ProPulse, A Schieffer Company has the most modern and advanced thermoplastic hose extrusion process in the United States.
“This is something that we have wanted for a long, long time,” said Rusty Schroedermeier, Assistant Plant Manager at ProPulse, A Schieffer Company. After a year and a half of groundbreaking and construction, our new hose extrusion lines are installed and running!
Where We Were
Before we invested in this new expansion our hose manufacturing schedule was full. Our extrusion department had three shifts working seven days a week, 24 hours per day. It was difficult to keep up with the demand from our customers, particularly for thermoplastic pressure washer hose products.
With only half of our textile braiders running at the time, our extrusion lines were running at 80% speed. The extrusion process was controlled manually with analog technology. It was also incredibly difficult for our engineers to get into the machine for testing between orders. Trying to test new products between hose manufacturing orders is stressful and requires a great deal of planning.
Initially, ProPulse doubled the number of textile braiders, upgrading our capacity and increasing the speed of the braiding process. This increased extrusion to 100%. Then our production team remodeled our hose parameters to increase efficiency and speed up the process further. They redesigned all the tooling and screw processes, as well as the die pins and heads. This boosted our hose extrusion by 25%, however, these improvements were only a temporary solution to keep up with demand. It was apparent that we needed to add on to our production facility.
Construction on our hose manufacturing building commenced immediately. Plans were drawn to add 20,000 square feet to our facility. Like any other construction project, the addition took time and required ProPulse employees to be flexible. Throughout the expansion we maintained our quality standards and provided 99.99% on-time delivery for our customers during an extremely challenging supply chain.
One of the biggest contributors to the design of the two new extrusion lines was Jim Robinson, Extrusion Production Manager at ProPulse. During the construction, he designed a custom head, vacuum size tooling, printing station, inspection stations, screw carts, and a new screw storage rack.
Jim oversaw all extrusion line designs, machine orders, deliveries, and installation. Due to the expansion, our technical service team, led by Robinson, tested all hose manufacturing processes to make sure that the new extrusion lines met or exceeded the required quality standards.
The extrusion department was not the only focus of the expansion, however. ProPulse also invested in a new engineering testing lab, air compressor room, chiller room, quality department room, bathrooms, and a breakroom with a balcony.
New Thermoplastic Hose Extrusion Line Achievements
Increased Hose Manufacturing Capacity
The biggest improvement to ProPulse from this expansion is the added extrusion capacity. We now can extrude two times the high-pressure hose we previously could, faster, with less energy, and more efficiently than we could prior. At ProPulse, we run a lean extrusion department. The new line will make production of thermoplastic hose from start to finish in 2-3 days more achievable.
This new extrusion line will allow for more flexibility and shorter lead times, so we can react to customer demands in an ever-changing environment
– Rusty Schroedermeier
The old extrusion line will receive updates and then will offer opportunities for our engineers to complete more material impulse testing and product development, without scheduling around production times. With two extruders, manufacturing hose and color testing can occur at the same time. “The line will virtually run itself,” said Robinson, “all you have to do is keep material coming in and haul off the finished product.”
Exceptional Quality and Consistency
“When we manufacture hose we don’t make 100 hoses, we make 100,000 hoses and they need to be perfect,” said Schroedermeier.
The new extrusion line’s size control is set up and controlled off of one screen. Our production team can see what is causing issues in manufacturing and important data metrics, all from one monitor on each line. The new system also provides ProPulse with a wealth of data. Our production team can view all the important manufacturing metrics for each specific lot virtually. With the added capacity for quality control, ProPulse can trace any lot back to its raw production.
Unlike the analog system on the old line, the new lines are all HMI controlled with the ability to store process recipes to greatly reduce setup errors. The new tube line has an ultrasonic wall measurement which allows the user to see the tube being constructed in real-time within seconds of the extrusion head. The automation of the new lines provides consistent control over OD and wall dimensions and creates a more accurate product as a result. The new lines also significantly reduce the response time for sizing adjustments since changes are visible on screen almost immediately.
Employee safety was top of mind while designing the new lines. The new tube vacuum sizing tank sits on a track, which allows the vacuum tank to move out from where it sits in the line and be returned to its exact home position. This is huge for our extrusion team when cleaning the extruder screw and barrel. It also ensures consistency of hose production throughout set-ups and maintenance.
We have the capacity, let's work together
Advancements to the Line
The dryer on the new cover line is larger, increasing the capacity of materials going through, which cuts drying time in half.
The new cover line is also equipped with a new hose printer system. The printer prints a higher quality image, with less build-up so the image is cleaner. Our team can create custom logos, allowing us to customize lay lines for customers. Of course, just like the rest of the line, the printer can track everything that goes through. This ProPulse original printing station was designed in-house by Robinson and is the only unit in the world like it.
A new blender provides ProPulse with more design control and uses less coloring. Since we have better control over our color consumption, we can create a more precise color and accurate die. Whereas our old process was more labor intensive and sometimes required shutdown between color changes, the new blender can be drained and cleaned while running, which can allow us to switch between colors much more easily and efficiently.
The new extrusion lines are also more environmentally friendly. When extruding hose, water is used to cool the tube and cover. The previous extruder would coat the hose with water using submersion, which required a lot of water and chiller compressor capacity to cool the water. The new extrusion lines utilize spray tank technology, which penetrates the heat surrounding the newly formed hose and more efficiently decreases the temperature. Because of this, our new lines are far less reliant on chiller compressor capacity and require less water to operate and re-use process water. Designed into the new extrusion lines are additional feet of cooling length.
In the extrusion expansion, we also built a new chiller room. This houses the water chiller units that we use for the extrusion process and is designed to assist in cooling the facility in the summer and heating it in the winter. This is accomplished by venting hot chiller air outside in the summer months and diverting the hot chiller air into the facility during the winter months. By utilizing new chillers with variable speed compressors our chillers don’t need to run at full capacity all the time now, which also saves energy.
Benefits for ProPulse Employees
ProPulse employees are already reaping the benefits from this new expansion. The new breakroom and balcony can be enjoyed by the team on sunny days. The new extrusion lines are so innovative that new employees with less technical experience can learn the system in less time. Its automation will decrease the experience requirement for positions in extrusion and offer more opportunities for new hires.
ProPulse is an Iowa-based hose manufacturer that assembles thermoplastic and wire braided rubber pressure washer and hydraulic hose assemblies. Founded in 1998, ProPulse specializes in supplying OEM production lines for world class companies that manufacture machinery and equipment in the construction, forestry, agriculture, cleaning, and transportation fields. As an ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we demonstrate quality daily. We recently expanded our hose manufacturing facility by 20,000 sq. ft. and invested in new extrusion equipment, which is the most advanced thermoplastic hose extrusion process in the U.S. Currently, we assemble over 2.5 million hose assemblies and extrude over 45 million feet of hose per year.
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ProPulse is proud to announce the achievement of Key Supplier Status from John Deere. The award confirms ProPulse’s strategic role in John Deere’s long-term strategy.
Twenty-five years ago, Schieffer Co. International opened in Peosta with just six employees in a 12,000-square-foot facility. In the two and a half decades since, the hose manufacturer has changed its name and expanded exponentially. Now known as ProPulse, a Schieffer Company, it employs 130, utilizes 130,000 square feet of space, and is celebrating its silver anniversary in March. “25 years is a long time,” said Jeff Theis, President and CEO of ProPulse, “but I believe ‘blink of an eye’ is appropriate when describing our journey.”