Pendu Reaches New Level as Pallet, Sawmill Supplier
Machinery Company’s Investments Increase Efficiency, Service to Customers
By Tim Bongard
Date Posted: 3/1/2002
NEW HOLLAND, Penn. – Already well known in the pallet and sawmill industries for its line of specialized wood processing and lumber manufacturing equipment and machinery, Pendu Manufacturing has made a concerted effort in recent months to raise its corporate profile even higher.
Pendu has a long and well-deserved reputation for serving the pallet and sawmill industries with high quality machinery and equipment. It offers an impressive line-up of off-the-shelf machinery, such as gang saws, automated cut-up systems, notchers, and much more, including complete in-line pallet lumber manufacturing systems.
However, Pendu increasingly is being asked to develop custom machines and to customize its equipment, according to general manager Dwylan Lefever. "If a machine is needed to cut, drill, mill, saw, sort, stack or assemble, we can build it," he said.
"We are doing a lot of customization," he added, "including heavily automated systems, high-speed production, and plc and computer-controlled machinery. If a company needs a custom machinery application or has a particular design in mind, we can manufacture the machine for them."
That might sound like a salesman's line except that Pendu has an impressive infrastructure to back up that kind of commitment.
Based in New Holland, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County, Pendu Manufacturing is housed in a 76,400-square-foot complex that contains its main offices and manufacturing facility. From here, Pendu’s 50 employees serve a wide variety of customers and clients in North America and on a worldwide level with sales operations extending into South America, Europe, Asia, and the countries of New Zealand and Australia.
Yet the company's management team knows that it is Pendu’s success in the North American market that drives sales worldwide. "Our reputation is the key to attracting new customers and opening new opportunities for us," said president Marlin Hurst. "So one of our missions in the last 18 months has been to make our operation more efficient. In doing so, we have added to our reputation for innovation, dependability, and customer service."
Marlin and Dwylan made it a priority to increase the company’s capabilities so that all aspects of Pendu’s machinery manufacturing processes could be done in-house. They viewed this approach as the best way to ensure that Pendu stays in control of every project. "There is nothing worse than having an outside vendor misunderstand instructions or drop the ball on some aspect of a project," said Dwylan. "In the long run, we end up in a situation where we can't fix a problem, or the problem costs so much to fix that we lose money. Cost over-runs are bad enough, but when they come at the expense of customer confidence, then it's clear to see that the potential costs are simply too high."
"Instead," he continued, "we took a look at how to make what we had even better and found ways to not only streamline our processes, but cut costs at the same time. We've done so in an aggressive manner with the goal being to raise the quality and craftsmanship of our products. We’ve also been able to cut our costs internally and pass the savings along to our customers."
If this sounds idealistic and impractical, Pendu found some corporate strategies to make it possible.
Two areas were tackled simultaneously in an effort to make manufacturing more efficient. One was upgrading the computer software system that Pendu used for managing various aspects of the company. "We had a fairly good system in place, but it was not fully integrated," Dwylan explained. "Departments were not tied to one another. Our new program provides the departmental interface that makes us much more efficient."
With the old system, if a machine project required special tooling or additional parts, the appropriate changes were made but other departments would not learn of them until much later in the process. The lack of coordination could lead to cost over-runs, delays in obtaining materials, or manufacturing errors; any of these might contribute to higher costs and delays in finishing the product on time, within budget, and at the desired level of craftsmanship.
Now, new software links every department to a given project; the process has been greatly simplified and has yielded significant savings. "It's put us in a position where everyone can now take a look at a project," said Dwylan, "and know exactly where we stand -- from production to materials, costs, the amount of man-hours in a project, and so on. We can even tell you -- to the penny -- how much we've spent in salaries and manpower to construct a specific machine at any point along the process. We have that level of detail and control."
The fully integrated system allows managers at every level to access a project. Changes in a project are coordinated with every other department. A change in a part, for example, is communicated to every department involved, from design to purchasing, assembly and accounting. This level of coordination and interfacing actually simplifies the overall processes and reduces costs. It has the added benefit of eliminating mistakes.
