By Liz Stevens, writer, Plastics Decorating
The Indy 500 is not the only race happening in Indiana. When it comes to the race to modernize their manufacturing operations, Hoosiers are primed and ready to go. Some of these drivers of industry have a little extra octane in the tank thanks to matching Manufacturing Readiness Grants from the State of Indiana for smart equipment upgrades that improve capacity, speed and quality. Here is how five savvy business owners capitalized on the financial boost and earned a checkered flag in the Industry 4.0 race.
Michiana Global Mold Ups Its Machining Game
This company, based in Mishawaka, Indiana, designs and manufactures complex molds for the plastic and rubber manufacturing industries as well as offering production and assembly. Michiana leveraged a grant from the state to add a vertical machining center with advanced sensors, allowing the company to produce parts with tighter tolerances while increasing speed and upping production volume. The new equipment’s advanced sensors and measuring capabilities eliminated the need to move molds around the facility to confirm measurements and perform quality checks. Michiana expects to see a 40% gain in efficiency as a result of this investment.
Decatur Plastic Products Adds Robots to Handle Tedious Jobs
In its North Vernon plant, Decatur Plastic Products serves the auto industry and offers flocking for parts such as floor mats and arm rests. Flocking includes applying micro-sized strands of flock material to adhesive-coated parts, spraying the flocking with an electric charge to make the strands fluff up, running parts through an oven to further fluff the strands, removing any residue on the parts and packing them for shipment. The company used grant money to subsidize the purchase of robots to handle the tedious manual aspects of flocking, freeing employees from monotonous, repetitive tasks so that they concentrate on inspecting parts and other value-add steps for customers.
Primex Design & Fabrication Puts a Trio of Advanced Machines to Work
This Richmond, Indiana-headquartered company, a subsidiary of Primex Plastics, develops end use products from the plastic sheets extruded by the parent company. A Manufacturing Readiness Grant gave the company the boost it needed to add an advanced digital printer with very fast color changing capabilities, robotics for feeding plastic material to the CAD table, and a custom-made automatic creasing machine. Production capacity is increased, employees are freed up for more satisfying roles and overall employee attitude toward automation is way, way up.
Konrady Plastics Takes on a Cobot as a Lathe-Tender
Konrady Plastics, Portage, Indiana, specializes in machining plastic sheet, rod and tube. The company used its grant as an impetus to explore robotics and automation, and purchased a cobot to pair with a lathe. The human machinists at the plant eagerly put the cobot to work running one part, day in and day out, yet the cobot never squawks. Employees freed from the tedium of running that part, ad nauseum, were upskilled and moved into more challenging, satisfying roles.
Hightech Signs Automates Its Fabric Cutting
This large format digital printer, headquartered in Indianapolis, faced a dilemma during the pandemic when it pivoted to producing PPE and found that an equipment purchase could make the business case for producing PPE much more viable. A Manufacturing Readiness Grant allowed the company to purchase an automated fabric cutting machine which facilitated expanding production from “basic” PPE masks to also include medical-grade masks. As business returned to post-pandemic normal, Hightech was equipped with Industry 4.0 automation to offer superior quality and a larger mix of services to its customers.
Many states offer incentives to help manufacturers implement advanced manufacturing technologies. For more information about Indiana’s Manufacturing Readiness Grants, visit its nonprofit partner, Conexus Indiana, at www.conexusindiana.com/drive-industry-success/manufacturing-readiness-grants.