Improving Moulder Efficiency

Two guys have their hands full trying to satisfy a busy shop's moulding needs. Here, they get some advice on how to streamline their operation. March 29, 2006

I would like some tips on increasing the moulder output at the shop I work at. It is me and one helper trying to run enough parts for about 20 kitchens a week. Each set has on average of 55 doors, so this means we have to mould all the face frames, door rails, drawer fronts and sides, countertop splash and edge banding, several different sizes of crown moulds and all the other specialty parts needed to complete this task. About 25 different products.

The moulder is a Profimat 23. We use a small slr and a 24 inch gang saw to rip with. We use stacking cutter heads and spiral insert heads when possible. This moulder runs virtually all day long. On paper, this sounds possible, but by the time we forklift lumber in, set up machines, sharpen knives, etc., we always fall short of our needs. If anybody has any techniques they would like to share, we are listening.

Forum Responses
(Solid Wood Machining Forum)
From contributor R:
Here are a few things you could try. First, I assume your feed rate is about 30 feet per minute. Try to run your profiles with the least amount of cutterhead changeovers. When you run crown, run all the different ones in the same day. This way, you're only changing the top head and adjusting the heights of the bevels, assuming there are the same back bevels. Try to get it so you not changing so many cutterheads in each setup. This will reduce setup time.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the response. You're right about the feed speed, and just to make things a little clearer for everyone, we don't run all 25 different parts in a single day. This is a week's worth of work. We use about 7 different species of lumber, so we do a lot of batching of parts, as you suggested.

From contributor J:
It sounds like it's time to hire another person.(that is a task in itself). You are running yourselves ragged. Just take a good worker under your wing, start him/her on the forklift, etc., and if he/she is the right one, train them for what you need. Or get one guy in the tool room prepping for the next day and maybe have one setup guy. But someone has to feed it and tail it. (Probably you guys, while you could be doing something else, right?)

How do you like your P23? They had a few setbacks with that model.

From contributor S:
Contributor R is right about ganging up similar profiles to minimize change-over time. Keep this in mind even with S4S-to-profile, one side type of things. Also, and I'm assuming a lot here, but if both of you are working the moulder, you might want to rethink that. One person can feed and catch a small moulder, with some effort, by putting a flop table at the outfeed end. The other person can be sharpening heads, staging the next run, etc. Also, try doubling or tripling some of your shorter runs, and stockpiling the excess from one week's production for release the following weeks. Twenty-five different products is a lot, but it is a finite number, so there is a beginning and an end to what you need to accomplish in a week's time. Eat that elephant one bite at a time until it is manageable.

From Dave Rankin, forum technical advisor:
There are many things that can be done to improve moulder production. Many of them start in the tool room. Over the years, many companies have followed some simple guidelines.

In the tool room:
1. Find and use the best grinding wheel for your tool steel. Avoid constant trials of wheels, as this reduces your efficiency.
2. Find and use the best coolant for your machine, operator and application. Once again, avoid constant change.
3. Find and use the best grade of tool steel for your application. At most, use 2 grades of HSS and carbide. Avoid constant changing.
4. Learn and follow the same grinding process and use axial constant.
5. Grind the tools to within + or - 1/16" (1 corrugation) in radius.

On the moulder, some simple rules of thumb:
1. Use axial constant. If it is not right, find out why and fix it. This will reduce normal setup time by about 60%.
2. Schedule similar profiles.
3. Schedule similar widths of profiles to avoid having to change feed rollers.
4. Schedule rough stock profile separate from rerun profile. Once again, this will avoid having to change feed rollers.
5. Convert all locks to quick locks and avoid wrenches when possible.
6. If your machine has counters on the spindle adjustments, use them.
7. Always eliminate backlash in the same direction.
8. Have the next set of prepared tooling at the moulder ready to go.
9. Have all working tools and wrenches at machine in easy reach.
10. Have wood ready and waiting on the moulder.
11. Use automatic return system for bringing wood to the operator position.
12. Use automatic infeed feeder to allow single operator to both feed and offbear at the same time.
13. Keep machine maintenanced and aligned properly.

From contributor M:
Consider outsourcing some percentage of your work to a reputable moulding maker/millshop. A well established millwright ought to be able to run production parts for you at least as well as you do, if not cheaper, better and faster. By outsourcing 10-20%, you will be able to gain up to an 8-hour day of your own time to apply to problems and production that is unique to your company and situation. You will also be able to react more quickly to uplifts in demand when they occur.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the tips. You have given me some ideas. I need to look at our whole moulding process, instead of just the moulder itself.

This moulder was kinda quirky when I first started using it. It was well used by others before me, so if it had any problems, I wouldn't have known it. We gave it a going over a few years back and it still works fine. The fence gets out of alignment pretty easily, but we have learned to spot this quickly when we mic. our parts. Overall, I think it is a decent machine - easy to set up and use.