HFI is a privately held corporation that was originally established in 1954 as the House of Foam, a producer of urethane foam and foam latex products. Over the years, the company evolved from the House of Foam to HFI, a leading supplier of automotive interior products. With over 1,700 employees across five North American locations, HFI is a manufacturing driven supplier from concept to production and is ISO 9001 Certified. HFI is committed to delivering quality products and profitable partnerships within their target markets that will position the company as a valued supplier. The Arab, AL facility is a Tier 2 supplier of headrests and armrests for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama that produces the Odyssey and Ridgeline vehicles.
HFI has a foam-in-place headrest mixed-model production area, along with warehouse inventory, office space, and shipping and receiving areas. The company was projecting a growth in demand that needed to be met without adding shifts or capital-intensive molding equipment.
HFI utilized the assistance of the Alabama Technology Network center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (ATN-UAH) to work with a team of HFI personnel to identify and implement improvements that result in throughput and energy savings increases. The ATN assistance was delivered as part of the Alabama E3 (Economy, Energy, Environment) program and was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
The ATN-UAH team began by scoping and scheduling a kaizen event for the foam-in-place production area. A cross-functional team of HFI personnel was trained in the principles of lean enterprise and practical energy. The team then observed the current operation and identified opportunities for improvement. Throughout the course of the event, ideas were tested and changes were made that improved flow and reduced the labor required per part so the increased demand could be absorbed with existing resources.
In conjunction with the productivity improvement, ATN-UAH identified other energy saving opportunities. Lighting upgrades to more energy-efficient fixtures along with repairs were quantified, as well as verifying the savings for upgrading the air compressor. Additionally, the savings for converting some production tools from air-driven to electric was also calculated.
The ATN-UAH team successfully facilitated the improvement event resulting in productivity gains from 5-10%, improved work flow layout in the FIP area and reduced material handling time. Also, the event identified potential recurring energy savings by upgrading lighting, utilizing alternative tooling and upgrading the air compressor.
“ATN-UAH helped us open our capacity for increased demand. Given a goal, the team applied lean principles and made the improvements necessary to achieve it.”
– Nick Williams, General Manager