So much can go wrong with plant relocations:
- Poor coordination leaves equipment sitting around unused
- A change in footprint causes storage and material handling struggles
- Old equipment fails to adapt to changing conditions
- Attention to both production and installation stretches management thin
- Downtime balloons with every bump in the road
Avoiding those problems allows manufacturers to move on schedule with limited downtime. Doing so takes strong project management, experienced engineering and detail-oriented execution.
When an international packaging manufacturer needed to move an Illinois facility to a new location nearby, they trusted Conair to design a new material handling system and integrate new equipment. They had partnered with Conair on full-line installations before and appreciated our turnkey process.
“I look for turnkey on a lot of my projects,” said the packaging company’s director of business development and engineering strategy. They’ve found working with Conair to cut down on the time it takes to solve problems and move forward. “A lot of times what you find out when you start bringing parts from different suppliers is that fingers start pointing at each other about why something might not work.”
As much as possible, they wanted to continue production during the move. And keeping costs down would rely on an efficient move that limited downtime. They had a corporate engineer overseeing the relocation. Conair’s project management would handle installation of the new material handling system.
In order to relocate a facility with minimal downtime, Conair needed to handle bumps in the road with a combination of expertise and responsibility.
Every relocation has its challenges
It takes much more than a U-Haul and a group of buddies to relocate a manufacturing facility. Beyond hauling immense equipment and coordinating constant deliveries, you’ll always need to solve some problems. Throughout the process of moving this blow molding operation, three primary challenges appeared.
1. The new layout required a storage/conveying redesign
When setting up a line, storage and conveying of plastic resin and additives are crucial. Wrong-fit material handling systems without consistent throughput or high-quality regrind will hold back even best-in-class blow molding equipment.
Conair had designed and installed the previous conveying system based on the needs of the old facility. While plenty of the standardized equipment could stay the same, the new building meant a new footprint. Overall system design would need to change. And the project couldn’t start in earnest until this design was finalized.
2. Outdated blenders threatened the integrity of the new system
Old equipment doesn’t always adapt well to new conditions. Some of the blenders from the old facility weren’t meeting performance standards in their new setup. Replacing equipment added new lead times to the mix and threatened to cause delays.
3. Equipment from numerous manufacturers required expert integration
Not all the equipment moving to the new location was Conair equipment. The blenders and blow molding machines were provided by different suppliers.
The packaging manufacturer chose equipment from different OEM’s for a reason, but integrating them on a new line added a layer of complexity to the relocation process.
Pitch-perfect integration is crucial, but the process can take time, especially if you need to communicate with engineers at other companies.
The primary challenges presented by this job threaten most greenfield and brownfield projects in the plastics industry. Conair’s experience proved crucial to on-time delivery and limited downtime.
Shepherding a complicated project to completion
Facility relocations send a lot of balls in the air. Asking plant management to juggle them while managing ongoing operations leads to production drops — usually through a delay in completing the relocation.
Conair had worked with this customer before on numerous projects, which meant there was built-in trust and familiarity when the project started.
Conair’s project management team understood the customer’s process and staff from a previous project. This level of familiarity (a feature of partnering with Conair) is uncommon elsewhere in the plastics industry. Shifting responsibility to an equipment manufacturer’s project management team lightens the load on your staff but requires a relationship built on mutual trust.
Leveraging familiarity for quick and effective system design
Our mutual understanding proved invaluable in redesigning the facility’s material handling system. We knew the customer preferred to set their conveying lines on stanchions, and we knew what software and control interfaces they were familiar with.
We took that understanding and applied it in the new facility without relying on weeks of tinkering. With the material handling system settled early, the project began with significant momentum.
Trusting system design to Conair kept the operation’s internal management focused on ongoing production.
“We don’t have to have that expert on staff that would put all the components together,” said the packaging manufacturer’s director of business development and engineering strategy. “We’re able to go to Conair, explain what we want and then we allow their engineering team to come back with a system design for us. If it’s not done that way, then the staffing becomes much larger on my side.”
In-time blender replacement keeps relocation on schedule
During the move, the customer’s blenders proved unable to meet performance standards. While the blenders were outdated and due for an upgrade anyway, the replacement process threatened to delay the relocation project.
At first glance, the customer had two obvious options: Our engineers could upgrade their current equipment with some modifications, or they could order new blenders from their traditional blender supplier.
Each option came with unwanted downsides. Upgrading the current equipment with modifications felt like a short-term solution that didn’t justify the cost. And the lead times on new blenders from their blender supplier didn’t fit the project timeline.
The solution: Conair supplied new blenders with guaranteed performance and a workable lead time. The blow molding facility wouldn’t have switched blender suppliers on a whim, but they couldn’t justify delaying the relocation for the sake of indistinguishable equipment.
On-demand engineering streamlines integrations
Most of the integrations in this relocation were simple. Their line functioned well before, with equipment from multiple suppliers. But little blips can throw a project off track: The hoppers for resin loading didn’t want to cooperate with the blow molding machine itself.
In these situations, swift engineering drives problem-solving. However, “swift” engineering is easier said than done. Sending sketches back and forth with different equipment manufacturers eats into project time and adds layers of communication to the process.
Conair employs the largest in-house engineering team in the industry for these exact problems. We can draw up solutions quickly, because our engineers interface directly with our installation teams and project managers. We made successful hopper adjustments quickly and avoided stretching the project’s timetable.
The result: A full-facility relocation completed on schedule.
On-time greenfield projects in the plastics industry are rarer than they need to be. This packaging manufacturer aligned with an experienced partner and got everything they paid for and more.
In the end, on-schedule completion meant limited downtime, opportunity cost and staffing risk associated with relocating a facility.
Need to set up a new facility (or move an old one)?
Painless, on-schedule greenfield projects are no myth. The secret to delivering complex installations on schedule is working with the right people.
You need a partner that offers:
- Experienced project management to take the burden off your teams and put problem-solving in the hands of people who’ve seen it all
- Equipment expertise to take care of micro-level details and ensure system-wide performance
- Engineering expertise available on demand to make on-time system design and integration easy
It’s easy to find a blender with great performance. It’s impossible to find a greenfield team with more project management and engineering experience than Conair. If you’re eyeing a large-scale project, get in touch.