Short distances, smooth processes
As part of the new building design last year, Brabender Technology took the opportunity to review and reposition its entire manufacturing operations.
“Before the new building even existed on paper, we critically scrutinized, analyzed and put to the test all of our previous operating cycles and processes with a consultant”, Ingo Schüssler, Head of Work Scheduling at Brabender Technologie, explains. The focus of discussion was on the distances between work pieces, parts, workstations, and different departments incorporated in the production process. Employees were surveyed in this regard as they know where the bottlenecks are and where problems occur. Therefore, they are the best people to advise what the critical issues are.
In the old buildings, individual departments such as Receiving, Warehousing, Production, Test Bay, Control Cabinet Construction and Shipping were separated. In the new building, the aim was to position all departments in an ideal single-space configuration to allow employees to cover the shortest possible distances when going about their work. “That’s why Receiving, for example, has been located right at the plant gate, so that components can be transferred direct to Inspection and to the warehouse once they have been registered”, is how Ingo Schüssler explains this logical solution.
Direct allocation from warehouse to workstation
Software support is not yet completely in place because integration into the ERP system is still ongoing. Once fully operational, the employee takes their job sheet and can obtain all the components for “their” workpiece at the high density vertical inventory storage tower. If, for example, they are required to assemble a FlexWall®, they will find all the components they need there with the exception of the baseplate and the trough – these are automatically assigned on the basis of the job sheet. At this stage all components are placed on a mobile assembly dolly. This dolly serves as a lift truck and can be adjusted to the appropriate height of the employee. This is a practical process solution that promotes efficiency and ergonomics.
The assembler proceeds with their FlexWall® job to the workspace for standard feeders. Every standard feeder has its own complete tool set. They help themselves to a FlexWall® tool set and can begin assembling. “Our employees therefore do not need to go around collecting up individual components, and they certainly don’t need to go in search of special tools“, Ingo Schüssler emphasizes. Things are organized differently in the custom feeder workspace. Here each workstation has an open tool set, which allows for variable work. The following applies to both workspaces – no employee has their own fixed workstation.
A lift truck is provided for each assembler complete with their designated job in either the standard or custom feeder workspaces, depending on the specification required. Once the feeder has been completed, the employee puts it on the lift truck and brings it to the test bay where it is wired, tested and finally taken to the Shipping department. Of course, Packaging and Shipping are positioned at the exit gate.
Few separate areas
The Machine and Packaging rooms are one of the few areas in production that have their own doors. Drilling, sawing and nailing takes place here, meaning noise and dust pollution would be irritable for employees. Soundproofing in these areas enable all other employees to work undisturbed in peace. Employees are particularly happy about the closed room in the Packaging department which they proudly refer to as the “shooting gallery”. Here employees use nail guns to ensure the shipping crates are securely sealed. These days the assemblers no longer notice the overwhelming noise associated with packaging. The separation of the production space into areas for standard and custom feeder has sped up operations. “Roughly 70 percent of our output is accounted for by standard devices“, is how Ingo Schüssler quantifies this spread. “These devices never leave the front third of the production space. We cut down considerably on distances covered, can now monitor the entire production space and are significantly faster than before.” A bird’s eye view clearly demonstrates this. With the introduction of these new processes, workstations are changing too. The warehouse operator will be doing less assorting of components and more administrative work in the future. “Personal areas” are now being reduced to a locker for personal belongings. Assemblers act flexibly “on demand”; job urgency determines the priority sequence of orders to be processed. “We are very satisfied with our new layout“, says Ingo Schüssler in summary. “Facilities and processes now superbly connected.”