Mikron builds assembly system for Mega Pumps

  • June 24, 2008
  • Case Study
June 24, 2008 - When Mega Pumps began manufacturing airless metered pump dispensers in 2000, its mission was to live up to the standards set by its sister company in Germany. The intricate dispensers used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries enjoyed an excellent reputation because they were precise, reliable and built with quality materials.But things didn’t go as planned at the Eatontown, N.J. plant. The assembly system Mega Pumps initially used was not user-friendly. It required more employees than the company had expected, and change-overs from one product run to the next ate up too much valuable production time.Another problem, said operations manager John Murtagh, was the amount of space required for the assembly line. “The machine was made up of separate stations stretched out over a large footprint, which made loading and running a much more labor intensive operation than we wanted,” he said, adding, his firm runs 24 hours a day, five days a week.Mega Pumps soon realized that it was not living up to expectations because it had neglected one important ingredient. Since 1985 its Germany-based sibling Mega Plast had relied on the assembly technology of Mikron, a designer and manufacturer of high performance equipment with operations in Boudry, Switzerland and Denver, Colorado. The change made a difference. Trouble spots were either eliminated or simplified. The footprint was substantially reduced so that Mega Pumps could fit more assembly in a smaller area, use less people, and dramatically reduce change-over time. When production output improved Murtagh said it was apparent that upgrading “little things” can make a big difference.“It made sense to try to keep the same continuity of machinery between sister companies. It meant we didn’t have to go through a whole new learning curve stateside. Also, we like to impress on our customers that we use the exact same tooling and assembly equipment, as well as raw material. By using the same assembly, we get a little more maintenance technology, we get better at what we do and we get acquainted with one source of equipment,” he said.Flexibility was another issue Mega Pumps confronted. Their airless dispensers are suitable for creams, gels, lotions and pastes. They also are available in oval and round shapes and range in size from 15ml to 200mls. Fortunately, the Flexcell assembly units allow Mega Pumps to run a large combination of sizes on one machine with a minimal amount of part change out. When activated, the Mega Pumps dispensers create a vacuum, so each unit must be air-tight and deliver a precise dose on every actuation. Therefore, the assembly process demands extremely tight tolerances and unusually high precision – and all this for a product that is an all-plastic design. The challenge is to operate with a high level of execution yet with a minimal rejection rate. “It may sound like a simple, little pump. But it’s amazing how involved it really is.” Murtagh said Mikron helped Mega Pumps develop assembly, checking and testing systems that work within the tolerances and with minimum of scrap and rejection. As the Flexcell technology maintains a high performance rate, it also tests for function – such as vacuum and pressure – of every dispenser. By doing so as a seamless part of the production process, the assembly system saves time and helps workers trouble shoot. “The 100 percent function test is a nice feature. We know the dispensers are all functionally correct. They’ve done a nice job of making this assembly line run at a high speed and keep the tight tolerances. Also, the assembly line is set up with different stations. So the computer is programmed to tell you the rate of rejects and where the rejects are happening.” Each day Murtagh follows a set routine that includes reviewing the work done on the previous shift. What he discovers will determine how the day progresses. Once previous production has been checked, he reviews what the company expects to run that day and whether any change-overs are necessary. Then he decides how the crew will supply the machines to keep them on schedule. As operations manager, Murtagh is experienced enough to know that problems will occur no matter how good the system. During difficult times he knows he can rely on Mikron, which has the capability to monitor its clients’ systems online so that manufacturers like Mega Pumps can keep down time to a minimum. Also, each assembly unit is built on a standard frame so that many parts are in stock and can be easily replaced. The more custom-made technical parts that are particular to each end user can’t be stocked. But Murtagh is pleased with how quickly the Denver-based company keeps him in good supply with the necessities. He also likes the training that is included in the services agreement.“Their service base has been very responsive with maintenance, repairs and replacement parts when necessary. And they also offer training programs which have been very helpful in keeping our maintenance and production personnel able to keep our machines in top running order,” he said. “On site training for maintenance technicians so they know how to maintain it and run it, that goes along with building a new machine.” All of which has helped Murtagh and his company fulfill its original mission of living up to the high standards set by Mega Plast, which were established during a partnership of many years. In a sense, Mega Pumps imported a basis of trust that had been developed with an assembly line manufacturer that was familiar with the dispenser products and the inherent technical requirements.“Time is always money. But it doesn’t pay to make an inferior product quickly. What matters is that the part you put out is of the quality that meets company standards. Mikron has helped us reduce our down time with simple changeovers and multiple use parts. Learn More

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