Operational benefits of single-source whole-system foam manufacturing

Is it better to buy industrial foam manufacturing lines all at once from sole providers, or is it better to source individual equipment pieces from separate vendors who specialize in specific stages of the process?

When you consider the investment required to get a new line up and running, this simple question becomes very important.

We believe manufacturers are better off sourcing whole systems from sole providers.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re happy to build one-off foam ovens and other post-expansion conversion equipment. But the productivity, maintenance, safety and facility benefits (not to mention cost savings) of integrating an entire system from a sole provider are too concrete and wide-reaching not to consider.

Below are the key operational benefits of adopting entire lines from a single source.

Electrical system continuity simplifies maintenance, training and troubleshooting

The electrical systems that power modern foam manufacturing lines are quite complex. This is true of isolated machines and whole systems alike. But when a single provider builds an entire line, they can assure the seamless integration of each machine during the control system design process.

That leads to three critical benefits.

First, the system’s human-machine interfaces (HMIs) can be integrated, allowing operators at any station to monitor production information across the entire system.

Second, the common terminology used for all parts of a system simplifies maintenance and shortens the learning curve for operators.

Third, maintenance personnel will appreciate having only one manual and one wiring diagram (written by one staff, in one language) to consult during regular maintenance or when making repairs. And if they need a hand, there’s only one phone number they need to call.

Whole-system design makes general maintenance easier

Whole-system designers can maximize access to key maintenance points because they can see and think in terms of an entire manufacturing line. Such holistic thinking is not possible on a discrete piece of equipment that’s necessarily somewhat agnostic toward what comes before or after it.

And since whole systems often rely on common hardware, maintenance is further simplified and the hassle of storing and documenting spare part inventories is reduced.

Whole systems optimize operator safety

A piecemeal approach to equipment procurement results in piecemeal worker protection. Engineers will need to understand each component’s safety features, recognize any potential gaps that exist between one zone and the next and then determine how extensive aftermarket or field-fabricated additions will need to be to protect workers and meet applicable statutory requirements.

Whole-system design closes those gaps and eliminates the risks that mismatched or incompatible safety features pose to workers. In short, whole systems provide one unified answer to a whole line’s worth of operator safety questions.

Whole-system design considers floor plan and user flow requirements

Whether all stages of a manufacturing line came from one provider or many, the system still takes up space. But the machines that comprise piecemeal lines are each engineered in a vacuum, lacking a holistic accounting of how the equipment relates to its environment when fully assembled.

Designers of entire lines have greater freedom to customize equipment that integrates seamlessly with facility layout and infrastructure while optimizing (as opposed to constraining) the movement of people, tools and products.

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Continuity of thought streamlines software/hardware design

In much the same way that whole systems are electrically streamlined, a similar benefit emerges for whole systems that run on the same software program and share common hardware.

Piecemeal lines running on different software can communicate and work together seamlessly, but it often comes at the expense of hiring integrators and installing expensive programs that break down the barriers of zone-to-zone interface. Consequently, if something goes wrong on such a system, downtime is compounded as maintenance teams sift through documentation to find which supplier or integrator is responsible for which system component. Whole-system design eliminates these potential failure points.

As a practical example, the software and hardware characteristics of single-source lines are particularly beneficial for web-type foam manufacturing that relies on balancing tension and controlling line speed from zone to zone. Piecemeal lines require much more fine-tuning among zones and introduce multiple potential failure points if they aren’t properly dialed in. Potential tension and line speed issues are engineered out of whole systems from the start.

Whole systems are up and running faster

The time between shutting down an old line and starting a new one is critical. Obviously, manufacturers want to minimize this interval. When buying an entire line from a sole provider, there’s only one project deadline. Hours spent in pre-planning, scheduling and coordinating installation are dramatically reduced.

And, installation of an entire system by one group of people is far more efficient (and less of a headache) than orchestrating concurrent installation of separate machines.

Is relying on one provider bad risk management?

Suppose you purchased an entire line from a single source. If something went wrong with this supplier, or a breakdown occurred somewhere in the line, you’re out of operation until the problem is resolved. Wouldn’t it better to spread the risk around to multiple equipment vendors?

In our view, no.

Consider that web-type foam manufacturing is a continuous process. Every machine in a line must work for production to be successful. If one goes down, the whole line goes down. This is true regardless of whether each machine came from a different source or the whole line was designed, built and installed by a single provider.

The operational benefits of single-source manufacturing lines outweigh this risk.

Whole-system builders make your work easier and more productive

Any provider who wants to sell entire manufacturing lines instead of individual zones must think bigger. They must apply their very specific knowledge with a customer’s global challenge in mind—the safe, efficient and profitable production of industrial foam products.

It’s hard to do on a whole-system level, which is why few providers do it.

Davron Technologies earned its reputation by building quality custom foam manufacturing equipment, standing by our work and standing by our customers. Our philosophy is simple: we’re here when you need us.

If you’re assessing whether to add or update a foam manufacturing line in your facility, consider the ways your operation will improve by choosing a whole-system provider. And if you think we’ll work well together, let’s talk about your plans.