Cooper Enterprises has heavy-duty capabilities and equipment, but information is key to being as efficient as possible.
“Everything here is information driven,” says Edward Friebel, vice president. “We are so reliant on information in this company. “
The Shelby, Ohio, company offers a variety of components and manufacturing services, including stock panels, CNC machining, specialized components, panel layup and assembly. In fact, about half of work done here includes some kind of assembly.
Store fixtures are currently the largest market, followed by casework. Architectural millwork firms, cabinets shops and product manufacturers are also part of the diverse customer base.
“We take very good care of our customers by understanding what their needs are, and being able to take those needs and put them in a product,” says Mike Murray, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re very good at component machining to specifications, and cold press laminating. We do a lot of contract laminating for many companies in this area. We’re also very good at assembly, that’s why our assembly business has grown so much over the past few years. We get a lot of challenging and complicated projects, because we’ve proven that we can handle the complicated stuff.”
Cooper has 60 employees, and overall business has been about even with 2010. Cooper has 102,000 square feet in Shelby, where the company has grown in stages since the 1940s. The company has emphasized testing and training, and taking care of employees by offering a good salary.
“We’ve done a lot of training, and people that are more flexible and capable in different areas have the most growth opportunities,” Edward Friebel says.
Optimizing the operation
Cooper was introduced to Eurosoft through a program for saw optimization, and it is also used with the TigerStop system to automate strip cutting.
“When we got into Microvellum, that’s when we called on Eurosoft to help us to devise something that would allow us to take the information that Microvellum is generating (code, reports and parts lists) and send it to the saw of our choice,” Edward Friebel says. “That really helped.
“Eurosoft partnered with Dakota Automation, and they did an audit of our plant, going over all the fine details. They came back with recommendations, which we’re analyzing.”
From the audit, one recommendation was an inventory retrieval system. Another suggestion was improving storage of laminates. Another program, Smart clients, is designed to correct the lag between the time material is stocked and when the office knows it’s out there and available, allowing faster throughput through the plant. " (Smart client technology runs the actual application server-side and uses the terminal simply as a communications interface with the user or external devices such as barcode scanner, etc.)
“We know as a rule that every time you touch a part, you’re incorporating cost,” Edward Friebel says. “Sometimes it’s more costly to eliminate handling and storage. Sometimes it warrants moving work from point A to point B because the equipment is so efficient.”
Panel saw flexibility
Programs on the server can go to any machine. A Schelling fh4 panel saw was added in January and it incorporates label printing and a turntable that allows the entire book to be turned, using Eurosoft Ardis.
“The biggest advantage is with casegoods and nest cutting when we’re cutting one or two parts, or one sheet at a time,” says Edward Friebel. “It enables label printing to go on at the back of the machine while it is cutting at the front. It keeps everything in motion.”
“It increased our efficiency in labeling, because the old way, you had to pull the parts out, pull the label off the machine and stick it on the part,” Murray says. “Now, the machine is actually sticking the labels on the panel before it’s cut.”
Also, Friebel says the saw blade has a shorter distance to travel, and over the course of a shift that can result in a large time savings. Two different length cutoffs can be made at the same time.
“The Duplus feature enables us, after doing rips, to have two strips cut off at 18 and 20 inches simultaneously. That really helps throughput, especially if you’re cutting one sheet at a time.”
Another Schelling saw was earlier developed jointly by Schelling and Cooper, and was displayed at IWF 2000 before it was shipped to Shelby. This Schelling saw has push-off but also a vacuum lift to use with laminates, and it has arbor speed control so rpm’s can be turned down to cut plastics, or turned up. Edward Friebel says that Schelling is very good about putting modular pieces together.
In between the two saws are the staging conveyors reached by the forklift. Schelling built the staging system. “We looked at other saws, but when it came to space utilization, and getting the two saws to work together, Schelling was very good at helping us do that. We have columns and posts to work around.
Cooper has five medium- and heavy-duty Heian routers. A large, multiple head Heian router, 2R442P, is a 5 x 16 machining center provides speed and efficiency, with two heads that are fixed. Plenum tables hold parts in place, installed over the original pods (The type of pods Heian used didn’t hold smaller parts) with a large Dekker vacuum pump. An older six-head Heian 2R642P, ZR242P Heian, and another Heian four-head router are also used.
“A lot of our four-head routers are real workhorses,” Edward Friebel says. “If I’m running a lot of big parts, they can do a lot of big heavy parts. The Heians can kick out the volume.
“We’re always looking for improvements and ways to improve our efficiency and output. The Heians are great machines that can withstand the rigorous demand of multishift work every day in a dusty and dirty environment. We’ve had Stiles come in and give us an audit on our software to find out how we can improve the software on these Heians.”
Cooper’s newest router is a Weeke Venture, purchased in 2009, which being used for smaller jobs because of its quick setup capabilities.
In addition to the routers and panel saws, Cooper has a Homag edgebander that handles PVC and hardwood banding. (All casework is dowel assembly.) In assembly, a dovetailed drawer box cell includes an Omga radial arm saw, Tigerstop positioning system, with Alexander Dodds dovetailer, gluer and box clamp. A Timesavers sander and SawStop table saw are also used. Cooper doesn’t do a lot of finishing but can do a prime coat if needed.
A ReTech grinder from Vecoplan grinds all solid pieces into dust, which is used for bull bedding, and then for fertilizer. A local steer farm coop picks up and hauls away all dust for this purpose.
Cooper also does contract laminating of sheets for other companies on a 5 x 12 air pod press that provides a lot of flexibility because they have control of the individual pods, which allows them to press on a 5 x 5 pod and a separate 5 x 5 pod. A 4 x 8 press is also used. A hot melt system and PUR glue is used here.
“Hotmelts have helped us reduce the use of contact cement and the labor,” Edward Friebel says. “We had to spray contact cement on both pieces. With hotmelt, it comes out, they roll it, they stage it, and let it set. We can also glue directly on melamine.
Because of a wide range of jobs, Cooper has 50,000 square feet of space to stock panel products and work in process, which may include slatwall or thick HDF. Most laminates are ordered for specific jobs. Murray says he is seeing more demand for upscale laminates rather than melamine.
Short lead times and availability of a wide variety of raw materials are challenges.
“When someone outsources it’s usually too late,” Murray says. “They ran out of time or realized that they couldn’t do it in house. They have to outsource it. That’s the most consistent challenge, but the challenges are always changing.”
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