How to Ensure High Quality on a High Mix Production Line

The customer had a high-mix production line where each vehicle on the production line could have a different build specification. This, in turn, meant that each vehicle could require a different set of sub-components. This could really complicate things in the Body and Weld shop.

To ensure that each vehicle was built to specification they needed to ensure that sub-components being built offline would arrive at the main production line in the right order so that they could be fitted to the vehicle they were designed for. Likewise, they needed to ensure that the correct weld patterns were being sent to the weld robots as they varied by component.

To accomplish this the customer teamed up with ATS. With over 30 years’ experience in the automotive industry ATS was able to provide tailored advice during the consultation process and then design and implement a solution that best fit the customer’s requirements.

Implementing the Solution

To ensure that every vehicle is built correctly ATS implemented a Vehicle Broadcast System (VBS) using an MES system based on Inductive Automation’s Ignition software. The VBS is able to track every component and vehicle on the production line.

The VBS solution receives the vehicle Bill of Materials (BoM) from the order management system. The build requirements for each subcomponent are then displayed to operators in the subcomponent weld center in the sequence in which they’ll be required by vehicles on the main line. The operator can then load the correct components.

The solution also talks to the weld robots to supply them with the correct program number to ensure the correct weld patterns are applied.

Loading Sub-Components

The completed sub-components are conveyed in the correct sequence to the point of installation on the main line.

Where sub-components are being installed manually, a display provides the operator with confirmation that the subcomponent being loaded is the correct one.

Where the process is happening automatically, the system provides the correct program number to the robot carrying out the task.

This is also true of the weld robots on the main line where the solution provides the correct program numbers to ensure the correct weld patterns are being applied for each vehicle.

RFID Management

The VBS solution also manages the RFID tags mounted on the vehicle carriers. It writes the Body Sequence Numbers (BSN) for each vehicle to the tags. These tags are scanned as each carrier progresses through the plant so that the location and sequence of every vehicle is known at all times.

The Results

Mass customization comes as standard in any modern vehicle manufacturing plant these days, but it still presents many challenges. Not least of these is ensuring that every vehicle is built correctly and that the quality of those vehicles is maintained.

By ensuring that all sub-components are produced in the correct sequence this solution has eliminated the need for line-side inventory. It has also maintained product quality through the coordination and confirmation of the subcomponent installation as well as the coordination of all weld programs.

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