All of humanity’s bitter-sweet endeavours of creation involve a certain degree of destruction.
Manufacturing is a sophisticated form of craftsmanship that calls upon ceaseless optimization of the process to produce uniform products, whose quality only enhances and production cost only depletes over time, with best case scenario in hindsight.
Waste management during the manufacturing process obviously poses a big question mark for this apparent goal. As the mattress industry sees a big push towards a more optimised and sustainable outlook, new and better waste management methods during the manufacturing process have become the need of the hour.
Note: Since waste management is such a wide concept that sips deep into every aspect of manufacturing, the article tries to explore it from all possible facets without any particular concern for chronology or steps, while more stress is laid upon suitable examples from the industry. So let’s get to it!
Get your basics right
While frantically looking for novel technology-induced solutions, we often forget to get our basics right. SOP (Standard Operating Procedure guidelines) comes first to mind in regard with this approach. It reads like a bible for the manufacturing process. Regular resensitization of on-the-floor employees in regard to the SOP is also an underestimated but important aspect. Invest heavily on training sessions and even revisionary meetings for smooth operations. True, to err is to human but getting rid of the smallest of mistakes and acts of negligence can turn out to be a huge optimisation push for your manufacturing unit.
Besides the obvious reason of optimum use of resources, waste management also sprees from the innate urge to always aim for perfection. And perfection can ever be achieved without paying attention to the smallest of details. Let us take the example of adhesive for a better understanding.
As the core raw materials see a shift in the industry due to changing customer behaviour and requirement, the adhesive properties in demand also evolve. The market composes any of these, hot melt glues and advanced water based adhesives being some of the popular examples. The mattress adhesive application methods include rolling, spraying and beads. All these methods can be realised manually, semi-automatically or automatically. For all these application methods to be optimal, proper implementation and training is essential. Manufacturers of mattress adhesives provide products, suitable equipment and training to guarantee you the most efficiency.
Even an extra bead of adhesive can impact the efficiency of the process. Hence manufacturers need to zoom in and also not shy away from experimenting in a controlled environment to understand what processes and material give best results with minimum wastage.
As the mattress industry sees a big push towards a more optimized and sustainable outlook, new and better waste management methods during the manufacturing process have become the need of the hour. Some types of commonly observed wastes in manufacturing facilities include waste from overproduction, defects, inventory, unnecessary motion and transportation, waiting times, overprocessing, and unused time and creativity of employees.
Leggett & Platt’s Global Systems Group serves as a good example of this. They added to the company’s sustainability story with its XT9, which joins comfort layers with thread instead of glue. Paul Block (President of Sales) claims that by using thread, the process of joining layers has become quicker, cheaper and improved airflow.
R&D for you, by you
No one knows your manufacturing’s a to z like you do. Focusing on R&D efforts (both, inhouse and in partnership) to help zoom in on particular areas of design and thus, facilitate the development of solutions that are uniquely suitable and advantageous to your process could really be a game changer move.
The Vito group has recently announced their sustainable range of foam, Orbis. The foam uses raw material derived from recycled foam products. They have partnered with materials science company Dow, working on their RENUVA Mattress Recycling Program. This circular economy program converts end-of-life polyurethane (PU) mattresses back to their raw material on an industrial scale. From reducing production cost and finding feasible solutions for endof-cycle mattresses to partaking in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and paving the way for a circular economy, the effort neatly ticks many boxes at a time.
Working with researchers at the University of Huddersfield, James and the team at Deluxe Beds led a project to develop a new approach to mattress design that enabled individual components to be replaced over time. A modular design has been developed, composed of different blocks that can be arranged, removed and added separately, thus adding years to the life of the product while retaining valuable materials.
The R Revolution
Reduce, reuse and recycle are inseparable triplets of a sustainable and circular industry. In order to reduce waste and cost, recycled materials definitely pose a lucrative option. What it essentially requires is the shift in customer behaviour towards more acceptance and trust for mattresses using recycled components.
Since various models are already under experimentation and even operation, many options are at the disposal of the manufacturers if they were to take up this path. Here’s the operational processes they can look for in a well performing end-of-cycle mattress treatment facility:
- feeding and storage: reception (unloading) and dry storage to avoid contamination, sorting by type
- sanitising: applying chemical or heat treatments for sterilisation
- filleting: cutting the mattress’ outer fabric cover and the binding flanges
- disassemble and sorting: separating and sorting the different materials by type
- handling materials: baling processes, product storage as bales, loose material (sorting residues) or in containers (metals), before delivery to downstream processes (e.g. recycling of metals)
Automation all the way
The benefits of automation require no introduction. Let us look at the few examples that are revolutionising the industry for the better.
Bed-in-the-box is all the craze lately, finding widespread status as the norm across the American subcontinent. Even giants like Atlanta Attachments couldn’t resist the capitalising opportunity from this. ARP-20 Model can automatically wrap, compress and roll the mattress, simply removing the human work of putting the mattress in a plastic bag and then bringing the mattress to a compressor and then rolling it by hand. The secondary roll pack option does secondary rolling to bring the length of the rolled mattress to half. So in a truck where you can put only 110 mattresses can be filled with 510 mattresses.
