleasant for employees.

“The lighting in the plant has been improved and the air circulation is much better than most industrial plants,” notes Mona St. Onge, human resources manager. “Also, we have covered trenches for electrical, water and raw material conduits, so that they don’t clutter the area over the machine.”

“That’s the commitment from head office, to keep the plant clean and pleasant.”

And it does help retain employees, she adds. The turnover rate for hourly employees is less than one percent.

Since 1997, Collins & Aikman has been focusing its efforts on providing integrated solutions for automotive interiors, drawing on its five divisions that produce carpet and acoustic products, fabrics, floormats, convertible systems and plastic components. In Canada, the Plastics Division includes the former Manchester Plastics facilities in Stratford, Scarborough and Ganonoque, Ont.

“We can produce practically the entire interior envelope, excluding seats,” says Nigel Skinner, general manager of the Scarborough and Mississauga operations. “The company’s thrust is on research and development, and innovation.”


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