Fritz Studer AG commissioned a new Flow-Assembly+ on 15th October 2015 at its Thun location. This step is the logical result of the continuous development and improvement of all company processes, which STUDER systematically undertakes.
Since 2008 this has been assisted by the PuLs® efficiency program, which is the corporate philosophy and therefore relevant for all areas. The program comprises an extensive tool kit, which is now used to constantly streamline all processes and operations in the company and make them more efficient. The new Flow-Assembly+ is the logical result of this approach. After using fixed-station assembly and then non-continuous paced assembly up until 2011, STUDER has now been using continuous flow-assembly for production since October of last year. With PuLs® as the basis, however, not only was Flow-Assembly+ implemented, but the measures extend across the entire value creation processes from customer to customer. The goals of this are more efficient production, the reduction of throughput times and improved implementation of customer requirements.
Complete assembly of machines
Flow-Assembly+ has been designed for STUDER’s entire product portfolio. After the machines have passed the last station in the line, they are ready for delivery. Design modifications such as special in-process gauging systems or customer-specific clamping systems are integrated in the line, and in particular laser measurement and test grinding have also been integrated into the flow. “Today we do everything in one line, everything in flow”, is how Gerd König, Managing Director of STUDER, puts it. The Flow-Assembly+ is divided into 16 stations, which are arranged in a U. On the first side of the U, a normal rail system is used. On the second side, where the laser measurement and test grinding of the machine in motion take place, there is a high-precision conveyor system 40 m in length, which corresponds to the principle of a large, high-precision machine tool guide. The line is designed for a single-shift system with two sessions of four hours and runs continuously at a speed of 22.9 mm/min (5.5 m/4 h). The different work operations to be performed on the individual grinding machines are regulated by the station density. The 16 stations are divided into 4 segments, in which up to 4 employees per station assemble the highly complex machines. This division is based on a new management structure which STUDER has implemented in the line. The main task of the segment managers, who each have one segment as span of control, is to ensure smooth operation of the stations. The managers work directly on the shop floor, ensuring even closer communication with the employees and minimizing faults more efficiently.
The required assembly parts are provided directly from the warehouse, partly via Kanban. Every four hours material is delivered for the next four hours, including the provision of all necessary parts and tools. Another new feature is that the complete component assembly is now integrated directly beside the value creation in the hall. Delivery to the line is just in time. The finished grinding machines are then delivered either directly to end or to internal customers.
High process stability, high on-time delivery rate
STUDER customers benefit from the new production concept thanks to a significantly higher process stability. “Because the processes are defined more precisely today, we also become even more effective”, says König. “And we become more efficient and reduce throughput times.” The theoretical output of the flow line is currently two machines a day. Production is exclusively to customer order. In the volatile grinding machine market STUDER can react to the changing market requirements flexibly and with delivery reliability, thanks to the new production concept. Output could even be increased relatively simply due to the high degree of flexibility in the concept. The next step in Thun will be to optimize the entire production process. Sustainability must be ensured along the entire value creation chain, so that we can offer our customers even greater added value. We expect to achieve further success from the systematic application of our corporate philosophy, PuLs®.
The entire Flow-Assembly+ project was implemented by STUDER in three and a half years. The investment amount was several million Swiss francs.