Being only as strong as your weakest link is not only true in sports but also on the production line, whether we are talking about people or equipment. Diagnosing the slowest and least efficient point in any production line is key to having a successful and profitable manufacturing process.
When we look at a wall panel manufacturing line, most of the work is done at the front of the line with everything feeding into the framing table. That means, what happens down the line is critical—the last thing we want is to have something back up the line and stop the framing table. This makes the sheathing station the “weakest link” in the line.
One approach to preventing a back-up on the line is to add more labor and resources. Some plants spread out the work from one table to several tables to avoid a pinch point. Examples of this would be using a squaring table before the sheathing table to apply and tack down the sheathing or a squaring table afterward to rout the openings.
The sheathing station itself poses certain problems also. On a squaring table with manual nail guns being used, it’s hard to make sure that you get the correct nailing spacing. Many production shops just make sure they apply extra nails at a narrower spacing, but this can be as bad as having too wide of a nailing pattern. The other concern is (shiners) nails missing the studs. Because a worker can only reach one side of the table, two guys are needed on the tacking and sheathing station.
Rather than add more people to the process though, you can add a true solution—a fully automatic sheathing station. For example, the Spida sheathing station is an extruder-style sheathing table. The bridge is stationary while the wall panel is pulled into and out of it. Four industrial-grade nail guns are mounted on the table, two for the top and bottom chords and two for the studs. The nailing pattern is read straight from the design software, so this eliminates any chance that the nailing pattern is incorrect. Under the table before each stud is nailed off, it is locked onto and straightened to ensure that every nail is embedded fully into the stud every time. The table comes with a touch screen that not only allows the operator to see what the panel details are but also gives diagnostics and production metrics. Since this is a CNC machine, you can eliminate the two operators that would be needed on a manual line or the one operator needed on a semi-auto line.
So, are you addressing the weakest link in your wall panel production line? Consider the benefits of full automation. The labor savings combined with the consistent high quality of the finished product make a fully automatic sheathing station something to seriously consider.