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Summit reaches peak production efficiency with Preactor
June 2014
Summit Packaging Systems Inc. was founded by Gordon Gilroy in 1974 and today Summit has five operational plants strategically positioned around the world. Summit is recognized as the leading producer of aerosol valves in North America and is quickly becoming a leading global supplier of aerosol valves.

Summit works very closely with their customers to design and engineer innovative solutions and their strategy is designed to offer their clients Quality, Service, and Low Cost. This strategy is supported by their unique business model which is built around the concept of vertical integration. Vertical integration means that they not only manufacture most of their components, they also manufacture most of their own machines and tooling.

As Summit grew the process and the products became more complex. It became more and more difficult to maintain the levels of support that their customers had come to expect. Management determined that the planning and scheduling systems needed to be automated if they were to continue growing and servicing their clients at the highest level. Finding out the status of an order was difficult and too time consuming and much of the tribal knowledge about what to schedule next was in somebody’s head. This meant that the company would be vulnerable if any of the key people ever left the organization.

Management understood that the reason that they had been able to do so well was entirely due to the competency, experience and dedication of their staff but they also realized that adding more people to the planning group was not a viable option.

At some point in early 2012, management made the decision that they needed to invest in a planning and scheduling solution that would address their needs today and provide a foundation for their growth into the foreseeable future. But there was a problem.

They knew that their manufacturing process was complicated and they weren’t sure that they could find an Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solution that would handle all of their unique requirements.

After doing a little research, Summit approached Lean Scheduling International (LSI) to help them determine if Preactor would be a good fit for them. LSI is one of Preactor’s most successful resellers and had a proven track record of implementing complex scheduling systems plus they had done extensive work with other Syspro users.

Before making any commitments, LSI proposed a Two Day, on-site, Assessment designed to;
  • help LSI understand Summit’s business objectives
  • help LSI understand Summit’s manufacturing process and their scheduling issues
  • help Summit understand all of their options

Based on the assessment, LSI recommended a multi-phase approach that would allow Summit to get up and running as quickly as possible while laying down the foundations for future additions and improvements.

It was decided that the scheduling solution for the Manchester facility be broken down into two phases because it was clear to LSI that the scheduling needs of the Molding area were very different from the Assembly area in that they had different rules and each area was the responsibility of a different scheduler.

• Phase 1 – The Molding Area
  • LSI determined that the key process was the Molding department that contains 90+ injection molding machines. The molding department was selected for phase 1 because of the complex way that machines, tools, molds and cavities could mixed and matched. The feeling was if Preactor could handle this then the rest would be relatively easy.

• Phase 2 – The Assembly Area
  • The Assembly Model included the scheduling of the Stamping Presses.
  • The scheduled completion times from the Molding Department and the Stamping Presses would be fed into Assembly Model along with any purchased parts.
One of the factors that made the implementation of this department easier to manage was the fact that Summit had a process in place to collect actual run times which helped in a couple of ways:
a) Because there was a substantial database of run times for each of the likely combinations of machines, molds and tools this provided a firm starting point for determining projected run times.
b) Because run time data was collected every day, Preactor was able to pick up the actual run rate for jobs that spanned two or more days and re-calculate the projected end times based on the actual run times on the fly, if it changed.

A significant amount of time was spent working on the data and making sure it flowed quickly and easily to and from the Syspro ERP system. An enormous amount of work had to be done validating the data and the decisions that Preactor was making in a process that slowly but surely started to produce accurate and clean schedules.

What made this process easier was the fact that each of the schedulers had the detailed knowledge and experience to define the rules that they used to control the sequencing at each machine.  Once the Molding area started to consistently produce accurate schedules, a decision was made to start work on Phase 2, the Assembly area.

The biggest problem with getting the Assembly area to schedule accurately was the fact that, by default, Preactor doesn’t start an order until the order for the component item has been scheduled to complete. However in the real world, once there were enough parts to start the assembly then work would start on an order while the Molding machine was still producing parts for the component item.

Preactor was modified to handle this situation and several other changes were made to the scheduling rules until gradually the assembly schedule started to reflect reality.

The results have been measurable and consistent including the following:
  • On-time deliveries were improved from an average of 85% to above 95%  
  • Inventory turns were improved significantly.
  • There was a reduction of staff in the planning area due to the elimination of the amount of manual work required.