ESCO’s high-speed and precise HTX 51-88 horizontal foam slitter slices a wide range of polyurethane foam blocks into sheets. The company also touted its Profilematic CNC Vertical Wire Saw, an automated cutting system that frees up operators to perform more value-added duties in the plant.
Best of Human Resource
It is true that there is no other resource like human resource. Efficiency greatly depends on the employees operating the machines and making their way around the factory floor. So in a sense, in today’s world, human resource optimization is more about facilitating an environment that ensures complete synchronicity between humans and machines.
Waste arising in production processes can have a significant effect on profitability. The challenge is to reduce waste from production without undermining the effectiveness of the process. Basically the aim of the industry 4.0 is the realization of the intermitted manufacturing with mass production’s productivity and specific cost. If manufacturing companies can reach this aim then we they can satisfy the unique customer needs quickly and efficiently.
Machinery makers like UMIT Makina and Atlanta Attachment have identified many ways to combine process steps so fewer machines can perform all the tasks required to create the product. This type of machinery typically performs repetitive tasks that are easily computer-driven like measuring, cutting to size, electronic sensor-controlled sewing, and much more. Hence operator ergonomics are taking a centre stage in optimisation efforts through automation because well-designed machinery reduces operator fatigue and injury, and speeds production.
Data: Knowledge is power
Knowledge, in any field, is empowering for the analytical capabilities and better decision-making power that it brings. When it comes in numbers, even better! Many manufacturing units aren’t shying away from installing integrated cloud systems that serve as the one-point for all their operations, at the touch of their fingertips.
Besides, the data stored as well as provided in real time serves as a very statistically reliable way of looking at the larger picture, understanding patterns, recognising strengths and points of pain, and forming a base for better decision making and action on part of the executives. Goes without saying, the real time benefits of supervision and identifying potential faults in the assembly are also absolute.
MYFOAMPLANT is one such service provider. It connects your factory and understands how your process is performing. It also connects relevant data sources (foaming machine, raw materials, handling systems, cutting machines, mattress assembly, etc..) and correlates all process data to run quality and efficiency analysis to optimise, control and ultimately, maximise savings in your process. A local architecture is deployed with big data analysis either on premise and/or cloud. In addition to existing factory data, it also helps you to control your process adding relevant information thanks to IPFs proprietary sensors for the foam process.
Raw material: true gamechangers
It is a tricky subject to meddle with the raw materials. Even the slightest change can affect the design efficiency, overall quality and brand/product uniformity. However, it also bears the potential to have maximum impact on curtailing waste management. So before we dive deeper into all the ways of cost and waste reduction through raw material, be mindful of the qualitative impact it might bring.
- Application of four turn springs instead of five turn ones allows reducing the block cost by almost 10 percent. But such a mattress won’t be as hard as required to provide orthopaedic effects. Ideally, a high quality mattress should be from 17 to 22 cm thick in ordinary state and not less than 15 cm in a condensed form.
- Thinning out. A high quality mattress should have a number of spring rows equal to the width of the readymade mattress expressed in decimeters. So there must be 16 rows in a 16 dm mattress. There are a lot of manufacturers who reduce significantly the number of rows.
Observe and adapt
To observe and adapt is in itself a sustainable method of sourcing waste management methods. Take the example of Andons. Originating in Japan, Andons are used to alert staff when there is a problem during the production process. Andons allow production to be ceased so that corrective measures can be taken immediately.
In doing so, they save manufacturers a significant amount of time and money in the long run. By preventing sub-par or faulty goods from being produced, Andons ensure that production lines are able to operate efficiently and prevent costly materials from being wasted. They are finding wider popularity in manufacturing industries across the world today.
The much-needed external POV
A known fact that familiarity often works in deceitful ways. One might become so accustomed and habitual to the current manufacturing process that identifying potential points of pain with complete objectivity could become a demanding task. This is where levying services of outside consultancies and experts come into play.
Yuantian is one such firm offering its multi-fold service in the mattress industry. Their Smart Mattress Production Line offers customizable solutions to maximise the use of space resources in the production workshop, make the production process unimpeded, and realise the functions of mattress production and production efficiency maximisation.
Time for some honest one-on-one
Anyone can make their cost-to-selling-price ratio appear better by making a cheaper product. But, if you start to devalue your product this way, you are on the road to developing a product that ultimately only competes on price. It is one thing to cleverly manage waste and optimise your manufacturing and another to simply compromise on material and processes that add actual value to the products. Have a long-term investment mind-set and choose methods that strike a balance between enhancing your sleep products and being humble on the environment.
Truth be told, producing in large quantities at a thrifty price is not where the definition of manufacturing ends today. Efficient manufacturing takes into account optimum and mindful use of all resources to produce best quality sleep products and the ultimate test lies at how close the process comes to stimulating a circular economy. So get going, because we’ve come so far and there’s so long to still go.