The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Recognising the potential for savings in plastics engineering
Experience – Platics

Savings are always possible!

A helping hand for customers. “Every company always has the potential to cut costs by 30 per cent.” LKH Kunststoffwerk proves there is some truth in this statement. It systematically assesses and analyses new and existing customer projects to lower costs, a process in which sustainability is playing an increasingly important part.

Text Meinolf Droege ––– Photography

Helping customers identify cost-cutting potential is something LKH is good at thanks to its comprehensive process expertise from numerous customer projects. This know-how extends throughout the entire process chain, including product design, various process technologies and material types, assembly and quality assurance. “We systematically help our customers gain a little breathing space from competitive pressure, without them having to lower their margins,” explains Managing Director Volker Hindermann.

STANDARDISED PROCESSES

For several years now, LKH has been performing detailed assessments of new projects and analysing the value of all process steps. This includes everything from optimised components to mould design or production process variants, materials management parameters and quality assurance. “Our innovation management goes far beyond typical supplier proposals. We use standardised processes to regularly and proactively examine our customers’ new and existing contracts,” says Johannes Beckert, who is in charge of the Manufacturing Engineering department at LKH. “At the end of the day, the question is always how to cut unit costs for our customers, while still maintaining the same high level of quality,” he adds. LKH discusses appropriate proposals with customers based on the concepts it has devised.

WHAT IS CONCEIVABLE?

In the case of a call-off contract where the number of items to be supplied kept increasing, for example, options for boosting capacity were identified. Various measures to shorten cycles promised only a short-term solution. The mould specialists at LKH were therefore quick to develop alternative mould concepts and assess the cost-efficiency of each one. In consultation with the customer, this resulted in a stack mould with twelve rather than the previous eight cavities. The increased capacity ensures long-term production reliability, and the mould design makes it possible to use a smaller machine. Both these aspects have a direct impact on lowering component costs.

Where optimised processing parameters prove inadequate for quality-assured processes, the necessary expertise is available for a wide range of alternative solutions. “We may suggest changes to the component geometry based on simulation data or look into using a hot runner rather than a cold runner distributor,” says Head of Mould Management Rolf Peusch, listing potential options. “Another possibility is operating the mould on one of the cutting-edge LKH machines with inline monitoring and control of relevant process parameters such as injection volume, pressure and time in the future to ensure maximum process reliability. These measures, too, always focus on unit costs,” he adds. All kinds of things are conceivable. The prerequisite is knowing the customer requirements over and above the actual component. This means the innovation management review and assessment can cover the entire process so as to maximise the benefits for the customer.

Robotertechik

The LKH plant in Heiligenroth benefits from a high level of automation thanks to robot technology.


Plastics tips for smart spenders

  • Switch to a new mould with a larger number of cavities
  • Change component geometries
  • Use a hot runner rather than a cold runner distributor
  • Reduce tolerances by using machines with inline monitoring and control
  • Integrate an automatic measuring device with 100 per cent checking
  • Factor in recycling at an early stage

CHANGING THE PRODUCTION STRATEGY

This may also result in a change to the production strategy, as in the case of a louvred component for fan-and-filter units (see above). A special variant required in small quantities was initially milled, but that was comparatively expensive, generated waste and also involved a considerable amount of handling. Given that the capacity of the injection mould was not being fully utilised for the standard variant, the specialists decided to make an interchangeable insert so that, in the future, both variants can be produced in the same mould at far lower costs and with less waste, while also producing a high-quality result.

FACTORING IN RECYCLING EARLY ON

According to Hindermann, it is important with all investments to also factor in recycling at an early stage in the processes. He cites the example of sprues and startup residues being ground and fed directly back into the process on around 40 of the 55 injection moulding machines. That’s not all, though. The recycled material being used must meet the components’ strength and surface quality requirements. If such components are subject to certifications relating, for instance, to their flame-retardant design, this must be considered in advance. Reliable, well-documented and customised assessments of the technical and cost-related effects help evaluate the alternatives.

LKH is already prepared for the expected requirements of the automotive industry in the context of certification to ISO 14001. Should these requirements materialise, LKH has practised, reliable processes and tried-andtrusted partners in the areas of recycling and sustainability. For example, it has reduced the energy consumption per kilogramme of plastic processed by over 20 per cent in the space of four years.

SCOPE ALMOST ALWAYS EXISTS

Experience from current projects shows that the comprehensive analysis of a process almost always reveals opportunities that can be implemented in the short, medium and long term for optimising cost-efficiency while also meeting high sustainability requirements.

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