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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

February 25, 2005

Designer challenge

Huge steel storage racks stretched to the ceiling, completely filled with engines. Workers moved around enormous industrial power units, adding pieces and making adjustments. In the welding area, sparks flew as parts were fabricated or modified for engines awaiting upfit. No square inch in the building seemed to be unused.

That was the situation Cummins Great Plains, Des Moines, faced when the company's corporate office announced its consolidation with another Cummins distributor in Missouri. That meant the campany had to find more space for more products.

The Des Moines plant designs, manufactures and distributes industrial power systems, engines and related technologies throughout the Midwest.

"The process is very fast," said branch manager Steve Carnine. "Engines and materials come in, are put together and are sent to storage or shipped out rapidly. This cuts down on our inventory and work in process."

The consolidation meant the Des Moines company needed to be able to process additional custom engine orders. Since expansion was not possible, officials sought a way to use existing space efficiently.

Carnine, who had read about Iowa State's Center for Industrial Research and Service's work in plant layout, contacted industrial specialist John Van Engelenhoven.

Van Engelenhoven determined that Cummins needed help rearranging racks to free up floor space for an additional engine upfit line.

He and undergraduate assistant Gregory Zink modeled alternative layouts using a CAD program. CIRAS and Cummins staff decided that rotating the storage racks 90 degrees would open substantial space.

The change was made over a long weekend, and only 1.5 days of production were lost during the transition. An assembly line for servicing smaller and more uniform engines also was added.

With the new layout, the Des Moines plant has increased the number of engines processed per month, saved $100,000 and created one new job.

The project was conducted in collaboration with the Iowa Manufacturing Extension Partnership.