The Toro Company has been an American leader in manufacturing outdoor lawn equipment since the early 1900s. In fall 2006, the company’s Windom, MN, manufacturing facility replaced its pretreatment washers, added a computer-based system to monitor and control system processes, and upgraded the air seals on its curing ovens. These upgrades helped the company streamline operations and improve paint finish quality, consistency and productivity.

The interior of Toro’s new eight-stage pretreatment washer during assembly at the ABMyr manufacturing plant.

The Toro Company has been an American leader in manufacturing outdoor lawn equipment since the early 1900s. The company built its reputation by developing innovative products for homeowners and professionals, and it has applied this same pioneering spirit to its manufacturing processes. By continuously revamping and upgrading its processes and systems, Toro has remained efficient and competitive in producing its high-performance products.

In fall 2006, the company’s Windom, MN, manufacturing facility replaced its pretreatment washers, added a computer-based system to monitor and control system processes, and upgraded the air seals on its curing ovens. A.B. Myr Industries, Inc. (ABMyr) provided the technological innovations needed to accomplish immediate results. According to Toro, the company selected ABMyr because of its project management process, advanced system tools and superior paint finishing processes.

ABMyr used a structured project management process to complete the system upgrades within an eight-week window to ensure that the line was operational following shutdown. The installation involved preconstructing a new pretreatment washer in the ABMyr plant, removing existing pretreatment machines, commissioning and manufacturing new machines, installing a new paint line controlling system, and starting up the facility’s updated paint finishing line.

Eight-Stage Pretreatment Washer

The original pretreatment washer was replaced with a three-line, eight-stage washer that is used to prepare the part surfaces for painting. The new washer is constructed of all stainless steel to ensure equipment longevity. City water was replaced with reverse osmosis (RO) filtered water for reduced maintenance and improved rinse and cleanliness. An automated filtering system senses the pressure differential across the filter and automatically indexes the media when dirty. Advanced diagnostics quickly identify the source of any problems, and lights are mounted throughout the washer ceiling for easier maintenance. Other maintenance-friendly aspects of the system include raised interior walkways, easily accessible piping and pumps, automatic sludge removal, and a chemical-resistant conveyor design with automated self-cleaning.

The new washer also incorporates a number of energy- and cost-saving features. For example, an air seal at the washer entrance prevents air leaks and wasted energy. The washer uses a low-temperature iron phosphate bath instead of a high-temperature chemical bath, which substantially reduces energy consumption. The rinse water is recycled into the chemical bath to save on water consumption. The system also provides automated control of the batch concentration, rinse water condition and wastewater management to further reduce the consumption of water and pretreatment chemicals.

Chemicals for the washer are provided by Galaxy Associates. ABMyr and Galaxy worked together on the chemical mix, washer design and control system parameters to optimize Toro’s operation. Toro’s new pretreatment washer has dramatically improved the cleaning, phosphating and sealing of parts to create an improved first-pass yield and a better quality finish.

Figure 1. The ChemOPS automated paint line controlling system allows a real-time window into the system’s performance.

Real-Time Technological Solutions

Toro realized early that a successful paint finishing system requires more than just having top-level equipment; a controlled process also must be in place to manage the system. Controlling and monitoring of the finishing process with a ChemOPS automated paint line control system allows a real-time window into the system’s performance to analyze trends and keep production and quality at the highest levels (see Figure 1). Combined with an ongoing system optimization program, the control system provides Toro with a holistic solution that continues to pay off in operational efficiencies, cost control, predictable production rates and a premium paint finish.

Figure 2. The ChemOPS system controls the entire paint finishing line through a single personal computer.

The ChemOPS system controls the entire paint finishing line through a single personal computer (see Figure 2). It offers process control and supervisory tools to enable paint staff to keep the system running at peak levels while immediately recognizing trouble spots. The system automatically monitors and controls chemical concentrations, conductivity, pH, pump pressures, temperatures, chemical usage and rinse water cleanliness. Wireless “on-the-belt” PDA monitoring and alarms notify operators of any problems, while historical logging, production reports and statistical process control provide documentation for improving performance longer term. The system also monitors all utility usages, including gas and rinse/RO water.

For Toro, the primary benefit of the automated control system is in its pretreatment process. A marginal coating can actually perform well with an excellent pretreatment, but a poor pretreatment can negate the performance of an excellent coating. Without proper system control, operational costs of the pretreatment system can be very high. It is important to balance quality with cost so that the system is operating at the lowest possible cost while producing high-quality parts.

Figure 3. An example of a monitoring screen in ChemOPS.

Toro uses ChemOPS to continuously log critical process information and to analyze system trend reports so that problems such as unplanned conveyor downtime, alarm occurrences, and changes in critical parameters, such as nozzle pressures and pH levels, can be spotted quickly (see Figure 3). The company also uses the system to automatically feed and control the concentration of chemicals and water, monitor the ovens, generate real-time production efficiency and operational cost reports, alarm paint process staff of urgent issues, reduce operational costs, and continuously log and monitor all points of the pretreatment system to ensure effective cleaning and conversion coating.

“The pretreatment washer and ongoing system optimization have been performing exceptionally well. We use the ChemOPS SPC [statistical process control] charts and automated system alarms to identify trends before they become problems so that we can deliver a consistent high quality finish and an efficient production line,” says Jim Weinandt, general supervisor of Toro’s Consumer Division.

Oven Air Barrier Heat Seals

To improve oven cure cycles, Toro asked ABMyr Industries to install its patented air barrier heat seals on the oven’s work openings. The air seals, which are made of blown air, create a barrier that acts like a physical curtain to contain the heated air in the oven and prevent it from escaping through the work openings into the surrounding plant.

Tim Hiley (left), Toro quality and facilities manager, and Jim Weinandt, Toro general supervisor, Consumer Division, in front of the eight-stage pretreatment washer.

Continuous Improvement

In addition to the physical plant upgrades, Toro and ABMyr launched a program to continually optimize paint finishing quality and the finishing process. On a biweekly basis, Toro and ABMyr:
  • Analyze alarm Pareto charts to identify reoccurring problems and required actions.
  • Analyze conveyer downtime trends.
  • Review statistical process control (SPC) charts, cost and utility reports, first-pass yield rates and quality metrics.
“The continuous improvement program has provided measureable results in consistent system performance and operation,” says Tim Hiley, Toro’s quality and facilities manager. “ABMyr has helped us implement a system to continually improve our paint finishing processes and quality standards.”

The Bottom Line

Through new pretreatment washers that are monitored and controlled using an automated paint line management system, Toro has gained better control over its paint finishing process, continuous improvement through biweekly system performance analyses of SPC charts, reduced operational and maintenance costs, and immediate notification and correction of any problems. In short, Toro’s paint system upgrades have streamlined operations and improved paint finish quality, consistency and productivity.

For more information about ABMyr, call 734.941.2200 or visit

For more information about The Toro Company, visit