In addition to a new, fully integrated software system, Pendu recently completed the installation of a new, state-of-the-art suite of 3-D design computer tools for its team of seven full-time design engineers.
When a company comes to Pendu with a need for a custom machine or piece of equipment, Pendu has the capability to provide that service. Pendu has its own design and engineering staff right on the premises. Its design and engineering team is available to meet and consult with customers, to help them modify an existing machine or create a brand new one."We usually meet with the customer and get their ideas and needs down on paper," said Dwylan. "Our engineers are part of that process from almost the very beginning." Once the concepts and parameters have been worked out, the engineering staff then begins the task of designing the machine or equipment to meet the customer requirements.
The new 3-D design system enhances the ability of the design and engineering staff. Neil Martin, Pendu’s head engineer, explained. "One of the problems with any kind of drawing in two dimensions is that it's impossible to create a set of plans with full assurance that you don't have two parts occupying the same space. With the 3-D design system, the computer software won't let that happen. You cannot accidentally put two things in one spot, or draw it on one view and then accidentally omit it on another. The 3-D design system is much more like the real thing, and it allows us to work the bugs out of a project before we even start cutting any metal."
An added benefit of the 3-D design system is that it puts the end product into a format that almost anyone can understand. Reading two-dimensional plans of any kind requires a bit of imagination on the part of the person looking at them. The 3-D system creates a rendition of the end product that looks more like a photograph. It also allows the design team to spin, rotate, or turn the design in any direction. Everyone from the technicians assembling the machine to the people who will eventually operate it and service it and the customer who is buying it can clearly see any aspect of it. It is a godsend when a final parts and service manual has to be created to support the product.
The design suite also has been integrated into the corporate system so that everything from parts lists to cutting orders and fabrication and assembly steps are all ready when the final design is approved and ready for production.
As good as the computer support is, however, it is still the manufacturing team that makes it all work together. Meetings are held with each manufacturing department after the initial design requirements are completed. Machinists, electricians, and computer controls staff are fully involved in working out the best strategy for building machinery and equipment, and incorporating practical features that the engineering staff can include in the final design.
This ‘real world’ approach carries over to the shop staff, which meets regularly with management to keep both sides working together and fully apprised on projects and operations. Pendu management maintains an ‘open door’ policy with staff and maintains a certain level of flexibility to ensure that decisions are in keeping with the company’s overall goals.
By strengthening the coordination of its operations, Pendu has been able to improve efficiency and reduce waste. It has passed along the savings to customers by lowering prices on machinery and equipment.
At the same time, Pendu has been able to upgrade and improve its facilities and manufacturing capabilities. The company’s original plant houses a wide variety of computer-controlled milling machines, drill presses and lathes in addition to a computerized plasma table. A second, larger plasma table is currently being installed and will triple production capacity. The computerized plasma tables perform automatically and are able to utilize every possible square inch of material, which reduces waste and material costs. The company also plans to add a new, larger milling machine that will be able to handle larger pieces of material and streamline some operations.
Pendu expanded its plant in 1999, increasing the amount of available work and storage space by 30,000 square feet. Housed in this new section of the plant is a self-contained painting booth so that machinery components can be painted without the need to send them to a sub-contractor. The new building also has additional floor space for assembly operations and full testing of new machinery under development.
The added plant space also provides Pendu with the facilities to fully test new machines and equipment to insure they perform properly, and they can be demonstrated to the customer prior to shipping. "We run all the machines before the leave," said Dwylan. The company also makes it facilities available for training employees of its customers on new machinery.
As a result of following a set of clear, simple goals, Pendu's internal improvements have positioned it to provide strong custom machinery design and fabrication services. At the same time, the improvements have allowed it to improve the quality -- and reduce the cost -- of its impressive line of standard and specialized equipment to serve the pallet and sawmill industries.
(Editor’s Note: Pendu Manufacturing Inc. supplies machinery and systems for applications for the pallet industry, log home and dimensional lumber manufacturers. Its line of pallet and sawmill equipment includes gang saws, scragg mills, notchers, cut-up systems, stackers and more, including complete in-line wood processing and remanufacturing systems. For more information about Pendu, its products and services, contact the company at (800) 233-0471, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the company Web site at www.pendu.com.)
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