Complex production requirements are the mainstay of automotive manufacturing. While Henry Ford may have never actually said “Any color the customer wants, as long as it’s black” the general principle of manufacturing has always been that if you reduce the options, you can increase production and productivity while saving costs. The problem with that adage is that it doesn’t take into account the needs of today’s customer.
A large automotive manufacturer came to us with a challenge. Their production line needed to support a wide variety of vehicles, with a wide variety of components and thousands of parts needed to support the sequences to keep the production line flowing. While this challenge was endemic to their whole manufacturing process, it was critical to develop a system that could be tested with a relatively small (while still complex) portion of the production line that could prove the benefits and increase accuracy.
Car doors on the assembly line
We started with a specific initiative focused on door and trim assembly. Each door had it’s own sequence (managed in a central MES), we needed to consider stock availability and transfer, human components (including staffing and turnover), support flexibility for changes in materials and components and most importantly maintain (and improve) overall accuracy and reduce waste.
There were an existing array of workarounds in place: stocking extra inventory, using hot runners/sharks, etc. that had a direct impact on the bottom line and overall productivity.