In a world where most large manufacturers are shipping their production to other countries, you might guess that the world’s leading composite pallet manufacturer would be found “somewhere offshore.” You guessed wrong.
Thanks to the use of software including Autodesk Factory Design Suite, Southern California-based Plastics Research Corporation (PRC) has successfully designed a factory that can make multiple millions of composite pallets a year: a volume unmatched by any other composite pallet manufacturing facility in the world.
Designing a factory that can successfully orchestrate all of the various “moving parts” of composite pallet production is no small feat.
Approximately 24 semi-tractor trailer trucks arrive daily at PRC’s Ontario, Calif., factory carrying resins, powders and other raw materials. These materials are fed into a gigantic mixer that is six feet wide and 100 feet long, making it the largest compounder in the world to handle that type of composite material.
The resulting paste is sandwiched between sheets of fiberglass and formed into precisely measured “charges” that weigh 50 pounds each. Robots whisk these charges over to molds, where the composite material is cured for exactly one minute. Other robots join the cured panels together with a urethane adhesive to create the finished pallet.
Working with Autodesk Platinum Partner KETIV, PRC used Factory Design Suite before anything was built to create a digital factory model. After evaluating multiple what-if layout scenarios, it was simply a matter of importing digital models of the various pieces of equipment and machinery (which PRC had created using Autodesk Inventor software as part of Autodesk Product Design Suite) into the digital factory layout — then moving them around until an optimal layout was achieved.
“We took somebody with zero CAD experience and, within a week of working with Factory Design Suite, he was able to produce factory layouts for the team to evaluate,” said Thomas Atkins, engineering manager at PRC.
Not one to rest on its laurels, PRC is already planning further expansion of its manufacturing footprint by using its existing factory as a template for other factories in the country.
Impressive what the right technology can do to turbocharge manufacturing efforts. You can also view PRC in action with Factory Design Suite in this video on the Autodesk YouTube Channel.