When Subaru assembly lines were consolidated last fall, to make way for production of the Toyota Camry at Lafayette's Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. plant, new technology was not far behind. Nicknamed the Merry-Go-Square, a line side rack transfer system that has been installed at numerous points along the production lines standardizes work that is done to the Legacy, Outback and Tribeca models. "The part is always presented to the associates at the same place. Their walk pattern is decreased since they're always picking from the same place," said Craig Kaster, a trim and final manufacturing engineering specialist who played a key role in designing the technology. "It helps to improve quality and efficiency at each station." Prior to implementation of the Merry-Go-Square, which uses a pivot system to move racks of parts perpendicular, parallel and then perpendicular again, associates had to push racks in and pull them out of the line areas. At times, the racks weighed nearly 400 pounds. "This is a lot easier. They're a lot quicker, too," said Susan McClain, an assembly line associate with 12 years experience at SIA. Some of the transfer systems are automated with multiple photo eyes, while others are manually operated. "The systems have extensive programming. The programming is at a level that will get racks in the same 'presentation' every time," Kaster said. "It is a unique concept. The applications could go to any kind of manufacturing process where you have big racks." Kaster saw similar systems being used last year when he visited the Toyota Motor Corp. plant in Georgetown, Ky. He developed a concept drawing, made vendor visits, got quotes for manufacturing the products and helped with installation in November. Kaster expects some of the technology will be implemented on the Camry line SIA is operating for Toyota. Kevin Boone, a 17-year SIA employee and member of the materials sequence team that creates the parts racks, said the system is an important improvement. "It's a lot easier for us. We had a lot of trouble getting racks into position," Boone said. "It was just a bear for some associates. Pushing them in and getting wheels lined up. It's saved us time where people on the line don't have to pull the racks in." Click here to read article in Journal & Courier.
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