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Greencorp Magnetics has its Production Taped
May 2006

Greencorp Magnetics Pty LtdBased in Sydney, Australia, Greencorp Magnetics Pty Ltd has been a specialist producer of magnetic tapes since 1972, and is one of the few companies world-wide to master the technology of the magnetic stripe for cards and tickets.

As a result of Greencorp facilities for research and development, and its ability to manufacture to exacting standards, Greencorp magnetic stripe products are amongst the most respected in the world, with a philosophy of continual development.

For many years Greencorp’s main market was to supply tape to audio cassette makers, just three sizes for the C60, C90 and C120 versions all slit to 3.81mm width in standard lengths.

But the advent of CDs meant that it had to find alternative uses for its core technology, the application of iron oxide to various substrates.  Their market thus moved to the production of magnetic stripe materials for data storage applications.  The data product was more complex in terms of number or variants and production process.  

The most common type of data tape is referred to as a heat transfer (cold peel) tape.  Designed to adhere to the substrate in a continuous “stripe”, the name cold-peel comes from the characteristics of the tape, which allow the PET carrier film to be “peeled” away once the adhesive has cooled.  This carrier film is rewound on to a spool and discarded.  Various adhesive types are used, depending on the kind of substrate for which the stripe is required to adhere.  The most common materials in use today are paper or PVC.

There are 5 main lacquer types which need to have 3 different thicknesses to provide different magnetic properties.  There are 2 main film types and 2 thickness release coats, 5 adhesive types and 10 main widths.  There are also 12 main slitting lengths.

The production process consisted of batch processing of lacquer in a chemical mixing room where the main ingredient, iron oxide of different types and properties, are formulated with chemicals and mixed using high speed dispersion and milled to reduce particle size.  Coating is carried out on ‘modified’ printing machines which unwind the film, apply the lacquer, magnetize the oxide, oven dry and then rewind after in-line thickness monitoring.  Curing then takes place in ovens for cross-linking and finally the material is slit to convert to the customer requirements before packaging for delivery.

Richard Stehn is Operations Manager at their plant in Matraville, Sydney Australia.  “Although our process is comparatively simple I soon realized when I joined Greencorp Magnetics that the planner had a very difficult job in terms of the calculations required to establish the production run time for a single order”.

Greencorp Magnetics Pty LtdRichard explained how this calculation would be carried out.  A typical order for say 240 pancakes (a slit reel) each 2,200 meters long and 6.35 mm in width of a specific product would go something like this.  Calculate that 6.35 will yield 50 pancakes per run (product is coated 330mm wide), therefore 5 runs will be required but film is in lengths of 7000m which will yield 3 runs, therefore 6 runs will be coated for the order. 

First coating will be run at (3 x 2,200) + 150 (scrap) = 6,750m
Therefore time for coating will be 6,750/90 = 75 minutes

Second coating at 6,700m would take 134 minutes and the third coating at 6,650m long would take 110 minutes.  Then slit at the required rate giving a total slitting time of 4 hrs for the order.

“That was just for one order”, Richard continued, “there were hundreds to manage and hence it was very difficult for the planner to estimate when a specific order could be delivered.  Thus our sales people would tend to under commit (quote a longer lead time) and over produce (complete early) just so they could be sure they could deliver.  This resulted in very high levels of work in process.  I realised we needed a better and more automated solution to become leaner and more efficient.”

This is when Dinesh Shah of Supply Chain Business Solutions became involved.  Along with Simulation Modelling Services, the Preactor Network Partner for Australia and New Zealand, they set about understanding the requirements and developing a solution based on Preactor 200 FCS. “We needed a thorough understanding of the process so we could customise Preactor to make it as simple to use as possible and work in a meaningful way” commented Dinesh.

Greencorp Magnetics Pty LtdAll calculations needed to be done automatically just by entering the basic details of the order. This meant Preactor had to have the various tables for constants such as raw material, slitting widths, yields, and an X-factor.  Also it needed to have all the product parameters such as manufacturing routings, machine set-up specifications and product changes.  A simple order entry dialog is shown here.

Richard Stehn talked about the implementation. “We started by running the system in parallel with the current methods to check it was giving us the right results.  Then we had to train our staff to use the ‘work-to lists’ generated for each coating and slitting machine and track their performance in keeping to the schedule”.

Once going live in early 2005, Greencorp Magnetics soon started to see the benefits.  Their on-time delivery performance had doubled while efficiency gains of 5% had been made due to minimising product changes on the machines.  WIP has reduced from 750,000 coated meters to less than 500,000.

“We are now able to accurately predict delivery dates” said Richard, “we are more flexible and can react to sudden and unexpected changes to customer requirements or reduced capacity caused by breakdowns”.

And the future?  Greencorp Magnetics intend to extend the Preactor model to cover upstream processes such as lacquer production and to further automate the planning process.  Richard Stehn again: “I think we will get even more from what we have through more advanced training and talking to other users to see the benefits they have achieved”.

Mike Novels, Managing Director of Preactor International was present at the inaugural Australian and New Zealand User Group where Richard Stehn presented this case study.  “This is yet another example of how companies can obtain benefits from applications like Preactor to increase their competitiveness and increase profits.  The flexibility of Preactor to be customised to provide a user friendly order entry system combined with the sophistication of complex calculations taking place ‘under the bonnet’ has provided a unique solution tailored to the needs of this world class manufacturing company.”