An extensive renovation of Chromalloy Gas Turbine LLCs' Arrowhead Drive facility in Carson City will result in greatly improved operating efficiency and lower turnaround times that could open doors to new lines of business, says General Manager Nat Love.
Workers at the 192,000-square-foot facility repair complex high-pressure components from gas turbine engines found in the commercial aerospace, military and energy industries. Chromalloy's global customer base includes clients in North and Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The facility is one of the few that casts rough materials from raw ingots and produces finished components such as fan blades that are ready for installation into turbine engines, Love says.
Improving the efficiency of the superalloy component foundry and the overall flow-through of parts during the manufacturing process is at the heart of the proposed $6 million renovation plan.
For instance: From start to finish, parts travel about 2.5 miles through the factory. Once the renovation is complete that distance will be reduced to a quarter mile.
First up, though, is to revamp the foundries at the facility that are used to cast parts from raw ingots. Currently there are 17 furnaces at the site, but that number will be reduced to 13.
The new foundry layout and the increased capabilities of the furnaces are the first step in improving operational workflow and reducing scrap waste, Love says.
"The primary drive behind the effort we are undertaking is to lay out the foundry in a manner that is effectively enabling us to reduce waste and improve the velocity of throughput including yield and scrap numbers," he says. "In any foundry process, scrap/yield are two of the major drivers in that portion of the business. Our immediate goal is to really get a process for our manufacturing improvements to increase velocity and reduce scrap yield and have much better flow through the facility."
The new, larger furnaces allow for higher capacity and also increase the number and size of the parts Chromalloy can produce. With the current molds in use, workers can produce just four pieces of equipment at a time. The new furnaces can accommodate larger molds that can cast 12 to 16 parts.
Work on the foundry is expected to cost about $4 million and be completed in September or October. Following that is a factory upgrade on the equipment the company uses to machine, laser-drill, heat treat and coat the parts it casts. Renovation work on the factory is expected to wrap up near the end of the first quarter of 2013.
Once the improvements are in place, Chromalloy can reduce turnaround times for repair work and parts from 20 or more days to 14 days, Love says. That, in turn, will give the company a competitive edge that could lead to increased or entirely new avenues of business for Chromalloy. "When you look at the ability that we have here, and the reduction in the turnaround times, several things should happen," Love says. "There will be more demand for our products because of improved consistency, on-time delivery and improved yields over our competition. The results should be an opening up of the market. That could be within our existing customer base and existing markets and regions, but of course the object is to broaden that scope and open up other forms with engines we don't participate in at this time."
Love doesn't expect the company will add to its staff initially, but an increase in business or new business channels certainly could result in more hiring, he says.
"There is no guarantee of additional jobs from the future foundry and manufacturing; however, the effect to our customers and the market segments we can participate in and hope to expand on, combined with the increased demand and desire for our parts within the industry hopefully could result in additional jobs."
The hardest part of completing the work is to continue running at high speed while taking crucial equipment offline, Love says.
"This is a fully functioning, high-tech, high-demand facility we are trying to upgrade without disappointing our existing customer base," he says.
The renovation was spurred by the company's commitment to operational excellence, Love says. Management used a stringent development and modeling program to take a hard look at its operations and products. The results were used to secure internal funding for the changes, he says.
Chromalloy's Arrowhead Drive repair facility is one of four Nevada businesses for the company. The operation currently services about 15,000 components each year, which could grow by 33 percent after the modernization is complete, Love says.