MRO Magazine

Feature

Profile: Quebec pulley maker boosts productivity to stay competitive

In business since 1964 and located in Sainte-Claire, Que., Maska has remained competitive as a North American manufacturer despite increasing competition in its market. Maska is a manufacturer and sup...


In business since 1964 and located in Sainte-Claire, Que., Maska has remained competitive as a North American manufacturer despite increasing competition in its market. Maska is a manufacturer and supplier of V-belt pulleys and related power transmission components for a variety of industries.

“Up until the 90’s we were up against principally American multi-national companies, wherein we held our own as far as pricing and quality were concerned, ” says sales director Mario Lacasse. “However, increasing overseas competition and a rising Canadian dollar meant that we had to adapt and quickly.”

How? The answer was simple — through greatly improved productivity, he says. But how did the company achieve such a feat on a significant enough level to counter price differences of as much as 50% lower?

Maska foresaw the value of investing in automated operations, but more specifically in 1998 the decision was taken to invest in industrial prototype robots and increased automated primary and secondary machining operations. Not only can one robot perform the work of three to five people, but overall cost reductions result from a significantly increased production rate, optimized floor space, considerably reduced lead times due to 24-hour machine availability, greater process control, consistent quality output and elimination of the human error element.

An investment of several million dollars over the past few years has allowed Maska to not only be aggressively competitive but has also resulted in enhanced quality standards. “Our fifth and largest cell is currently being installed in our plant, a process which can take from three to six months,” says Lacasse.

“With each new addition to our robotic family, new functions are developed in-house to improve production efficiency. Our last two robots are unique as to the actual size and weight of the pulleys,” he says. They will be manoeuvring parts from 6 in. to 31.5 in. in size, and castings that can weigh up to 258 kg (570 lb); each robot can handle two of these at a time. The robot’s jaws that hold the parts are 42 in. wide and themselves weigh more than 272 kg (600 lb).

Another feature consists of two systems for artificial vision. The first is to detect the position of the pulley’s arms before picking them up. The second allows them to feed themselves by ‘seeing’ the vertical position of the casting on the pallet. Finally, a conveyor system 12 metres (36 ft) long supplies two balancing stations that complete operations before sending the products off to the paint line.

Work cells are equipped with an infrared temperature compensation measuring system to dimensionally control the inside diameter of the pulley bore, as well as an etching operation that indicates the characteristics and production lot for follow-up.

“Maska has experienced more than 40 years of progress on every level possible,” says president Yvon Fortier. “If the past reflects the future, if we maintain the beat, and if we continue to closely observe industry trends, then Maska’s prospects are very bright and we can look forward with optimism to the next decades to come.”

For more information, visit www.maskapulleys.com.