Coping with Customization

Aug. 10, 2015
With consumers demanding ever more customization, manufacturers are faced with producing high volumes in hundreds of variations. Managing the lineside parts inventory to support all of that complexity can be one of their most difficult logistical challenges.

RedViking recently partnered with an automaker that needed to add more models and styles to its production line without increasing floor space. The company’s assembly line was already overcrowded with parts and the addition of new variations seemed almost impossible. Operators were frustrated with time wasted searching for parts and managers needed to eliminate line interruptions caused by part shortages.

It was critical for them to have a better method of delivering parts to the line, sequencing them for installation, and verifying proper placement.

To solve this problem, we first worked with the company to create a sequencing system for better control over their lineside part supply. Using vehicle build schedules and component data, parts are now organized for a constant just-in-time inventory.

Off the line, part supply staff uses handheld scanners with bar code and RFID systems to scan and stagger or reverse order parts on racks before delivering them to the assembly line. Sequencing instructions are automatically updated based on real-time production schedules, and information is constantly communicated to the part supply team.

An automated real-time sequencing system significantly reduced the amount of lineside space required for part storage. Operator walk paths were improved and production slowdowns were significantly reduced.

Optimized Inventory & Work Space
Another part of the problem was the fact that all part kits were located beside the line and part storage overcrowded the floor. Infrequently used parts took up valuable space. Excess ordering occurred when parts went unnoticed in remote areas of the plant.

Using two types of kitting systems proved to be the answer. For both systems, part supply teams scan and place necessary parts for a model build into a container and then sequence them according to the production schedule.

Next to the line, stationary kits contain parts common to virtually every vehicle. Station HMIs direct the operators to their next part selection. Each station’s lineside kitting system is structured around its process and may include start and stop sequence lights, a printed parts list, or light indicators on each bin. Visual instruction is provided for each step.

The second type of part supply is a ride-along kit with reverse sequenced parts for unique assemblies. Keeping these parts in a ride along kit means that infrequently used parts don’t take up unnecessary floor space, but travel on the vehicle floor throughout the build.

With stationary and mobile part kitting added to sequencing, operator efficiency improved further and product quality was enhanced.

Integrated Error Proofing
Finally, automated error proofing systems were integrated to further ensure part availability, proper selection and accurate placement. The system enables off-line part pickers to prevent shutdowns due to part shortages, as light indicators now notify them of low part inventory or improper bin placement. On the line, automated torque measurement and vision inspection systems check for incorrectly placed or absent parts.

The resulting part placement error proofing data is now integrated with final end of line inspection and becomes part of each vehicle’s birth history.

We incorporated these systems with the auto supplier’s network to communicate plant-wide through Andon boards, web clients and handheld devices.

Greg Giles is the executive director of MES for RedViking, specializing in automated error-proofing, kitting and sequencing systems. RedViking is a member of the Control System Integrators Association. Visit RedViking’s profile on The Industrial Exchange.

Sponsored Recommendations

Understanding and Using E-Stops

E-stops, or emergency stop switches, are used to ensure machine as well as personnel safety. They are used to provide a consistent and predictable failsafe response on a wide ...

Demystifying motor disconnect switches: What are they and how are they used?

From conveyor belts to drum mixers, motors are used in virtually every industrial application to drive machinery. Equipment downtime is the main motivation behind monitoring and...

Full Line of DIN Rail Terminal Blocks Video

Altech offers an extensive line of DIN Rail Terminal Blocks including all major Connection Technologies available in the industry to meet requirements for a vast variety of applications...

The Value of Integrating DIN Rail Cylindrical Fuse Holders Into Your Designs

What short circuit currents do I have to consider when purchasing a DIN rail cylindrical fuse holder? That data is available from the manufacturer. For example, Altech cylindrical...