When a major American automotive manufacturer faced changing production demands, excessive waste and difficult controls in its paint shop sealant dispense system, the company looked to Supply Systems from Graco® Inc. for a solution. Consulting with the manufacturer’s engineering team, Graco replaced another manufacturer’s 300-gallon dispense system with a new 55-gallon tandem system that reduces material waste and improves ease of use for the customer.
The sealer deck supply system plays a critical role in automotive paint shop operation, as it is used to cover body seams formed when pieces of metal are spot welded together in the Body in White process, thereby sealing the body from water on the road. This process can have significant impacts on production efficiency and costs. For example, when a sealant dispense system in one major American automotive manufacturing facility’s sealer deck was out of date and poorly matched to its current production demands, it caused a great deal of unnecessary material and time waste.
The system in place was a 300-gallon single drum, installed 30 years ago when the facility was manufacturing large van bodies. Recently, the facility began manufacturing smaller-bodied vehicles requiring a great deal less sealant, with material usage decreasing by 30%. Additionally, the existing system had a complex control panel that led to a large number of mistakes, particularly in material release and pump purging. Training and maintenance on this system were inadequate, and the system’s depressurization procedure was complex. Finally, without an option for depressurizing the pumps before performing material purges, as much as 10 gallons of material was wasted during each purge, with purges occurring as frequently as three times per week.
Upon the recommendation of a trusted vendor, the manufacturer reached out to Graco for a sealer deck pump solution that could meet its production demands while also reducing waste, improving ease of use, and delivering adequate power, system pressure and flow rate.
Graco collaborated with the manufacturer, material supplier and Graco’s distributor, American Industrial, to size a new pumping system to replace the 300-gallon system in place. The new system utilizes tandem 55-gallon drums and a Graco air motor, featuring intuitive, easy-to-reach controls.
“The controls for the previous system were complex – even though everything was labeled, it was difficult to recognize the functions of different controls, and that led to a lot of mistakes,” said Darin Bushong, the Midwest Account Manager for Graco’s Advanced Fluid Dispense division, who oversaw the project. “In the new Graco system, the controls are very simple. There are three gauges and a pneumatic tree with a three-way valve, making it easy for operators to understand the controls at first glance.”
“Changing from the 300-gallon drum to the 55-gallon drums also enabled us to place the controls at eye level, eliminating the risk and hassle of operators needing to adjust the controls and perform bleeding and purges from a stepladder,” Bushong added.
Additionally, the transition from a larger to a smaller system enabled the manufacturer to reduce waste. “With the enormous drum on the prior system, material would sit in the drum for several weeks at a time and, eventually, become unusable,” Bushong said. “The new drums are changed more frequently, thereby ensuring that all of the material in them will be used before it must be discarded.”
The new Graco Supply System also cuts waste through an innovative depressurization kit, which allows the manufacturer to depressurize the pumps and drive excess material back under the platen and to recirculate it within the drum. Compared to the previous system, which required that the pump be purged from the filter and frequently wasted as much as 10 gallons of sealant material per purge, the depressurization feature of the new Graco system drastically cuts down on purging waste.
The Graco Supply System’s superior design has also improved pressure and flow rate over the previous sealant dispense system, due to the Graco team’s extensive automotive dispense applications expertise.
“You have to understand the number of drops that are in the system, the types of materials being used, and really do your due diligence in sizing the system before installation in order to ensure that the power, flow rate, and head pressure are adequate,” Bushong said. “Especially in automotive settings, our team’s experience is invaluable to designing systems with superior performance.”
Along with the Graco team’s experience in performance pump system design for automotive sealer decks, its ability to collaborate with its distributor American Industrial to deliver a specialized feature requested by the customer contributed to the success of the project. Given that the system was being downsized from utilizing a 300-gallon drum to using tandem 55-gallon drums – and therefore drums would need to be changed approximately three times more frequently – the manufacturer wanted to be sure that the company would be able to communicate with the system remotely and receive alerts when drum changes are necessary. American Industrial and Graco Supply Systems teamed up to equip the new system with a Programmable Logic Controller, allowing operators to communicate with the sealant dispense system from the control room. This feature improves production efficiency and ensures final product quality.
Graco and American Industrial also worked together to assist the customer in system startup after installation in the first quarter of 2015.
“Making a change like this, from the large, single-drum system to the smaller tandem-drum system, is rare, since it is difficult to assure adequate pressure and flow rates. Other supply pumps companies simply don’t have the pump size and air motor power that we can deliver with our 55-gallon drum system,” Bushong said. “Our expert team was not only able to make this system viable for the customer, we were able to do so while implementing simpler controls, drastically cutting material waste, and actually improving power, pressure, and flow rate.”