Source: News-Journal, August 16, 1973 Centennial Section
Controls One Of Biggest Brain Factories In World
One of the biggest "brain factories" in the world is operating in North Manchester.
Not a "think tank" nor some kind of science fiction operation, the "brain factory" is Controls Company of America's 84,000 square foot plant which produces a major share of timers which govern the complex operations of automatic clothes washers and dish washers.
More than 400 people work in the North Manchester plant, producing nearly 3 million timers annually for the U.S. home appliance industry. Controls Company, now a subsidiary of The Singer Company, built the plant in 1958 and started operations with fewer than 100 employees.
This year a total of 34 are scheduled to receive 15 year service awards. In addition, 43 percent of the employees have worked at the plant at least five years.
Designed to produce conventional timing devices, the North Manchester plant in the mid 1960s went through a series of major internal construction changes in which entirely new manufacturing processes replaced old assembly lines. The reason?
Controls Company engineers developed a completely new timer that was simpler in design and easier to produce, that would operate with an even greater degree of reliability, and that could be inspected, tested, and if necessary, even replaced easily in the field.
The new timer is known as the quick disconnect modular plug-in timer.
Mrs. Housewife wouldn't recognize the new plug-in timer because it is installed within the clothes washer's control panel. But every time she sets the timer knob on her washing machine, she literally programs a simple computer that instructs her machine to perform a series of intricate operations.
The new quick disconnect time was designed with only 94 components as compared to 199 in conventional timers. New mechanized production equipment maintains precise and uniform tolerances in turning out each timer part.
The drum cam for the new timer, for example, is injection-molded into a single monoblock piece, compared to the older type drums which are made up of a stack of flat phenolic "chips" which occasionally break in assembly.
Marvel of the plant, however, is the 48 foot long automatic wafer blade assembly machine. This equipment inserts and rivets silver contacts in the blades and terminals, completes fabrication, performs inspection and rejects imperfect units...all automatically. A second and more advance model of this machine will be installed and ready for operation before the end of this year.
Despite the high degree of mechanized assembly and automatic in-process inspections, the possibility of error is considerable. Based on nearly half a century of experience in producing electro-mechanical devices, Controls Company has developed a number of safeguards to insure maintaining product quality standards.
First, virtually all parts of all subassemblies are produced in the plant. This is known as a totally integrated manufacturing operation and is fundamental to quality control.
Furthermore, special quality control laboratories operate throughout the plant to monitor critically tight tolerance standards for punch press operations, plating, molding and sub assembly processes.
At the end of the production line, every timer must run through its complete cycle before being approved.
Superimposed over the entire quality control operation is the Product Durability Testing program at the North Manchester plant. The Durability Test lab takes a daily random selection of completed timers for a series of special tests. These timers actually operate washing machines in the lab or are installed on test racks and put through a 48-hour test to simulate the first two months of typical washing machine operation in the field. If there has been a miscalculation at any stage of production, however minor, it is most likely to emerge in the Durability Test. If these samples pass muster, the production lot literally gets the "stamp of approval" and can be shipped to the customer.
Through ingenious mechanical production equipment and advanced quality control systems, Controls Company has been able to virtually "engineer out" human error in producing the new plug-in timer which has set a new standard of reliability for the controls industry.