On the road with RTLS (Real Time Location System) in vehicle production

The assembly of the final component part into the vehicle triggers a sequence of quality and logistical processes

The intricacies of vehicle production are not just confined to the assembly line. The assembly of the final component part into the vehicle triggers a sequence of quality and logistical processes. Depending on the operating environment and procedures used, this can lead to inefficiency, backlogs and bottlenecks, all of which reduce turnover speed and profit. Car manufacturers have for years been confronted with handling the fall-out of such inefficiencies in their production. In an attempt to improve the situation, many vehicle manufacturers instinctively turn to quality control methodologies such as 5S, 6-Sigma etc. However, in this article we will explore a somewhat different solution, an end-to-end hardware/ software location system.

So, where do the problems begin? How can it be that companies, who have been producing vehicles for generations, are still facing these challenges? The assembly of a vehicle involves a carefully defined sequence of assembly processes, which are controlled by finely tuned automation systems. During this phase of production, the vehicle is confined to the conveyor belt and, therefore, cannot deviate from the assembly line. However, once the vehicle gets wheels and can be moved freely around the facility, inconvenient situations can and do regularly occur. These situations are common in two main areas, namely finishing and logistics. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

What problems can occur in the finishing area?

Following assembly, the vehicle must undergo several quality control procedures. These procedures include – but are not limited to – visual inspection for damage, testing of mechanical and electrical systems, performance testing, fine tuning/ adjustment of parts etc. These checks are carried out at inspection stations throughout the finishing hall. Should the vehicle pass all the checks, it is handed over to logistics. If, however, the vehicle does not meet the required quality standards, it must be routed through a repair/rework process specific to the quality deviations. It is then the job of the manufacturer to define the schedule for carrying out repairs and/or adjustments. Such procedures may require the vehicle be relocated to other areas within the production facility.

With many modern car plants producing more than 1,000 vehicles per day, it is a very common occurrence to lose the overview, even temporarily lose the vehicle! The resulting confusion has a direct impact on the overall efficiency of the production flow. Should the vehicles in question need to be available for final delivery by a certain date, any delay in finishing can result in the schedule not being fulfilled and ultimately a dissatisfied end customer.

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SOURCE: Identec Solutions