Field support fast-tracks productivity and energy savings at MGS Technical Plastics

 With any strategic investment in new technology, energy savings estimates and productivity promises can be persuasive. Yet, the proof was in the pudding for Lancashire moulding firm MGS Technical Plastics who uncovered the real worth of their investments in two new IntElect 50 ton injection moulding machines. A series of process optimisation on-site assessments revealed a staggering 61 percent reduction in energy consumption and 50 percent improvement in productivity.

Joined by group application engineer Sascha Heinemann and Ashlee Gough from Sumitomo (SHI) Demag UK, the Lancashire moulder welcomed the opportunity to participate in field tests post installation and uncover the true performance benefits of their newest investment. The results surpassed everyone’s expectations.

Without any performance adjustments, the MGS team, who installed the two IntElect machines at the start of 2022, had instantly observed a 20 percent uptick in productivity. Part of a heavy investment drive by the Lancashire firm, which has a turnover growth target of £10 million in the coming years, technical director Judson Smythe notes that having replaced almost 75 percent of their machinery park since 2017, they felt primed to test the environmental benefits of all-electric injection moulding.

Describing sustainability as being the soul of the Blackburn firm, reliability had until this moment tainted how management viewed all-electric moulding machines. With just a few legacy machines left to replace, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s sales manager Ashlee Gough instilled the MGS management team with enough confidence to take the leap.

50 percent productivity gain

Drawing on their own technical skills, MGS could see that the productivity and energy efficiency numbers were already stacking up. Taking a mould tool from an old 50-ton hydraulic and running it on one of the company’s new IntElect machines had increased productivity on most processing jobs by 20 percent. Straight off the bat, without any processing adjustments, exclaims Judson. “What Sascha and Ashlee managed to impart was how to secure the next 30 percent and reach the eye-watering 50 percent productivity gain.” Proof that if you know where to look, these yields do exist.

Among the refinements, Sascha and the team demonstrated in-person the full potential of the parallel functions and how machine operatives could better utilise this technology and harness the benefits of the mould opening and closing speeds. Resulting in a 15 percent reduction in cycle time on one application and a remarkable 50 percent reduction in cycle time on another. “The team was blown away with how even the most basic functionalities on the IntElect leads to significant gains,” affirms Judson.

As their first all-electric install, parallel functions were new to the MGS team. Adding this functionality to conventional hydraulics requires additional pumps, which equates to extra energy consumption, notes Sales Manager Ashlee Gough.

Extrapolating these productivity enhancements into real production scenarios, Judson cites a recent moulding job where five weeks had been allocated for the run. Instead, the IntElect run took just three weeks to generate the same volume of components. Effectively, enabling MGS to pull forward on another product run and giving them two full weeks of extra manufacturing capacity.

“That’s a huge productivity and capacity gain in itself. For any mass manufacturer, that could be the difference between economic viability on a precision moulding line. It also gives MGS the crisis management tools to adjust production schedules and respond, as we did during the pandemic, to healthcare and NHS Covid demands,” claims Judson.

The technical director is also quick to highlight that this increased capacity can be gained within the same factory footprint without increasing the number of machines or skilled labour pool.

Truth, trust and teamwork

Environmental integrity is a core value at MGS. Realising the true extent of the sustainability promise, evidenced by like-for-like processing data, was another Eureka moment.

Sold on the ballpark figure of 50 percent energy savings, the Sumitomo (SHI) Demag team initially used a part with a 19.4 second cycle time to estimate a reduction from 1.87 kW/h/kg on the Ergotech 50 ton machine to 0.78 kW/h/Kg when processing the same component on an IntElect. Although impressive, a return site visit to perform a final energy consumption assessment factoring in the 16.6 second cycle time after optimising the production set up revealed a true energy consumption saving of 61 percent.

“Our IntElect machines are delivering everything that they said on the tin, and more,” states Judson.

Optimising machinery OEE is equally reliant on team engagement. With a very capable shopfloor team, seeing these process improvements first hand was eye opening for everyone. Judson was struck by how swiftly MGS processing engineers were galvanized into action. Creating an infectious buzz that continues to resonate across the factory floor.

“It’s a bit like a halo effect. When teams feel like you invested in their development and future, they champion further process improvements. This in turn has a lasting and invigorating effect,” states Judson.

Historically an all-electric sceptic, managing director Neil Garrity is also a convert and now strong advocate for harnessing the benefits of energy-saving technology. Particularly for the processing of high precision automotive and defence applications.

The findings have given MGS even more impetus to accelerate its sustainability promise and demonstrate its environmental commitment by replacing legacy technology with all-electric machines. “As evidenced by this data, lowering our carbon footprint isn’t only better for the environment, but also better for our business in terms of cost savings and increased yield,”  states Judson.

Strategically, having access to international insight, global processing acumen and ongoing service support is extremely valuable to MGS. Endorsing the advantages of in-person collaborations, Judson concludes: “The belief that companies have to stand alone and operate in isolation has passed. As this exercise demonstrated, the coming together of minds and collaborating to solve challenges makes a huge difference. We really valued having the expertise of Sascha and the team present on site, showing what can be accomplished by sharing knowledge.”

Given the positive feedback, Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s application engineering team have pledged to continue travelling the world and optimising production setups in the field. Head of application engineering at the Group Mirko Schmitz confirms this, adding: “We will continue to expand the international availability of our engineers in order to share our experience and to have our customers’ production running on maximum efficiency.”