By reconfiguring its transmission assembly area, Jasper Engines increased throughput 36% as it cut lead times. By Gary Forger, Editorial Director -- Modern Materials Handling, 8/1/2004 When it comes to NASCAR racing, the pit stop is the ultimate materials handling test. Nothing is allowed to slow changing of tires, filling the gas tank or swapping out of any parts that need attention. And it all needs to be done in 20 seconds or less. Certainly, the people at Jasper Engines know this. After all, the company, which remanufactures transmissions, engines and differentials, sponsors its own NASCAR entry - the 77 car driven by Brendan Gaughan. That also means managers were aware that materials handling was not exactly running on high-octane fuel at the transmission division in Jasper, Ind. "We didn't need to collect a lot of statistics on our efficiencies. The problems were fairly evident," says Steve Brooking, project engineer at the plant. They started with too much work-in-process (WIP) and extended to poor use of people and their time. Worse yet, throughput was below expectations and unable to keep up with growth in the business. It was time to redesign and integrate materials handling (Bastian Material Handling) and information flow in the 110,000 square foot transmission remanufacturing department. Floor space was reallocated and work cells reconfigured. Then, new conveyors, carousels, shelving, racks, as well as lift and tilt tables, were brought in to improve materials flow and ergonomics for workers. In addition, the data capture and management system was upgraded and bar codes implemented throughout the department. Throughput has now risen by more than a third from 140 transmissions a day to 190. Lead times were cut 50%. Labor hours per transmission declined 20% too. While transmissions still take more time than a NASCAR pit stop to flow through the department, the extended stays they once made are now history. Identifying problems The facility rebuilds all types of transmissions. They range from truck transmissions for large fleets, to car transmissions installed by independent garage owners and dealerships. In a typical year, 55,000 transmissions are rebuilt by Jasper. Not only do the original transmissions flow through the department, but so do various replacement parts. Some are used parts known as qualified parts, says Brooking. Others are new parts. Kits are built and WIP is staged in buffers at various points in the process. Unfortunately, the way all this used to be done was awkward, inefficient, and very labor intensive. "We had a lot of traffic. Before we redid the department, a lot of people were moving parts unnecessarily," says Brooking. "It was chaos to get things from one place to another." And the problems didn't stop there, he continues. There was also an enormous amount of WIP. At the start of the process alone, 500 transmissions were staged. Furthermore, transmissions were tracked manually, making it difficult for people to know where parts were at any given point and find them in a timely manner. Beyond too many transmissions on the shop floor at one time, there was too much floor space devoted to staging those transmissions. As a result, the floor space devoted to work cells was less than what it could have been, adds Brooking. That meant throughput was less than what it could be. To top it off, work was managed in batches. Given the other shortcomings, batching was clearly not the most effective way to manage the flow of work. The better way In the same 110,000 square feet, there is now considerably less WIP and storage space and more work cells arranged in a flow-through design. As the layout drawing at left shows, transmissions are staged to start the process. But only 100, not 500, are in bar coded containers staged in racks. The plant's manufacturing execution software calls for a specific container, following instructions from the order management system. All software systems at Jasper are developed in-house. Then, and at several other key locations in the plant, the bar code associated with that transmission is scanned, identifying it to the materials handling control system. In addition, real-time transmission tracking allows Jasper's customer service people to update customers on order status. "We've also done away with the batching system of old," says Brooking. Now, transmissions flow through the system as individual work pieces, traveling on conveyor most of the way. "Just by bringing work to the people instead of having people look for the next piece got us a 10% gain in throughput," says Brooking. It also eliminated the need for carts to move WIP, eliminating much of the congestion that was common earlier. Just as important, people are no longer chasing parts. Those people, says Brooking, were retrained to rebuild transmissions. And they were sorely