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Case Studies

Chamberlain Cuts Costs

Posted by Joshua Perkins on September 17, 2010

Chamberlain has been giving garage doors a lift for 35 years. The company sells its garage door opening devices to some of the country’s top retailers: Sears®, Lowes®, Home Depot®, Menards®, you name it.

The actual lifting device consists of two pieces: a straight arm and a curved arm. The straight arm is a short piece of merchant bar stock that is used by most every door manufacturer and has remained virtually unchanged for 35 years. The second piece – a curved arm -- is a stamped part that Chamberlain makes in its Mexican plant. All production is done in Mexico and has been for years.

Knock Out Weight and Cost?

Given the cutthroat nature of the construction business, Chamberlain realized it had to take cost out of its product in any way possible. The company felt there was a better way to fabricate the closing devices, but didn’t know which approach would solve the problem. Hynes Industries was contacted by Chamberlain’s purchasing department in Mexico.

Getting Straight to the Straight Arm Problem

The straight arm was the first section studied. Hynes engineers did section modulus studies and FEA computerized models of the existing straight bar section to learn all about the section, its strengths, and its weaknesses. It then began to look at ultra-high-strength steels and new roll-formed designs to hopefully find a combination that would yield the desired results.

During this entire process, Hynes used its prototype facilities to make exact samples of the new sections so Chamberlain engineers could perform real load tests on the newly designed ideas. Prototypes were made on six different occasions, and proved to be invaluable in the final design analysis. Hynes also conducted its own stress tests and load tests at a separate testing facility.

Problem Solved, Savings Achieved

After extensive computer and real load testing, Hynes was successful in getting its new design to actually test better than the heavier, thicker, and more expensive structural bar section. The dollar value of the savings alone was more than $550,000 per year. Chamberlain, after all, IS the world’s largest manufacturer of garage door openers and commercial door operators.

There were significant freight savings, as well. The new ultra-high-strength material chosen by Hynes made the straight arm 34 percent lighter, which yielded an annual freight savings of $120,000.

Hynes also worked with the packaging companies to develop a reusable “green” container to deliver the parts to Mexico. The packaging materials used by Hynes can be recycled/reused by Chamberlain to ship its products. Disposal costs are eliminated. And additional money is saved every time the incoming parts packaging is reused.

Now, on to the Curved Arm Section

With the new straight arm section complete, it was time to help Chamberlain redesign its curved arm section. Working with the engineers at Chamberlain, Hynes made many suggestions to Chamberlain’s engineering team in an effort to cut material content from the existing curved section. By using CAD, FEA (Finite Element Analysis, a mathematical technique for analyzing stress), and 50 years of pure knowledge, Hynes engineers successfully incorporated special embossed areas and ultra-high-strength steels, which reduced material content by 55 percent. The savings were huge. And the additional tools needed to create the new curved arm section paid for themselves in a few months.

No End to the Story

Again, by working as a team with our client’s engineers, Hynes was able to deliver substantial cost savings at Chamberlain. As a result, we are continuously being asked to work with them on other cost initiatives.