Shell’s Eco-Marathon is a brilliant concept, bringing together teams of students from all over Europe who use their creativity and ingenuity to develop ultra-fuel-efficient vehicles. Vehicles are entered in one of seven fuel categories – petrol, diesel, biofuels, fuel made from natural gas (GTL), hydrogen, solar or electricity. The challenge involves doing ten laps of
Zero-defect production: improving one process can deliver substantial benefits
It’s stating the obvious, but still worthwhile doing so: every production defect is a problem – often several problems. Defects cause delays, cost money and damage the reputation both of the machine maker and of other businesses in the supply chain. So it pays to look at every part of the production process to see where detailed changes can make a difference.
This kind of thinking led Macfer Engineering, based at Sabadell near Barcelona, to develop a robotised system for use by manufacturers of paper bags and envelopes. Macfer established that most of the issues come at the end of the production line, where quality checks are carried out before the products are packed and sealed ready for despatch to the customer.
It used to require intensive manual work, but Macfer saw that a completely automated solution could resolve all of the issues surrounding the process. Macfer worked with Omron engineers to develop a vision system using three cameras to inspect, verify and control the quality of the finished products, rejecting those that do not meet required parameters. An adjacent robot then loads the products into cardboard boxes, which are closed and sealed automatically.
By creating a zero-defect solution, the Macfer robotised system offers a number of significant benefits:
• No claims for faulty products: The vision system provides 100 per cent verification, so there are no more claims for faulty products
• Cost savings: by automating the packing, more products can be loaded into the delivery boxes, which have been reduced in size by about 20 per cent – so they cost less to buy and ship
• Increased output: the manual end-of-line processes previously caused a production bottleneck, but the robotised system enables the output speed of the bag/envelope-making machine to be increased and the entire production line streamlined
• Reduced absenteeism: by eliminating manual filling, sealing and handling of the boxes, operator injuries – which caused absences from work – have also been eliminated
• Improved customer relationships: consistent and zero-defect deliveries helps build customer trust and loyalty
• Competitive pricing: reduced production and logistics costs means products can be priced to compete more effectively in the market
It’s a small part of the overall process. However, by applying advanced technology to a long-standing production issue, Macfer developed a solution that enables manufacturers to optimise their financial, technical, human and environmental resources.