Setting up a new moulder operation

Thoughts on setting up a moulding operation in an established architectural millwork shop. June 14, 2000

I'm trying to get a sense of how best to organize a new moulder operation.

We're a high-end architectural millwork shop with a new Wadkin K-23, which I like a lot. We're just beginning to feel our way towards allocating the right kind and types of people to this whole thing. We typically run anywhere from 50 to 500 feet of profiled moulding (custom), sometimes a lot more.

Should one person constantly set up moulder heads and deal with tooling, while another sets up the moulder?

What do most medium-size shops do when they first get one of these beasts and find set-up time is taking much too long?

Most custom moulding shops will eventually have hundreds, even thousands, of profiles that they will produce. It is very critical that you have the tool room set up and organized properly to expedite the tooling procedures.

I have set up hundreds of tool rooms and trained operators across the country. This has allowed me to try a lot of different methods for setting up tool rooms. It is important to get the correct procedures set up early in your new venture. This will save a lot of growing pains in the near future.

As for the moulder operator, proper training from qualified technicians is a must. This will allow them to have everything set up the way it should be, thus eliminating bad habits before they start, and avoiding injuries.

The way to set up your grind shop and the moulder department will vary greatly depending upon the actual time required for each area.

In a small, custom shop that runs short runs under 2,500 lineal feet, a full-time tool room man may be needed. However, if you don't have profiles that need to be run, then a single person can do both the grinding and the moulding.

To deal with set-up time, proper and complete training on basic and advanced tooling and set-up techniques should be learned. The use of axial constant tooling is a necessity. Elimination of backlash in the same direction every time is a must. The best way to get a major reduction in set-up time is to really learn the machine and tooling.

The Training Center in Troutman, NC, along with Fox Valley Technical College in Oshkosh, WI and several other centers offer excellent training to help in this respect. Contact as many trainers as you can and get their input.

Having helped to set up quite a few AWI moulding operations over the past twenty-something years, I would make the following basic suggestions:

a) LEARN BASICS FIRST. Make sure your operator(s) can produce good tooling, and set up simple standard patterns - S4S, T&G, and Stile and Rail, with "FPG" (First Piece Good).

If they can't do that, you may need to call back a friendly service tech to check if the machine and grinder are well calibrated, and whether the operators are using the machines correctly. Remember, you paid for quick set-up technology, you should get it.

b) FOCUS YOUR OPERATOR(S) SKILLS. The above exercise should prove if quick set-up is possible. More important it should highlight the operator(s) who combine the right discipline and technique to be the primary tool person and moulder operator - often the same person to start with.

c) BROADEN MACHINE APPLICATION. In the beginning, you may only be using the machine for a couple of hours a day on profiles. When the moulder is not in use, as when your "operator" is busy in the tool room, he/she should leave the machine tooled and callibrated for S4S so that others can readily use it for quickly dressing stock as needed.