Efficient Plant January 2018 - 23

feature | plant profile

Left. Uponor manufactures a flexible, plastic tubing called PEX
for use in plumbing, heating, and cooling systems in homes and
businesses around the world.
Above. Operating 24/7, the company's PEX operations extrude
and package pipe for shipment to distribution centers throughout North America.

With such a large expansion project comes
specific challenges, Sillerud said, particularly
with regard to space planning. The construction on the 24-acre Apple Valley campus uses
the last amount of available space. Planning
the layout was crucial. "First, we needed to
understand the main functions we want from
this space from a manufacturing standpoint,"
Sillerud explained. "Then we had to have a
clear understanding of what we need on the
people side."

DIGITAL-TWIN TECHNOLOGY
With 24/7 manufacturing operations, Uponor
personnel had to take into account the actual
production space, along with planning fully
appointed break rooms for the employees
and office space for future needs. To make the
most efficient use of the space, the company
worked with a general-contracting firm and a
design firm that used digital-twin technology
to virtually plan the space using 3D modeling.
"There were some things we wanted to
do with the layout of the new construction,
specifically to improve the flow and make
operations more efficient," Sillerud explained.
"By starting with a clean slate, we were able to
design the new building so that we could have
more optimal flow, and in some cases a safer
flow, with less traffic congestion. This was a

JANUARY 2018

big advantage rather than simply having to fit
a certain number of machines into a particular-sized space."
Through digital technology, Sillerud and
his team determined an ideal two-row layout
and orientation for its extruders, which are
the heart of the manufacturing process.
"We found out that one configuration is far
superior to the others," he explained. "This is
a fairly new learning for us, and we were able
to incorporate the new learning into the new
space as well as the acquired space. This helps
us with efficiency and safety by providing less
conflict between humans and forklifts."
Digital-twin technology is a dynamic digital representation of an industrial asset that
enables companies to better understand and
predict the performance of their machines,
find new revenue streams, and change the
way their business operates. Many companies
produce various forms of the virtual technology. "It's not easy to go back and change
things that are already incorporated into a
main manufacturing space," Sillerud said. "It
is time intensive and expensive to turn the
machines 180 degrees."
By determining the ideal flow of machines, materials, and personnel using virtual
technology, Uponor will also be able to use
the newer, more-efficient concept when

retrofitting the Hutchinson facility, which was
previously used to manufacture digital disc
components. While Uponor manufactures
an entirely different product, the infrastructure of the acquired building is ideal, with
advanced systems already in place, such as
high-capacity electrical power, high-capacity
chilled water, and compressed-air systems.
Most of Uponor's strategic planning for
both spaces has been based around material
flow and reducing non-value-added activities. "We are very heavy into the world of
operational excellence and lean manufacturing," Sillerud said. "So anytime we have new
space, we are able to implement many new
concepts which reduce waste and make us
more efficient."
The company had to consider many
priorities when designing the space with
productivity and efficiency in mind. "What
we've learned is that we need all future space
to be very flexible. That means having fewer
center posts. Little things like that have been
considered so that the space can be easily
reconfigured if needed as the future demand
presents itself," Sillerud stated.
"We used a large general-contracting firm
and a design firm, and they used virtual-reality tools so we could see the designs in 3D,"
he said. "This technology really helps the
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Efficient Plant January 2018

Efficient Plant January 2018 - 1
Efficient Plant January 2018 - Cover1
Efficient Plant January 2018 - GF1
Efficient Plant January 2018 - GF2
Efficient Plant January 2018 - Cover2
Efficient Plant January 2018 - 1
Efficient Plant January 2018 - 2
Efficient Plant January 2018 - 3
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Efficient Plant January 2018 - 5
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Efficient Plant January 2018 - 7
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Efficient Plant January 2018 - Cover3
Efficient Plant January 2018 - Cover4
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