Alfa Laval is a major multinational manufacturer and solution provider for industries such as Food and Water, Energy, Environmental Protection and Pharmaceuticals. At the Copenhagen facility, the focus is on separators such as their three-phase machine used to separate solid matter from fluid, and even separate the fluids into categories such as oil and water.
In the food industry, a common application would be separating out the oil from olives, or the husks from grapes for use in wine making. In the Oil Field industry, regulations are also strict and environmental impact is closely monitored. Here, Alfa Laval provides large scale solutions, up to one meter in diameter, for cleanup and waste removal to ensure its customers remain within environmental policy.
The critical nature of their business places an equal amount of pressure on the company’s manufacturing processes. “We are measured by our customers on our ability to pull out exacting amounts of the dry stuff (solid matter) for each specific application”, says Dan Damgaard, Team Manager, Alfa Laval Manufacturing Decanters in Copenhagen. “So in turn we must be precise in our processes here at Alfa Laval”, Damgaard continues.
To ensure manufacturing precision and effectiveness, Alfa Laval turns to Seco Tools Denmark as more than a supplier, but a partner in business. This was an ideal door-opener for Seco, who has about 40% market share globally, to show its capabilities in engineering support and other added values including inventory management system.
Currently there are installations in five countries with 24 machines. Alfa Laval is using inventory management system functionality to see inventory globally, which helps not only for standard items, but also for critical items like special tools where they sometimes borrow from each other to get around long lead times and higher inventories per location. They leverage the reliability of automatic order placement and keep their focus on production efficiencies as well as corporate goals and objectives.
Among those key objects is a time and money savings initiative very similar to Seco’s Documented Cost Reduction (DCR) program. “I have responsibility to make sure that Alfa Laval reaches its goals”, says Michael Mellerup, Key Account Manager for Seco Denmark. With locations in seven countries and eleven facilities, soon to be thirteen, Alfa Laval has a global cost reduction target to hit. In 2013 savings, measured in two ways, was 3,852 man hours and 41,825 Euros in tool cost. Those are huge numbers that translate to a significant improvement in the bottom line as well as freed resources for other important business ventures.
So, how do Seco and Alfa Laval meet these savings? “We’re using a few key grades – CP500 and MM4500 and TM4000 – to machine duplex stainless. That’s a basic value, and a need that is being met, but the tooling costs is not the major concern for Alfa Laval, who has massive annual tool consumption”, says Mellerup. The broader picture is to focus on man hours and machine capacity.
This is another area where the Seco/Alfa Laval partnership shines. Together, the two companies have jointly innovated solutions, many times by just giving it a try. One such case is now known as the ‘Pen Pipe’, a custom tool first made simply by bolting multiple turning toolholders together and then estimating an appropriate offset to accommodate increasing depth of cut. The objective was to save time in a large and highly interrupted turning operation which also made so much noise, it created a hearing hazard for machine operators.
The clever offset inserts design of the pen pipe tool permitted a gradually increasing engagement to match that of the component. Now, with multiple inserts set at an exact angle, the entire operation is being completed in a single pass and with not indexing or tool change. Time and tool savings has been significant – 1,582 hours on this operation alone, and 10,500 euros reduction in tool costs.
Other notable successes ensure the strong cooperation between the customer – from operators to production management – Seco technical sales and product management, as well as engineering in Sweden and is fueling the continued success in the future.