Chicago Faucets Becomes More Globally Competitive Through Flexible Automation System

THE CHALLENGE
Chicago Faucets was founded in 1901, and just a few years later invented the Quaturn cartridge—a part that is known throughout the industry for its reliability and value. Its design has been a part of every Chicago faucet developed since then.

Due to increased competition from global manufacturers, the company found itself needing to improve its agility so it could keep operations in the United States. It hoped to accomplish this goal through smaller batches, shorter runs and faster setups. It needed increased capacity while delivering high-quality products that would meet tolerances and increase customer satisfaction.

THE SOLUTION
To replace outdated equipment and help to increase throughput, Chicago Faucets obtained several stand-alone horizontal machining centers from Makino, including two a51 and two a61 machines
 
Soon after, in an attempt to further increase productivity by reducing setups for the company’s diverse product line, it sought a flexible automation system. The company liked Makino’s single-source automation capabilities, and it purchased the Makino Machining Complex (MMC2) pallet-handling system and MAS-A5 control, which it used to automate 16 pallets and its two a51 machines.
 
Later, Chicago Faucets added another a61 to its shop floor, along with a 28-pallet MMC2 system to automate all three a61 machines. In addition, it developed a universal jaw system to increase efficiencies.
 
It also acquired a Makino PS95 vertical machining center to increase capacity for casting development.


THE RESULTS
Chicago Faucets expected a three- to four-year return on investment with its first flexible automation system; however, because of the cell’s efficiencies, the company soon revised that expectation to a two-year ROI. This change was due to many improvements seen from the new machines:

   •  Custom combination tooling helped Chicago Faucets go from 300 different tool varieties to less than 200
   •  Makino’s rigid spindle design has made tools last 25 percent longer
   •  Setup times were reduced, enabling operators to make better use of their time
   •  On one component machined on the PS95, cycle times were reduced more than 50 percent