Tier 1 Automotive Supplier Puts Solution to the Test

June 10, 2008
It’s no secret that automakers are facing increased demands from shareholders to curb their exposure to warranty/recall issues and are, in turn, passing that pressure onto their suppliers in the form of stiff penalties for missing deadlines, substandard quality or even merely delivering assemblies out of sequence.

As a result it is more important than ever that suppliers like IAC, the European division of International Automotive Components Group and one of the world’s largest suppliers of automotive cockpit interior systems, get things right the first time every time. Failure has a direct and immediate impact on profitability.

IAC’s Gothenburg, Sweden plant, formerly owned by Lear, is a tier one supplier to Volvo—producing cockpits for four Volvo models—V70, XC70, XC90 and S80—with 100-plus part numbers in each panel and many different combinations depending on the model of car. Volvo installs the instrument panel in the car within five hours of the order being received at IAC.

Getting things right the first time requires a powerful toolset, including in-line sequencing and error proofing, to create product genealogy certificates and minimize missed delivery penalties. By working together, manufacturing operations and corporate information technology (IT) teams can put these systems in place to enable Right First Time, as well as develop strategies for standardization and globalization to reduce support burdens.

To help accomplish this, IAC brought in GE Fanuc’s Customer Solutions Group to custom build a solution that is now being productized by the automation vendor.

Lear began looking for an application that would give them the required capabilities in early 2006, prior to the acquisition by IAC. Additionally, the company was redesigning its three existing production lines to shift production from two shifts to three. Stability and Flexibility“We as a management group at the Driving Unit, decided to replace our old in-house development system in September 2005,” said Eva Flinck, IT Manager, Interior Products Division, for Lear Gothenburg. “The old system was unstable and inflexible.”

GE Fanuc’s Customer Solutions Group, which works with customers to scope out the project, perform technical estimations and gather the customer requirements before they buy the system, was already in the process of designing an error-proofing product—what would eventually become part of Proficy Assembly—and was drafted in to help meet Lear’s requirements.

The group used its existing Proficy Tracker solution—which had much of the needed basic functionality, as the backbone of the system and designed new modules, focused on Product Genealogy and Error Proofing. Proficy Tracker provides the ability to track the real time location of jobs on the production floor, and can be configured to perform routing logic on the movement of jobs through the facility. This capability allows manufacturers to manage the manufacturing, routing, and delivery of multiple product components into complex product assemblies.

Proficy Assembly helped IAC/Lear meet their goal of error-proofing every step of the production process, ensuring that each product is built consistently and reliably every time. Correcting issues at the point they are introduced saves time and money on rework and providing traceability and genealogy for the entire lifecycle of the product helps to defray warranty and recall costs. Every activity that has been performed, every user that has touched it, any defect that may have been introduced, and every part that is installed is logged and available for viewing, reporting, or analyzing.

This solution also provides warranty and recall defense for every customer. There is never a question on what parts were included or how a product was built. In fact, it is becoming a mandatory deliverable in many Tier 1 automotive supplier plants. The end-user wants the assurance that the products were built according to the mandated processes.
From IAC’s perspective, it is difficult to quantify hard benefits because of the change from a two-shift production schedule to a three-shift schedule. “We are now able to do line changes during production and the system is configurable. These are considerable benefits,” said Flinck. “Being able to change the line and not have to pay overtime for either my team nor the operators to test the changes after production hours, is a huge benefit for IAC/Lear.”

Alex Anderson is a freelance writer based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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