Manage the Cost of Growth with a Modular Air Filtration System
Pridgeon & Clay, a manufacturer and supplier of stamped and fine blanked components for the automotive industry, has enjoyed a significant growth in business at its Franklin, Indiana plant over the course of the last three years. With growth came a need to invest in additional welding capacity and equipment, something management did in a modular way, which was instrumental in helping them to manage the equipment costs of growth.
Ross Martin, vice president of operations for Pridgeon & Clay, was responsible for purchasing the new equipment and says that the key to managing costs was taking the modular approach. Pridgeon & Clay purchased robotic welding cells and corresponding modular air filtration units one at a time. As a result, they were able to invest in welding cells as needed and they avoided the cost of installing an inflexible central or ducted air filtration system that would need to be altered each time they purchased new welding cells or reconfigured the plant.
Martin chose the floor-mounted RoboVent™ self-contained air filtration system for robotic welding cells, manufactured by Great Lakes Air Systems of Clawson, Michigan. Martin liked the RoboVent because of its versatility and ability to move easily as they added new welding cells and equipment and reconfigured the plant.
“We haven’t been restricted like a typical central (ducted) system where you’re into re-ducting the whole ceiling and airflow architecture,” he said. “The Great Lakes system most definitely is more supportive of the flexible approach rather than joining into a central ducted system and the amount of suction is very impressive. You can feel the draw as you’re standing there. I don’ think you’d get that kind of draw from a central system.”
Pridgeon & Clay has been in business for 56 years and is a privately held company with annual sales of approximately $170 million. The company has nearly 800 employees in three manufacturing plants located in Franklin, Indiana, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Apostag, Hungary.
They specialize in medium and large weldments for the automotive industry and also provide design, prototyping, validation and manufacturing services for its clients. Parts manufactured by Pridgeon & Clay include chassis parts, exhaust system parts, door beams, engine mounts and engine hangers. “Pretty much anything you don’t see,” Martin says.
The parts are used in virtually every vehicle platform in North America, including Toyota, Honda, Nissan, GM, Ford and Chrysler. Pridgeon & Clay supplies ten percent OEM direct, 85 percent tier one customers and five percent aftermarket.
“Our Franklin, Indiana plant has undergone a tremendous amount of growth in the past three years, where we now have eight robotic weld cells that run three shifts a day,” Martin said. “We wanted to put more manufacturing content in the plant, specializing in welding assemblies.”
Pridgeon & Clay’s Franklin Plant currently has four RoboVent units with each unit ventilating two welding cells. Martin favors adding ventilation systems as welding volume increases. “When we bought the first robot cell we also purchased the RoboVent unit for ventilation, which is really the right way to do it.”
“I think if people don’t have air filtration, they are taking a risk by allowing their people to breathe higher levels of smoke than they should be. Air quality isn’t an option from our standpoint. It’s something needed to ensure the health and well-being of our employees and also to insure that we are not contaminating the environment,” Martin said. “I think it’s key to exhaust smoke quickly and efficiently in any welding operation to try to minimize any of your people breathing that smoke,” Martin said.
Pridgeon & Clay is registered to QS 9000 based on and including ISO 9001 and ISO 1400. They regularly perform air sample testing and are consistently well above the OHSA air quality standards. “We are very proactive in our environmental standards. We take the environmental aspects of running our business very seriously,” Martin said.
According to Martin, an additional benefit of the RoboVent filtration unit has been the extra light provided by the lights mounted on the RoboVent unit. “It not only lights and ventilates the work area, it also lights and ventilates the area where the finished parts are coming out of the cell,” he said.
“The light is important because when you’re MIG welding you have to rely on good visuals to look at porosity and pinholes. Having a well-lighted work area for the operator is important. If you don’t have good lighting you’ll have a lot of visual defects that unintentionally get by,” Martin said.
Pridgeon & Clay staff performs maintenance on the RoboVent products, which requires very little downtime. “We’ve found that the product requires minimal maintenance,” Martin says. “I know it has a system in it that cleans and filters as it runs and it has a collection basket (to collected filtered impurities). That’s a key benefit as opposed to a product where you have to invest a lot of money in monthly in filter changes.”
Martin says a modular approach to investing in equipment and the RoboVent system has allowed Pridgeon & Clay to pace equipment investment with business growth, which is a key advantage.
“That’s pretty darn important for a company as it tries to manage growth,” he says.