Bringing the resources together for a more efficient factory.
Saturday 20/7/2024
Bookmark and Share

 Featured Links

For supplier companies who want to offer their customers comprehensive 24 hour online product ordering facilities, Netalogue b2b web catalogue and ordering plug-ins link instantly to any existing web page and are easily maintained via any standard product or component database.

  “Products talk to Products, Systems talk to people”, the systems approach to achieving business objectives.

23  May  2023

  Behind every product request there is, or should be, a business objective. If we lose sight of the business objective we often end up “just papering over the cracks”. Here we will look at Turck Banner’s Systems approach to working in unison with customers to achieve their business objectives.

To understand the systems approach, it is first necessary to have a fundamental understanding of our distinction between a product and a system.

A product is typically characterised by precise specifications and limited room for deviation. For instance, consider a temperature sensor which operates within a predetermined temperature range, and may have features such as an analogue output, adjustable switch points, or a data output. Its primary function is to interface with other products (e.g. a PLC) to facilitate control, without any inherent ability to engage with humans.

A ‘System’ incorporates both the selection of hardware components (i.e. products) complemented with a software overlay that works in unison to fulfil a customer’s specific business objective. Such a system is then capable of interacting with both products, machine to machine interactions, and humans, machine to operator and management interactions.

A product can be chosen and purchased from a catalogue, whereas a business objective creates a conversation, not a sale. The conversation creates a relationship which results in a partnership to achieve the business objective.
A common phrase within the systems division is “products talk to products, systems talk to people”

This case study illustrates how our systems division operates.

A large, prestigious British car manufacturer had the idea to purchase a switch and a light. When the initial enquiry arrived, they were fortunate enough to be put through to one of our team in the systems division, who instead of asking what specifications were needed for the switch and light, enquired about the objective.

The car plant has a “U” shaped assembly line. The line begins with an empty shell and finishes with a full interior. Between the two ends are perhaps 50 stations, each fitting parts of the interior, with the car remaining at each station for a set time (the Takt time). When the Takt time expires the car should move to the next station. If any station has not completed their task, the whole line stops until that task is completed. Although there may be many acceptable reasons why a task hasn’t been completed, not having the required part to fit to the car at the beginning of the Takt time is not one of them. In order to maintain a constant supply of parts to each station a team of people with tow motors constantly move around the path inside the U. When an operator requires more parts they step away from their station to flag down one of these people, who then go to collect more parts and drop them at the station. They call this “the Milk Run”. Station operators don’t want to run out of parts, and as the time taken to replenish the stock is variable, operators often request parts before they really need them. This leads to crates of parts backing up into the roadway used by the Milk Run creating traffic jams, which in turn increases the time taken to replenish the station. The original enquiry for a switch and a light was to replace the operator having to flag down someone on the Milk Run, because while they were waving to attract someone’s attention, they were not fitting the part, and the Takt time was still counting down.

Switching on a light above their station would be much quicker and they could continue with their task. While this may sound like a good solution, the systems team had other ideas. The Turck Banner Systems team together with the customer, looked at the whole part replenishment procedure, which consists of three parts.  The first part is a huge warehouse, which is a slow moving area. Parts are replenished here from suppliers, with sufficient stock held to cover the production demand between supplier shipments. The second part is “The Supermarket” which holds the stock required for one day of production and is replenished daily from the warehouse. The third part is the Milk Run which delivers parts from the Supermarket to the stations.

The Business objective was to maintain the supply of parts to every station in the most efficient way, ensuring that every station would have the parts required at the start of each Takt cycle. The space at each station is limited and some parts, e.g. the seats, are very large, so some sort of just in time solution looked promising. The current Milk Run had a very high man count, was inefficient in the use of human resources and tow motors, and there was no empirical data on performance, only anecdotal. The systems team looked at both the whole replenishment procedure and the requirements of each individual station, from which they developed a solution.

As some of the parts, like door handles, are quite small, it is quite possible to have the stock required for a whole day’s production held at the station. These stations were restocked once per day before the shift started and could be excluded from the Milk Run. This reduced the traffic on the Milk Run by 28% and freed up the resources to be used more efficiently in the Call For Parts solution

The Call For Parts solution.

The Milk Run in its original format had a number of weaknesses: all of the tow motors were constantly in motion in the Milk Run waiting to be flagged down. When they were flagged down, they were away from the Supermarket so had to drive to the Supermarket before they could collect the required parts. The Line operator had to leave the line to request parts.

The objectives of the new system were:

1: The line operator should call for parts without leaving the station and with minimal interruption.

2: Tow motors should only be in the Milk Run when they are delivering parts or returning with empty crates.

3: The floor space around each station should be used efficiently. Some parts are very large, like seats, and it is not practical to hold stock for more than a few Takt cycles. These stations require constant replenishment, while other stations using parts where a reasonable quantity can be held require replenishment less often.

4: Data generation and capture.

The Call for Parts System.

The operator at a station will call for parts when they have one set of parts left. To do this, they press their call button which is connected wirelessly to the Bus stop. The Bus stop is a new area adjacent to the Supermarket where the drivers wait with their tow motors. The order appears on an HMI screen, at the Bus Stop, showing the station and the parts required. The next driver in the queue accepts the order, which also informs the station that parts are being delivered. The driver collects the parts and delivers them to the station. At the station the driver clears the order by pressing a button and takes the empty crate to be re-stocked. They then return to the end of the driver queue at the Bus stop. The times when the operator calls for parts, when the order is acknowledged and when the order is delivered are all recorded for analysis.
The station delivery works on its own Takt time, which is normally the same as the assembly line but can be shorter.

By reducing the delivery Takt time without changing the production Takt time, a stress test can be performed on the delivery system without harming production. The results of the reduction in delivery Takt time identifies those stations that would be vulnerable to delivery failures. Remedial action can then be taken before a reduction in the production Takt time is implemented.
There were many benefits to the new system:

- Production delays due to waiting for parts were eliminated.
- Production increased.

Fewer drivers were required for the deliveries.

Floor space was saved and re-used for the Bus stop.
The whole replenishment procedure is now more flexible. Stations can be easily included or excluded from the system.

Quantifiable data is generated for analysis and future comparisons.

Experience tells us that having successfully delivered a solution, the focus moves to adjacent operations. By paying attention, throughout the definition and design stages, to how the system can interact with both the upstream and downstream operations, implementation of the improvements can be made both in isolation and in planned stages. This makes “proof of concept”, procurement and funding easier.

Turck Banner’s strength, and where we differ from our competitors, is that once we have established which products and system to deploy, we then work with the customer to deliver a full turn-key solution, including ongoing support and expansion. This means looking at the bigger picture and the complete system topology. On this occasion, because we were delivering a complete solution, we had to liaise and work with IT to create an interface between SAP and the line-side equipment. This was paramount for the application to be a success, because, without a reliable interface, the best products in the world would be useless.

For more information, please contact:
Turck Banner Ltd
Blenheim House
Blenheim Court
SS11 8YT
Tel: +44 (0)1268 578888
Web: are not responsible for the content of submitted or externally produced articles and images.
Click here to email about any errors or omissions contained within this article.


Bookmark and Share
Reg. no 3733110  Email Editor   Email Webmaster
(c) Copyright 2005-2024