needed in that new role. With less WIP and new floor space opened up with the elimination of excessive storage, that made it possible to expand the number of assembly work cells. Previously, there were five three-person cells and five one-person cells. (Slower moving items and specials are worked on at the smaller cells.) Now, there are eight three-person cells and nine one-person cells, accounting for much of the throughput increase. The addition of ergonomic lift and tilt tables has also contributed to productivity increases. The end result has been precisely as hoped, says Brooking. Not only did throughput increase more than a third, but the number of labor hours to rebuild a transmission dropped too. "We're definitely a better operation now than we were before all the changes," says Brooking. "While our project yielded great results, we are currently adding more process steps to our transmission cells. Jasper thrives on the continuous improvement of processes striving to meet customer needs." Jasper Engines Jasper, Ind. PRODUCTS: Remanufactured transmissions FACILITY SIZE: 370,000 square feet TRANSMISSION REMANUFACTURING DEPARTMENT SIZE: 110,000 square feet THROUGHPUT: 55,000 transmissions a year NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 800 WORK SCHEDULE: First shift, 5 days a week; Family shift (8 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.), 4 days a week Transmission preparation Bar coded containers with disassembled transmissions arrive by conveyor in the 110,000 square foot transmission remanufacturing department. These are staged in racks (1) until the plant's manufacturing execution software calls for a specific container, which is picked then placed on a gravity conveyor for movement to a lift table. There, the worker inspects the parts (2), determining which are reusable and which are not. Reusable parts are placed on a tray, and the worker orders needed parts through an electronic bill of materials. The tray then travels by powered roller conveyor to qualified (used) parts storage (3) where parts are added to the tray. Final prep stations (4) are the next stop for the tray, which stays on the gravity conveyor as it passes through. Before leaving, the parts are transferred to a bar coded 24 X 36 X 10 inch container, which travels by powered roller conveyor to new parts storage (5) . The container's bar code is then scanned by a wireless terminal, initiating picking of required new parts from shelving. The final stop in the preparation process is a four-level-high horizontal carousel for transmission kit staging (6) . There, the parts container is met by three other containers—one for the transmission outer case, one for the valve body and one for the pump—required for the rebuild. The three kits were assembled elsewhere in the building. All containers arrive by conveyor and are fed onto a 7 X 11 foot lift table with a conveyor mounted on it. This allows the worker, who rides on the table, to easily slide the containers into a storage location in the carousel. Roughly 65 jobs are staged at a time. Rebuilding transmissions When a finished transmission leaves a work cell, the worker initiates a call through the manufacturing software for the next job. The system identifies the location of the desired kit for the carousel worker, who retrieves it using the lift table. At this point, the worker consolidates the containers, leaving only two. A fixed-position scanner on the takeaway powered conveyor reads the containers' bar codes, automatically routing and diverting them to the selected assembly cell (7) . Nine work cells have a single person while eight others have three for the larger transmissions. When work is completed at the one-person cell, the transmission is placed on an aluminum tray and sent on by conveyor to the test area (8) prior to moving on to shipping. The three-person cells use an overhead hoist to place these larger transmissions on a tray that also travels by conveyor to test (8) and shipping (9). System Suppliers SYSTEM DESIGN AND INTEGRATION: Bastian Material Handling, 800-837-3760, www.bastiansolutions.com PALLET RACK: Ridg-U-Rak, 866-479-7225, www.ridgurak.com SHELVING: Lyon, 800-323-0096, www.lyonmetal.com HORIZONTAL CAROUSEL: FKI Logistex White Carousels, 908-272-6700, www.whitesystems.com LIFT TRUCKS: Hyster, 800-HYSTER-1, www.hyster.com; Raymond, 800-235-7200, www.raymondcorp.com CONVEYOR: Hytrol, 870-935-3700, www.hytrol.com LIFT AND TILT TABLES: Southworth, 800-743-1000, www.southworthproducts.com; Vestil Manufacturing, 800-348-0868, www.vestilmfg.com CONTAINERS: Molded Fiberglass Tray Co., 814-683-4500, www.mfgtray.com HANDHELD SCANNERS: HHP, 800-782-4263, www.hhp.com FIXED-POSITION SCANNERS: Metrologic, 800-IDMETRO, www.metrologic.com To read the article online click here.
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