Moving Trystar’s Extrusion Operations Improves Quality And Productivity

“Moving three times is as bad as a fire.”

That bit of folk wisdom may be true for some moves, but with careful planning moving a major manufacturing operation to a new site actually can end up improving both productivity and quality. That’s exactly what Trystar achieved when cable extrusion operations were moved from the original manufacturing location to a new facility in Faribault recently.

“We looked at the move as an opportunity to reengineer every aspect of the operation from raw material procurement to handling the finished product,” explained Richard Abbott, the Trystar manufacturing engineer responsible for the project. “Everything was analyzed and evaluated for its impact on productivity long before anything was physically moved. Then the recommendations and suggested changes were confirmed by the employees with the most direct experience — the extrusion operators themselves.”

Planning for the move began with in in-depth review of the materials being used and creation of a dedicated racking system for them. In the end 9 major compounds were identified and 5 of them were designated as top runners.

“That saved us from moving roughly three times as much material as we could fit in the area in the new building designated for extrusion operations,” Abbott said. “It also let us optimize the size of the surge bins we installed to feed the new system. Each of the 5 top runners has its own surge bin that holds 5 of the large cardboard “Gaylord” boxes the compound is shipped in.”

With that accomplished, the extruder operators were then engaged to help determine the best locations for the extrusion machines and associated equipment. All of the utility connections were located in trenches cut into the floor to minimize the number of ceiling drops and maintain a clean, open working environment. Machine alignments, signage, paint colors and other environmental aspects of the installation also were planned and coordinated for optimum visual impact.

Once the extrusion machines were moved, redesigned crosshead tooling was installed on them as part of the project. The new tooling eliminated the need to manually center the cable every time the process was started or stopped and cut changeover time from 80 minutes to 20 to 25 minutes. This was a substantial time saving because the changes are typically made several times per day.

“We also computerized the color blending operation,” Abbott added. “Now we weigh and measure the compound while it’s being used which lets us produce a more consistent color. The system also gives us accurate data on how much of each material is actually being used so we can make more consistent and economical purchases.”

One additional process change was made in the new extrusion system. The hot thermoplastic cable covering exiting the extrusion machine has to be cooled quickly to maintain quality. In the old building this was done with water pumped from a 2,000 gallon cistern under the floor.

Moving that system to the new building was not economically feasible, so a new above ground chiller and a pair of 60 gallon tanks were installed in the new extrusion line. This system operates on a closed loop so overall water usage has gone from 4,000 gallons daily with the open system to 160 gallons total for the closed system.

All of these improvements allowed the extrusion speed to be increased from 57 to 72 feet per minute with no sacrifice in cable quality. Overall, the move has produced a 15% improvement in throughput, better product quality and reduced material consumption using the same extruders employed in the pre-move system.

Planning and preparation really does make a difference. Moving the Trystar extrusion line to its new home in Faribault is a great example of just how much difference it can make.