Published on the Packaging World Web site
| February 28, 1995
In-house case blank production flies at Boeing
Corrugated processing machine cuts and scores multiple case styles and sizes. It enables Boeing to produce cases on a J-I-T basis and frees up space once allocated to lot quantities of premade case blanks.
Until late '93 The Boeing Company Material Division's Everett WA plant was spending $70 each year to obtain knocked-down corrugated cases to pack avionic parts and ship them to the Boeing divisions that build the commercial airplanes. Case blanks ordered in minimum lots of 100 took up considerable space at the plant. And if a particular container size was depleted the plant packaged the parts in a larger more costly box with additional dunnage that further increased shipping costs. To remedy the situation Boeing elected to cut and make cases in-plant on a just-in-time basis. To do that the plant needed to purchase case-making equipment. Not surprisingly economics influenced the decision to acquire a CP60 corrugated processor from RMF Packaging Systems (Grandview MO). Operators input box style and interior dimensions via a touch screen on the computerized CP60 which then calculates the necessary slits scores and tabs. That information is then displayed along with measurements for the smallest possible sheet capable of yielding the necessary box. Operators then guide an appropriately sized corrugated sheet into the CP60. A set of drives pulls the sheet through the main section of the machine where cutting and scoring heads equipped with industrial blades cut and score as instructed by the machine's control unit. Finally the cut and scored blank emerges along a discharge guide section. "We analyzed our situation and determined we would achieve payback for the machine in two years" states Mike Cunningham general manager of shipping and receiving at the Everett plant. "But the really valuable thing about the machine is its versatility. It allows us to create virtually any case size we want whereas before we were truly limited. "It's also helped us from a timing standpoint" he continues. "To receive cases from our Aerospace Division in the past we had to order them in lots of 100. Usually it took about a week to receive them. If we needed them urgently we could get them overnight but now we can make them on the spot. And by not having to stock such a large inventory of blanks we were able to take out a large shelving area to free up some space. that helps improve the flow of work through the plant." Versatile performer At the Everett plant between 600 and 800 boxes are shipped weekly. They are filled with various quantities of avionic parts which include everything from cockpit gauges to hardware and larger parts weighing as much as 1 lb. Perhaps the most unusual shipment was a 4' cross-section of a Boeing 747 that was sent to a British museum. "It's not unusual for us to ship parts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars" Cunningham notes. The CP60 makes 14 styles of containers producing different styles at a rate of about one each minute. The machine is capable of making 250 boxes/hr for high production needs. RMF says the machine cuts to an accuracy of ±1/16". Maintaining tight accuracy becomes particularly important for shipments designated as hazardous which include paints adhesives and dry ice. The plant produces single- or double-wall corrugated cases with burst strengths as high as 600#-test. Boeing uses 275#- 350#- and 600#-lb test corrugated the latter being double-wall. The 275#- and 600#-test come in corrugated sheets measuring 120" L x 60" W while the 350#-size sheets are 144" x 48". The 275#- and 350#-test sheets come in stacks of 300; 150 to 160 for the 600#-test version. Boeing preferred not to identify its corrugated supplier(s). The shipping process begins as an order form is filled out. Operators place parts in a bin and bring them to a staging area. Parts are hand-packed into cases after the blanks are cut and scored on the CP60 and after operators fold the blanks and run them through a stitching machine to form the ready-to-pack case. Touch screen operation All shipping personnel were trained to use the CP60 by RMF a process that took only minutes. A step-by-step interactive program and pictorial icons on a touch screen computer control panel help guide the operator through the entire process. Boeing relies primarily on regular slotted containers (RSCs) in sizes ranging from 3 x 2 x 3" to 130 x 50 x 60". To cut the corrugated into a case blank the operator uses the touch screen to input the case style and interior dimensions. These are designated by the shipping department to accommodate the specific parts that will be packed in it. Based on this information the CP60 calculates slits scores and tabs and displays that information on the touch screen. It also shows the dimensions of the smallest possible sheet capable of producing that particular case blank thus providing material savings. It also indicates whether the case exceeds UPS shipping size limits and tells the operator if multiple pieces are needed to form the case. Operators place the large corrugated sheet onto a lip that runs across the bottom of the CP60's 6'-wide infeed guide section. The operator nudges the sheet into the 4 1/2'-wide main processing section activating the machine. Inside photoeyes and an encoder track sheet position to assure cutting and scoring accuracy. Air and hydraulic motors drive cutting and scoring heads which are equipped with industrial blades that cut the sheet as instructed by the machine's control unit. Scoring wheels add scores at precise locations on the sheet. Five drives with a system of rollers guide the sheet and pull it through the machine. The cut and scored blanks emerge along a 10'-wide discharge guide. All three sections of the CP60 hold the sheet upright at a 15° angle. Two-year payback Boeing uses two packing lines one for air and one for surface shipments. Operators fold blanks into a finished case and then run them through a stitcher. After the appropriate avionics parts are added operators pack dunnage materials which may include cellulose material and kraft paper. Boeing uses the CP60's computer to save and store frequently used case blank styles and sizes so that in the future when the same blank is needed it can be recalled from memory. This speeds production. "We don't have to keep many case blanks inventoried anymore" notes Steve Itter floor lead shipping. "And most of the parts for the machine can be obtained locally. There are two blades to change and they're available at any regular hardware store." The easy-to-use-and-maintain machine has provided Boeing with material labor and space savings when compared to its prior method of obtaining cases from an outside source. Added together they've kept the Everett plant on a pace that will realize the initial two-year payback expectation. And there's yet another benefit that's not quite as easy to measure but nonetheless critical to Boeing Cunningham says. "With this machine we are getting away from shipping in used cases. The new cases are important in maintaining Boeing's quality image."