Supporting a Mission Critical Operation
Heavy-duty conveyors help SPARTA automate manual operation,
achieve new levels of productivity.
|Automated chain transfers efficiently
move heavy material at right angles to connecting conveyor lines.
Everyone talks about their products being mission critical, but
in the case of SPARTA Inc., they really are. The company's San Diego-based
Composites Products division makes the hardware that goes into some
of the military's most advanced weaponry. For example, SPARTA's
composites product is a key component in the U.S. Army's "Javelin"
man-portable anti-tank missiles.
When you're in the business of supporting the country's front-line
soldiers, you have to make certain that every aspect of your operation
is reliable and efficient. And that includes the materials handling
operations associated with making those products.
SPARTA adheres to the philosophy of continuous improvement throughout
its supply chain operations.
A good example of this can be seen at the company's San Diego production
facility, which makes the hardware used in the housing for the Javelin
In the past, this operation had relied heavily on a few basic gravity
conveyors and a lot of physical exertion. That's all changed. Today,
the facility uses heavy-duty conveyor equipment from Hytrol to move
product through the production processes. In addition, the company
is in the process of adding new equipment to make the San Diego
center even more productive in the future. Assisting SPARTA with
these projects is Atlas Equipment Co., a systems integrator and
distributor of Hytrol equipment based in San Diego.
Safety and Efficiency
Prior to adding the powered conveyor equipment, the load frames
and other materials handled in San Diego were moved around the production
center on gravity conveyors and were handled manually. The problem,
however, was that load frames carrying the composite materials used
for the missile housings typically weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds.
In addition to the obvious ergonomics problems, this situation brought
with it productivity and potential safety issues. Without an automated
materials-flow system, congestion increased throughout the facility
as new production lines were added. This was not an optimum situation,
either from a productivity or safety standpoint.
|The installation of powered chain-driven
conveyors has largely eliminated the need for manual handling
of the heavy load frames.
Now, hardware moves from one production area to the next smoothly
and with minimum manual effort. The heart of the system is the chain-driven
live rollers that connect the various production processes. The
load frames are transferred from one line to the next by means of
powered chain transfers. These units move products at right angles
to the connecting conveyor lines. An air actuator lifts the transfer
mechanism while powered chains transfer the product.
"With the new power lifts and chain transfers, the load frames
change direction very easily," says Joseph R. Cook, principal
manufacturing engineer for SPARTA's Composites Products Operation.
"It's a much smoother operation than we had before."
Hardware can now move throughout the facility in a more automated
- and much more efficient - manner. Chain-driven conveyors transport
the load frames from the lay-up room, where the production-preparation
activities take place, to the main production area. Powered transfers
then divert the frames down one of three lines serving the mold-closing
Once the composites product is cured in the mold-closing station,
the load frames are moved via the chain-driven conveyors to the
mold-opening area. There the composites product is separated from
the mold, the mold is cleaned, and the load frame is released for
transport back to lay-up for reuse. The facility now processes more
than 1,600 parts a month. In short, it's a straightforward system
well suited to the compact 36,000 square-foot facility.
Enhancements for the Future
Management at SPARTA has high praise for the manner in which the
conveyor equipment was installed. "We never stopped production
at any point during the installation," Business Manager Matthew
Barraco recalls. "The people at Atlas Equipment worked around
our schedule and our operations. The entire installation went smoothly
and right on schedule."
and running for about a year now, the new installation already has
delivered a number of important benefits. SPARTA is able to do more
with less manpower - in an environment that is safer and ergonomically
friendly for employees.
Productivity and efficiency will increase even further, management
believes, with the upcoming addition of several new conveyor components.
One is a zero-pressure accumulating conveyor in the line leading
from the lay-up room to the main production area. This segment will
incorporate the EZ Logic feature, enabling more efficient staging
and flow of product into the production processes. SPARTA also plans
to add additional chain-driven units to replace the ball transfer
tables still in place. Atlas Equipment is installing this new equipment
"Essentially, we're moving toward a fully automated operation,"
sums up Business Manager Barraco. Going forward, these kinds of
improvements will enable SPARTA to continue to carry out its mission-critical
The SPARTA Production Facility
Load frames housing the composites product move from the lay-up
room to the main production
area on chain-driven live roller conveyor. Powered chain transfers
send the frames down one of three lines serving the mold-closing
stations. Once the material is cured, the load frames are transported
to the mold-opening area. There the product is removed and the frames
are cleaned and sent back on the chain-driven line to lay-up for
reuse. SPARTA is adding an accumulating line with EZ Logic between
lay-up and the production area to more effectively control the flow
A Closer Look At The Distribution Warehouse
Company: SPARTA, Inc
Facility: Production Center
Location: San Diego, CA
Size: 36,000 square feet
Employees: 45 (two shifts)
Key Personnel: Matthew Barraco, business manager; Joseph
R. Cook, principal manufacturing engineer
Product Handled: Composites products for missiles
Throughput: Approximately 1,600 parts per month
Shipment Method: Primarily LTL
Types of conveyors: Chain-driven live roller (25-CRR), chain
transfer (CT-3000), ball transfer tables Coming: Zero-pressure accumulating
Conveyor Supplier: Hytrol Conveyor Inc., Jonesboro, AR