One of the oldest existing office furniture manufacturers in the United States, founded in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1912, Steelcase North America produces everything from desk table tops and file cabinets to fire-proof cabinets and office partitions. The demand for office partitions was growing, and to meet that demand Steelcase would have to make some changes.
â€œWe needed to upgrade our production line, which included purchasing new machines,â€ said Karl Esch, senior manufacturing engineer for Steelcase's California operations, where the partitions are manufactured.
As part of that upgrade a higher degree of equipment automation was desired. At a critical point in the process the fabric used to cover partitions needed to be sheeted from rolls, stacked on a pallet, and transported to a molding area where the partitions would be heat-molded to frames. Since the equipment that heat-molded fabric to the frames was completely automated, the sheets of fabric had to be held to strict tolerances: Â±.015â€ for material length up to 48â€, and Â±.020â€ for lengths between 48â€ and 80â€. To hold that kind of tolerance and still keep the fabric moving quickly was going to present a problem.
Steelcase asked Esch to locate and purchase the equipment needed for the production line upgrade. Esch immediately set to work getting bids from several manufacturers. To cut the fabric he would need equipment that could be handled by only one operator, could be easily integrated into the production line and could be custom designed to their specifications.
After weighing all of the options, Esch chose to purchase a CONTECH in-line ServoSheeter. The variable-speed ServoSheeter would be equipped with a buggy-type roll unwind, a secondary uncoiler and a web guide, and would be able to cut fabric at a rate of eight 80â€ sheets per minute.
In addition, the ServoSheeter was built to meet Steelcase's production expectations over time. Among other things, the new equipment was equipped with a drive system that was duty-rated for 24 hour, 7 days a week operation.
â€œInstead of offering â€˜cookie-cutter' equipment that would have to be worked into a production line, we augmented the design of one of our standard machines to fit their application.â€ said Mike Salsgiver, CONTECH vice president.
â€œCONTECH's design meshed well into our production line.â€ said Esch.