Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Best laid plans of men and mice what one plant learned when it tried to automate

Back in the 70's while working as a security guard and while I was going to trade school I guarded a now closed plant called Affordable Furniture located in what was the one time Continental Can company plant in West Mifflin Pa. The plant was the forerunner to the IKEA type put it together your self furniture where they built there furniture using particle board example picture at left they made Book stands , coffee tables , night stands and such . The plant had numerous stations where employees would feed the boards into Jove Machines which put different edges on and trimmed the boards etc and worked very well.
But the plant was union labor and always seemed to have labor problems. When the last strike they had lasted for several weeks the union and plant finally agreed to eliminate some positions and bring in automation to cut down on the number of employees needed so the plant would be profitable . So In came Mr. Jove with some innovative machines his company builds along with some European manufactures and they shut the plant down for 2 weeks and rebuilt the line.
In talking with Mr. Jove and giving him my background he said to come and see him when I finished school for a job, as usual just one of many lies and broken promises people have told me over the years.It does not apear he is around any more either can not find anything on him.

All of the machines and processes worked great except for one European machine which was designed with suction cups which was suppose to pick up the painted board and flip it. so the other side could be painted. Well there was one big problem because the boards where made of compressed saw dust they where porous so when the suction cups came down to grab the board
some times the boards picked up and flipped some times they did not pick up at all and other times the suction cups did not release in time and a board would go flying thru the plant. when the arm flipped it. They spent some where around $10,000.00 for the machine but despite many attempts it never worked and they had to end up with a person still flipping them by hand.
The plant however was not sustainable and was sold and moved south in thew early 80's
The plant then became a duct metal building facility and then was torn down and is now a Target store.
It was a shame but 125 jobs where lost and Continental Can which moved to a bigger plant up the street also closed as well and several hundred more jobs gone. the 80's where a bad time around Western Pa when all the steel mills went down and took with them many other jobs and plants.

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