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PLANT OF THE MONTH: Hamilton Sorter

hamilton_4Upgrades in sawing capability have allowed Hamilton Sorter to be more efficient in its manufacturing operation, reducing operators needed and paperwork.

The Fairfield, Ohio, company makes office furniture and modular casework for commercial uses, often working with architects and contractors. Applications include office environments, hospitals, and other medical settings such as patient and exam rooms.

Earl Crawford, director of operations, said that the company’s focus today is more on laboratories and hospitals, but the company still makes the mail sorting equipment that gave it its name.

hamilton_3The company started out making sorting equipment, such as rotary sorters for doctor’s offices and corporate-style mailroom products. At that time, large firms would purchase sorting modules to sort mail or to file literature.

The company’s corporate mailroom products may have been in the basement of a large office building, sorted out into modules, then put into carts and taken up into the elevators into offices.

The company also emphasizes the ability to handle any size of custom order.

“We will do things larger firms won’t,” Crawford says. “(We can do) any size of modular casework. Our shop is set up to do any size cabinet within reason that meets customer specs. We’ll do a cabinet that is 33-1/4 inches. Our systems allow us to do that (rather than common sizes).”

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Hamilton Sorter has a new FH8 Schelling rear-load panel saw, with full labeling capabilities. It pre-labels the full panel before it’s ever cut, and has reduced the paper that travels with their parts by 97 or 98 percent. Previously, the company had to have paper travel with every custom order.

“We produce per order, we have nothing for stock,” Crawford says. A small order gets the same attention as the larger order. “Our manufacturing processes are set up for a one-unit flow production. We make one unit at a time. Color makes no difference.”

On the FH8 saw, they can load a black 1-inch board, on top of that two oak boards, on top that two cherry boards, and on top of that a white board, based on what had been optimized. The saw understands what to pull, and which colors to cut, and what patterns to use. Crawford says the company uses the latest Ardis optimization package, which is downloaded directly to the saw.

For the company’s modular casework and office furniture, they work with mostly ¾ and 1-inch thermofused melamine, using 1-inch material for tops.

The FH8 saw is fully integrated, with bar codes and a program number, that allows them to scan in at the boring center and pull up a program. At the boring centers, there will be several thousand programs that are not alphabetically sequenced. The bar code allows them to pull the boring program, which increases efficiency.

The FH8 saw has taken one-and-a-half operators out of their system. The operation used to have three saw operators, with two on first shift and one on second shift. They now operate with one-and-a-half saw operators.

The saw is fully automated, and in the layout of plant, everything is set up for the next equipment in the next operation. (Saws, edgebanders and boring centers are all CNC.)

“We cut first, then in our next operation, we edgeband on one of two IMA Novimat edgebanders,” Crawford says. “With those two pieces of equipment we have a finished part at that point. If we can’t edge there, the part is edged on one of two IMA contour edgebanders, if it’s not square or rectangular. (They also have a Holzma HPP 180 front-load panel saw.)

After edging, the next piece of equipment inline would be done by one of three Weeke CNC boring centers. Then all items are moved to either the furniture assembly cell, or the modular casework cell.

Overall, the plant is designed to run efficiently making any size custom order. For more information about the company, see www.hamiltonsorter.com.

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