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Manufacturing Case Studies

Double E Is a Manufacturer, But It’s a Problem Solver, Too


Though technically a manufacturer, Double E Company sees itself as a problem-solver for customers’ challenges. “Our goal is to provide customized solutions to converters of flexible materials,” says Chris Maloof, vice president of operations. “We are project management and solutions oriented.”

Its customers’ challenges require “engineered-to-order solutions,” Maloof says. “These are very complex custom-made solutions for some of the most complicated environments out there.”

Double E’s solutions take three factors into consideration:

* The safety of the operators of the equipment;

* Operator ergonomics for day-to-day equipment use; and,

* Maximum throughput and productivity for the customer.

Double E Company is one of the top three manufacturers of web-handling equipment for the paper, film, foil converting, packaging and web printing industries. Its product offering includes critical wear components such as chucks, shafts, rollers, core cutters, material handling equipment and brakes. The products are used to secure, straighten, apply tension to, cut and move rolled  materials through a continuous manufacturing process.

Recently, a customer of Double E wanted to reduce the risk to the operator in handling shafts that support rolls of materials that can each weigh several thousand pounds. “The core shaft needs to be very stiff so it can support the material,” Chief Product Officer Kyle Willis says. “It is often made of steel and can be heavy for the operator to lift and carry.” In response, Double E leveraged its carbon-fiber technology and designed a core shaft that was as stiff as the steel shaft the company had been using – but at half the weight[KW1].

Double E’s focus has evolved since it was founded in 1972, when it functioned purely as a design and engineering firm. In 1985, it entered manufacturing with its shaft-less core chuck.

In 1986, the company introduced its carbon-fiber shaft. By the end of the 1990s, Double E had become an integrated manufacturer. In the 2000s, Double E partnered with manufacturers in Europe to introduce its core chucks and carbon fiber shafts into that market. The company also began manufacturing safety chucks, brakes, tension control systems, roll movers and core cutters.

Today, the international company is headquartered in West Bridgewater, Mass., and has facilities in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Maine and Italy.

Quality and Productivity

The manufacturing process starts with the design and engineering group creating a solution to a customer’s challenge. Once the customer has signed off, the parts go to different groups to manufacture. “The internal challenge is how to flow it cost-effectively and timely with the highest standard of quality and on-time delivery to our customers,” Maloof says.

A shaft, for example, might have five or six custom-engineered machined components. “ The production group needs to get all the different components manufactured and flowed to the final assembly area,” Maloof says. “It can be very challenging when dealing with so many different manufactured components and processes. We have lead times of four weeks or less, which can be very aggressive for a customized solution.”

To address operational challenges , Double E has created multiple programs to improve internal communications. There is now more interaction among design, product management and manufacturing on how to make products more robust. Over the last two years, the company has instituted weekly meetings for management and team members to address issues, customer feedback and other topics.

There are also daily “Gemba” walks and short “production launch” meetings to discuss new projects,  manufacturing challenges and address quality issues from the previous day. All this interaction is meant to ensure that “we strive to get better every day,” Maloof says.

Over the past three years, Double E has changed much of its scheduling to support the complex challenges of an engineer-to-order business. Double E uses metrics and data to drive productivity. “Once we understood the environment  better, we installed many lean manufacturing concepts to get rid of waste in the operation. This has allowed us to manage bottlenecks in the operation more proactively,” Maloof says.

To address changing customer demand, the company has diligently cross-trained its work force so they can be versatile enough to be moved to where the workload is heaviest. “Historically, the same person ran the same piece of equipment despite a bottleneck in a different work center,” Maloof says.

Cross-training is not easy. “It  can take months to see a minimal impact and longer to see a full impact,” Maloof says. “But it has dynamically transformed the business to improve its on-time delivery to a historic high.”

Growing Company

Its emphasis on communication extends outside of its walls, and Double E treats its suppliers as teammates. “We keep them informed of what we are doing,” Maloof says. “Key suppliers for perishable tooling and MRO supplies come weekly to help support our manufacturing team. We have many vendors that come in regularly to make sure they are supporting our unique customized product needs.”

The biggest challenge Double E faces is continually changing customer requirements. “A few years ago, people were changing toward plastic bags and packaging,” Willis says. “Now we’re getting away from that and going back to sustainably sourced paper-based bags and packaging. We have to be nimble enough to respond to that.”

In recent years, the company has acquired several new businesses. In September, Double E acquired Schlumpf, of Windham, Maine, which manufactures material-handling and web-converting products. Its products allow operators to safety hoist a roll, turn it, invert it, convey it, wind it and put it wherever needed.

In 2018, Double E acquired Convertech of Wharton, N.J., a manufacturer of chucks and narrow web solutions. The company is particularly known for providing high-quality air shafts in a full range of sizes for the label and narrow web industry.

In 2016, Double E acquired Appleton Manufacturing of Neenah, Wis., a manufacturer of roll movers and core cutters. The previous year, Double E acquired Epoch Industries of Garland, Texas, a manufacturer of precision idler rollers. “Each company has a market leading product offering that complements the core web converting business,” Willis notes.