Case Study: Phase Converters

Customer Analysis Overview

Business Impact

  • Cost Savings
  • Productivity
  • Safety and compliance

Metrics

  • Improved throughput – 500-600% on base pads, 280% on unit enclosures.
  • Higher production uptime.
  • Reduced order lead times by 50%.
  • Reduced SKU’s and inventory on parts from 80-120 to 2.
  • Reduced sheet metal parts cost on base pads by over 20%.
  • Improved assembly safety.
  • Freed up technical resources by outsourcing UL certification.

Business Description

This OEM customer manufactures and distributes the largest online selection of 3 phase converters and transformers, all manufactured in the United States.  Sheet metal enclosures are an important component of their products, protecting the internal electronic components, and delivering an attractive appearance.  Enclosure costs are comparable to costs of the internal components.

The customer’s sheet metal enclosure design work was done in-house.  Designs had significant complexity and required extensive in-house assembly work to make the finished product.  Considerable space was required to store all of the sub-component inventory.

The customer struggled with throughput in their available production space.  While they had worked with several sheet metal fabricators in the past, none had ever suggested changing any of the designs or the assembly process.

Their sheet metal suppliers were having difficulty meeting the lead times necessary to keep production running smoothly and support their delivery dates.

Also, while the customer was UL certifying the product enclosures internally, they desired a sheet metal supplier that could certify the enclosures themselves.

Critical Business Issues

  • Needed more production throughput to meet demand.
  • Numerous components to build an enclosure created complexity, built inventory, and took up valuable assembly time in a constricted production environment.
  • Supply chain disruptions can cause downtime and cost overruns.
  • Need delivery flexibility to match order variability and deliver finished product on time.
  • Insufficient resilience in supply chain creates risk.

Results

Muza Metal Products’ Solutions Team visited the customer prior to beginning their partner supplier relationship.  In fact, Shannon M., the customer’s General Manager, described the process as a very thorough mutual interview.  The Muza team identified several large opportunities for improving the customer’s enclosures.  Shannon noted that Muza was the first sheet metal fabricator supplier to suggest design and assembly changes.

“…they (Muza) were the first sheet metal fabricator supplier to suggest design and assembly changes.”

Shannon M.

In the first three months the teams collaborated on several significant design improvements on base units and enclosures.

In the first collaboration, Muza identified the potential to improve the design of a base pad and reduce between 20 and 40 parts into 1 piece.  Muza built the prototype units, went onto the production floor with the customer to evaluate how the prototype worked through the assembly process, and then provided additional design suggestions to help improve both safety and speed of assembly.  Muza began supplying orders within 4 weeks once the new design was approved.

The new design provided savings of over 20% per unit, but the real eye opener was the improvement in productivity in manufacturing.   After the redesign, the customer improved base pad throughput from 1 unit a day to 5-6 per day, a 500-600% increase in throughput.  Not only did Muza help the customer reduce assembly time and increase throughput by redesigning the unit, they also suggested changes in the assembly process to improve safety.

In the second collaboration , Muza redesigned an enclosure unit.  The new Muza design reduced the number of parts that needed to be assembled from 60 to 80 down to 1 piece.  In this case the new part was more expensive than purchasing all of the individual parts, but provided savings on assembly that more than compensated for the higher part cost.  The new design greatly improved throughput helping the customer build the same amount of finished units in 5 days that used to take 14 days.  Muza also suggested several changes in the assembly process that improved both safety and throughput.

“My other sheet metal suppliers couldn’t provide lead times much better than 8 weeks.  Muza is delivering new components in 4 weeks, existing components in 3-4 weeks, and beats that when we need them to expedite.”

– Shannon M.

In the second collaboration , Muza redesigned an enclosure unit.  The new Muza design reduced the number of parts that needed to be assembled from 60 to 80 down to 1 piece.  In this case the new part was more expensive than purchasing all of the individual parts, but provided savings on assembly that more than compensated for the higher part cost.  The new design greatly improved throughput helping the customer build the same amount of finished units in 5 days that used to take 14 days.  Muza also suggested several changes in the assembly process that improved both safety and throughput.

There were other benefits from the collaboration as well.

The space needed to store the two new one-piece solutions (2 parts) vs. all of the old individual components (80 to 120 parts) was significantly reduced.

Supply chain complexity and risk was minimized.  Previously the customer had to deal with the risk of production being held up if one of 80 to 120 pieces was not available.  Now their risk was only for 2 parts, much more visible and manageable.

The customer is also able to save time and redeploy internal resources that had been required to do the enclosure UL certification internally.

“Great company, great story, great people!”

– Shannon M.

Muza also greatly reduced the lead times for delivery.  As noted by Shannon, General Manager for the customer, ‘With my other metal suppliers I couldn’t provide lead times much better than 8 weeks, and that was more of a hope than a promise.  When we began working with Muza I asked multiple Muza team members about lead times.  Every person was absolutely consistent in their promise – 4 weeks for new components and 3 to 4 weeks for existing components.  Not only did they all promise the same delivery time, they have met that promise on every occasion and, on the occasions where we have asked them to help expedite, been able to beat that delivery promise.  Good company, great story, nice people!’