In July 2015, Whirlpool Corporation completed the purchase of American Dryer Corporation (ADC), a privately held company that manufactured specialty and industrial laundry equipment. In addition to strengthening its position in the commercial laundry industry, the acquisition gave Whirlpool an additional 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Fall River, MA.
Improving the facility’s existing process of storing and handling dies became a focus for Manufacturing Engineer Derek Clarke in 2016. Ross Technology worked directly with Clarke and Whirlpool to design a custom racking solution that holds up to 35,000 pounds of dies per shelf. The result is wide span racking that streamlines operations and provides important storage flexibility for the future.
- Existing die storage racks were outdated and inefficient
- Future, larger dies could not be efficiently and safely stored on existing racking
- Several existing dies were stored on the floor, or in a separate area of the facility, which required added time to change out dies
After assuming control of ADC’s existing storage and manufacturing processes, Whirlpool began making plans to discontinue the practice of storing dies on the floor to minimize damage and improve safety. Another critical objective in their plan was to consolidate dies storage in order to improve efficiency for the press operators, who regularly spent time trekking across the facility to retrieve certain dies. This process added anywhere from five to 15 minutes to the change-out process and happened as many as 10-12 times per day.
Furthermore, Whirlpool has plans to bring in new dies to support a new press machine, and an upgraded storage solution is needed to safely handle the increasing size and quantity of incoming dies.
- Ross designed and manufactured custom racking to meet expectations of Whirlpool’s die engineers, and Whirlpool safety guidelines
- Each shelf is designed with a wide span construction to eliminate intermediary support columns
- Each shelf is engineered to hold 35,000 pounds, which accounts for future, larger dies
With input from Whirlpool’s die engineers, Ross manufactured racks measuring 24 feet long and 4 feet deep, with four shelves that stretched a total of 12 feet high. Whirlpool’s existing set of variable-sized dies, combined with unknown sizes of future dies, helped determine that a 24-foot length for each shelf would provide Whirlpool with plenty of storage space and flexibility. Instead of utilizing three 8-foot bays to accomplish a length of 24 feet, Ross manufactured the shelves to be single span so that no support columns would hinder die storage.
To meet safety precautions set forth by Whirlpool, the racks were limited to 12 feet in height. Each shelf can hold up to 35,000 pounds, and its nut and bolt assembly gives Whirlpool the freedom to move shelf heights as necessary while maintaining its overall 12-foot-high safety regulation.
- Quicker change-out process at the press
- Wide span shelf simplifies storage
- Custom racking solution provides Whirlpool flexibility for how it can store dies and material in the future
Implementing Ross Tool & Die Racks increases the efficiency of day-to-day operations at the Fall River facility. All of Whirlpool’s dies are located in the same area as the press machine, which saves up to three hours daily of downtime during die change-outs and eliminates cross-facility trips to retrieve dies.
Single span shelves now simplify the storage process by allowing press operators to place dies without interference of intermediate columns. Previously, support columns dictated how dies were stored—two large dies could not fit side-by-side into 8-foot bays—and those same support columns took up valuable storage space.
As Whirlpool continues to increase its Fall River production, larger dies will inevitably arrive at the facility. While it’s unknown exactly what size dies will be used in the future, Whirlpool’s new setup—with 35,000 pound shelves—prepares the plant to safely store whatever comes its way.
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