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Automation Strategies

Henry C. Co Technology and Operations Management, California Polytechnic and State University

Automation Strategies
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Specializing Operations Combining Operations Simultaneously Executing Operations Integrating Operations Reducing Setup Time Streamlining Material Handling Controlling/Optimizing Processes Implementing Manufacturing Database and Information System
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1. Specializing Operations

The key concept of mass production

Low unit cost by extreme specialization of equipment.

Example (automobile engine or transmission production):

The plant would consists of a set of giant multiple-spindle machines, generally with between 100 to 1000 tools, mainly drills, cutting simultaneously. The spindles are clustered in stations that are synchronously linked together mechanically via indexing transfer lines.
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2. Combining Operations

Production occurs as a sequence of operations. Some complicated parts may require as many as 50 distinct steps. Combining operations

To reduce the number of distinct steps by performing more than one operation at a given workstation. Combining operation reduces the number of setups.

Operations Strategies

3. Simultaneously Executing Operations

The strategy is to perform multiple operations at the same workstations simultaneously. Multi-spindle machining center utilize this concept.

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4. Integrating Operations

A series of workstations are linked together as a single integrated mechanism by automatic work handling devices. To achieve high rates of production, dial indexing machines, trunnion machines, and transfer lines have been designed to perform a great variety of many different metal-cutting processes. For example, the rotary indexing machine performs a sequence of machining operations on several workparts simultaneously. Radial machining heads are located around the periphery of a horizontal circular table or dial. Parts are fixtured on the table and indexed between successive stations.

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5. Reducing Setup Time

Whereas the strategy of combined operation reduces the number of setups, this strategy is concerned with reducing the setup time. This is accomplished by Group Technology (e.g., scheduling of similar parts through the production machine, use of common fixtures for different but similar parts) and designing greater flexibility into the manufacturing system. Reduce setup time means lower economic quantity (smaller lot sizes). Reduced lot sizes means lower work-in-process inventory and faster turnaround time.

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The hydraulic-valve division of Parker-Hannifin Corporation recently installed a flexible manufacturing cell (FMC) at its Forest City, North Carolina plant. The FMC consists of a twin-spindle CNC turning center, an angle-elongate hole mill, a wash station, and a gantry robot to handle the work piece through the cell. This cell is used to produce a specific family of hydraulic valves. Prior to the FMC, the valves were manufactured using a number of ACME six spindle bar machines and Kingsbury center column machines (a type of dial indexing machines), which involved up to 54 setup hours and a large number of work-in-process (WIP) inventory. The FMC was installed to reduce product lead time, inventory cost, scrap, and indirect labor cost; and to improve quality. Setup time along was reduced to two hours and WIP inventory to zero.

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6. Streamlining Material Handling

A great opportunity for reducing nonproductive time exists through the use of mechanized and automated materials handling methods. The typical benefits of improved handling are reduced work-inprocess and shorter throughput times. These benefits are generally achieved by minimizing the distances over which the work-parts must be moved, providing for smooth flow through adjacent stations, handling the parts in larger unit loads, and other common sense principles.

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The Harris Corporation in Kennedale, Texas has one of the most sophisticated flexible manufacturing systems in existence.

Utilizing the group technology concept, Harris has logically grouped together in one area, the machines that perform most of the necessary manufacturing operations required for similar families of parts. Cylindrical print rolls, are automatically loaded by a robot into a double-end machining station, where both ends of the roll are machined simultaneously. When this machining operation has been completed, the robot removes the work piece, and replaces it on the carrier of a car track system.

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After all work pieces on the carrier have been machined, the carrier is directed to a robot serviced, numerically controlled lathe station. These standard carriers transport over 600 different parts which can be manufactured in the system. Precise carrier positioning of the car track system enables robots to perform consistently. Again the robot removes a roll from the carrier and places into one of the two available NC lathes. These robots are programmed with a flexibility to handle each of the different part sizes that are manufactured in the system. When the lathe operations have been completed for all of the rolls on the carrier, the carrier is directed throughout the remainder of its manufacturing operations, and then to inspection and shipping areas. Work-in-process storage stations of the car track systems are strategically integrated throughout the manufacturing area to ensure rapid work piece delivery and maximum production efficiency.

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7. Controlling/Optimizing Processes

On the factory floor, CAM systems perform machine monitoring and adjustments as well as controlled materials movement. Process control includes conventional analog feedback control or computer control, which allows more flexibility in the type of control exercised over the process. Control strategies that can be implemented by computer include optimal control, feedback control, sequencing control, and adaptive Operations Strategies 12 control.

8. Implementing Manufacturing Database & Information System

Development of a manufacturing database and information system is an essential function in manufacturing. The manufacturing database include:
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Part drawings, material specifications, and bills of materials (from design engineering); Route sheets which specify the process plans for the parts, tool lists for the route sheets, tool inventory record (from manufacturing engineering); Methods description, time standards, equipment justification document (from industrial engineering); Master schedules, production schedules, exception report (from production planning and control); Inventory records (from inventory control and shipping).

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CAD/CAM stands for Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM). A CAD/CAM system generates a common data base which can be augmented, modified, used, and distributed over networks of terminals and computers. The data generated in the CAD design process is used in CAM to generate machine instructions for parts manufacturing. Major advantages can be realized by integrating information and sharing the information among the various organizations, thereby reducing the needless duplication of information and of the activities necessary to generate it.
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For example, at the K-2 Ski Company of Kent, Washington, the use of CAD/CAM has helped them build an extensive data base that is available for reference and review at all times by their designers and consulting experts. Their computer-aided manufacturing program helps them produce top quality tooling, dies, and fixtures on sight, providing the precision quality they require and the assured delivery schedule they need. And throughout the assembly process, bar code readers provide computer input on production flow and material requirements to their MRP (material requirements planning) system. This combination of a CAD/CAM and MRP system helps K-2 shorten the development and production time of new products. It also allows them to take advantage of the knowledge gained in previous designs and programs to constantly improve their products and maintain their competitive position in the rapidly growing leisure products and sports equipment field.
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