MAKING PARTS DELIVERY LEANER
Whirlpool Corporation is a world-renowned manufacturer of home appliances. It has over 100,000 employees working in 70 manufacturing and technology centers around the world.
Its Marion, Ohio plant was looking for ways to optimize part delivery into more manageable quantities for the assembly line. Inspired by the lean manufacturing processes of automotive plants, it wanted to eliminate the use of forklifts as much as possible and instead start using tuggers (tow tractors) to deliver small parts and packaging from its parts supermarket to the assembly line by Kanban. In doing so, it hoped to increase efficiency, decrease costs and improve worker safety.
A Motrec tugger custom‑built for the job
Whirlpool quickly honed in on the Motrec MT-290. It opted for these four-wheel sit-down tuggers over the three-wheel stand-up models because they were more stable and better dampened vibrations from the bumpy shop floor.
The carts towed by the tuggers were customized for each application with 360-degree rotating platforms, roll-off tops, lift mechanisms and special push handles for faster material flow.
Forklifts not being missed
The plant’s new Motrec tuggers can carry six or seven skids at a time and pull multiple carts, substantially increasing delivery times to the assembly line as well as the number of parts delivered per hour. Whirlpool now delivers parts in smaller quantities more frequently, which has significantly reduced its inventory of commonly used parts.
Greater productivity just the beginning
Because the tuggers are narrower than traditional forklifts, the plant was also able to shrink the aisle width, reducing the total footprint for the assembly area. The vehicles’ ergonomic and easy-to-operate design has also improved operator safety and comfort. Maintenance is now easy and infrequent.
The plant also likes the fact that the 110-volt vehicles can be opportunity charged in any outlet during breaks and lunch time. This eliminates the need for a dedicated battery charging system and reduces delivery downtimes.
One small change, many long-term gains
With its fleet of Motrec tow trucks, Whirlpool was able to reap the multiple benefits it hoped for in replacing its traditional forklift delivery system. The plant has improved safety and increased productivity several-fold—all while slashing the costs associated with operating traditional forklifts.