Archive for July, 2009

Machine Assembly – What Works Best

July 30, 2009 by Ken

After working in a shop for over 30 years, I have found that following a process when it comes to assembling a machine works the best. 

First, it always helps to sit down with the designer and find out what kind of things to watch for, such as customer constraints or hazardous locations etc.  It is a must to have a complete print package before you start to assemble.  You need to look it over to find the best place to start. 

Subassemblies can be built and then installed on the machine later when the longer lead time items come in.  Most of the time the parts that come in first will be electrical and small parts for subassemblies; this allows you to assemble and wire without having the rest of the machine.

Next, look for assembles that can be built that won’t have to be disassembled in order to install on the machine.  This will help cut down on the time spent on assembly.  I also recommend you build the subassemblies with wire labels and air lines marked for faster install.  You can adjust slides and set sensors on the bench to save even more time.

Once you have the machine base and table top, look for the best way to route the wires and air-lines and drill holes for tie wrap bases or other mounting plates.  Then start installing the subassemblies at the center and work your way out, be sure to tighten all fasteners and check the fit of moving parts.

When all the subassemblies are installed with sensors and air lines ran, it’s time to do the I.O. check out manually then check them through the P.L.C.  Once I.O. is complete you can start to de-bug and run the machine.

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Lean Manufacturing and the 5 M’s

July 23, 2009 by Clark

There has been a lot of discussion about the Toyota Production System, and Lean Manufacturing but I haven’t seen a whole lot about Lean that specifically points to your factory automation and how it can be developed with Lean in mind.

To put it simply, Lean is an all encompassing philosophy that takes the 5M’s (Man, Material, Machines, Methods and Money), and harmonizes or helps orchestrates them together for the best possible outcome in your manufacturing operations. For those of you who may not have been introduced to the 5M’s I’ll give you a brief overview of how I think the 5M’s can be related to Lean Automation.

  1. Man: You have labor that is required to perform certain tasks to produce your products. If your labor force is not happy you may find your operations struggling. When a direct employee (The ones actually making your company money) interfaces with a piece of equipment they must be comfortable working at a specific station for extended periods of time. Thus, making the factory automation equipment ergonomically compliant will help ensure a safe and productive environment for your direct labor force.
  2. Methods: Every product has a process or multiple processes that it must go through before it is ready to be delivered as a final product to a customer. The methods used to perform value added work to the product must be consistent and controlled. The machine should verify that each process took place properly and that each part or assembly being processed is correct or meets the quality specifications of the part.
  3. Machines: Each machine used in a process must be able to perform its intended function or task with precision and reliability. Making machines that are robust, flexible and scale-able are key to following the Toyota Production System mentality. Machines can also include in process inspections, self diagnostics and mistake proofing features that only allow perfect parts to be passed down stream to subsequent process.
  4. Materials: Every process has materials coming into the work area to be processed or assembled. Making equipment that facilitates easy material flow can pay huge dividends to those who understand that minimizing material movements is vital to being a successful implementer of lean. In-coming and outgoing material flows should be heavily considered when developing an automated solution for use on the shop floor.
  5. Money: When you invest in a piece of automation/equipment, you must be certain, before purchasing, that it will pay for itself. If the machine solves issues and helps you realize the results you are hoping for in your business, you should see a great payback and realize immediate positive impacts on your bottom line

 

So the next time you’re looking for some automation, make sure it addresses the 5M’s and you can’t go wrong.

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Lean Automation – The Five S’s

July 16, 2009 by Kara

The Toyota Production System has helped many companies streamline their processes on their journey to become lean.  Setpoint has looked at the 5 S process of Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize & Sustain and created a video clip that walks through each one giving an example of how this can be done.

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What is Six Sigma and How Does it Apply to Automation

July 9, 2009 by Justin

Six Sigma helps to achieve an increase in quality by eliminating defects and variation while increasing yield.  Automation is not only a good way to increase production, but it helps meet the criteria of Six Sigma.  One of Six Sigma’s goals is to get rid of defects, and defects are anything that could lead to customer dissatisfaction.  With lean automation, productivity will increase along with customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is a major goal in Six Sigma. Therefore the product that comes off the line must be free of defects. There are many ways to identify and remove product with defects.  One way is to have a final inspection of the product.  This method is usually done by people with instruments or other devices to help them spot the defect. This is not the best method.  Even with instruments, humans make mistakes.  An automated process could have inspection stations set throughout the process.  This method allows the inspection to be simplified since the machine is only looking for one defect at a time.  Since the inspections are placed throughout the process we can tell the machine to stop doing work on a defected part.  This not only keeps the machine form doing unneeded work on a defected part, but also helps identify where in the process the defect took place.

Automation not only allows you to inspect the product throughout the process, but it allows you to get rid of some inspections.  For instance, consider a cylindrical part that needs to have a feature accurately placed in the center. An inspection could be set up to measure the concentricity of the outside of the cylindrical part and the feature, or there could be a guide for the punch tooling built in such a way that it is impossible to place the feature out of the tolerance range. This is only one of many ways to eliminate an inspection.

As stated earlier, eliminating people from doing the inspection is a good way to eliminate defects from making their way to the customer.  The same principal goes to the actual process of making the product. One of the steps in Six Sigma is to eliminate variation.  An automated process will do just that.  The machine will make the product the same every time. For instance, say that a step in a process is to place and fasten a screw in to place.  A person would place the screw in and torque it down differently every time.  If the screw was not torque properly the product could have a failure.  With an automated process the screw would not only be torque to the right value, but verified that is was torque correctly.  This is just one simple case, but it shows how an automated process would eliminate variation.

Automation and Six Sigma are a good fit. Automation helps fix the root cause of a problem, and eliminates defects and variation by simplifying the process and taking out the human errors.

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Cash Flow Traps

July 2, 2009 by Machel

Sweet!! Your company just received a 50% down payment on a project, let’s take everyone to dinner and buy that equipment we’ve been looking at.  Whoa there big fella, let’s think about this first.  Yes, you have cash, but the million dollar question is: Can you spend it?  Just like a lawyer the accountants answer is “not yet”, let’s look toward the future.  Just because you have a positive balance in your checking account, does not mean you have money to spend.  As opposed to the Government, they don’t think about this at all.

 The next question is: How long will this project last and what costs do I have before the next payment is received from your customer? Assume the project lasts 4 months, the down payment you received up front needs to be used to pay the salaries of the people working on that project, as well as any and all expenses associated with that project. Your company can get upside down in cash before you know it.  If you don’t receive any more money until the end of the project, you will have to borrow money from the bank or find some other financing just to finish the project. 

 Let’s assume some facts: 1st the total revenue on the project is $150,000 and you receive a 50% down upon receipt of order and the final payment is due when the project is delivered.  2nd costs for parts is 60% of the total project and you pay your vendors 30 days after receipt of PO from customer, and 3rd your operating expenses are $10,000 per month. 

 

Month 1

Month 2

Month 3

Month 4

Beginning Cash

0

$65,000

($35,000)

($45,000)

Received Cash

$75,000

0

0

$75,000

Cash Spent on Parts

0

$90,000

0

0

Operating Expenses

$10,000

$10,000

$10,000

$10,000

Ending Cash

$65,000

($35,000)

($45,000)

$20,000

 

As you can see, just because you have cash up front does not mean you have cash to use.  As a responsible company you want to make sure you have money in the bank to pay the salaries of your employees and pay your vendors.  You don’t want to be like California and issue IOU’s.  I’m not sure, but I don’t think that would go over well with your employees or your vendors.  If your employees don’t mind, please let me know they would be a great cash flow asset here at Setpoint.

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