From near-the-line to inline process, adopting a flexible quality control solution into a production cell improved manufacturing efficiency for an automotive supplier. Contributed by Hexagon
A supplier of automotive driveline components and systems, GKN Driveline manufactures its own automotive driveline components for use. It needed to choose a metrology partner to help meet increasing production and accuracy expectations.
The company’s plant in Koping, Sweden develops, manufactures and assembles the parts of the four-wheel drive for many of today’s cars. Jan Engstrӧm works as a production engineer within the crown wheel manufacturing department, and is responsible for 34 processing machines which run 24 hours a day. Mr Engstrӧm has been involved in a project with Hexagon that changed the process used to measure parts.
“In the past we have used set measuring gauges to do control measurements of our products,” comments Mr Engstrӧm. “The downside was that with each new detail we produced, we needed to buy the matching gauges. When we received orders for several new products, we needed a more flexible solution.”
Finding The Right Solution
The company had identified the need for a flexible system for measuring parts which would not create a bottleneck in production. The project started when Mr Engstrӧm was finding the solution for an inline measuring process.
The result was the installation of an automated solution where a Global Shop Floor coordinate measuring machine (CMM) equipped with PC-DMIS measuring software which has been integrated into the production line. This is the first time that the company embedded a measuring machine within a production cell; parts were previously taken from the production line into a measuring room for inspection. The lengthy inspection process caused delays, while the new system enabled the same process to be completed in 90 seconds—a valuable amount of time saved.
Flexibility was also an important factor when selecting the right CMM, as the company needed to measure different parts for different customers quickly. Workpiece changeovers are faster because of the removal of some processes now made unnecessary, so waiting time is reduced to switching fixtures and programming.
“It is about long-term planning,” said Mr Engstrӧm. “Compared to the gauges, the CMM is a very flexible option because it can measure everything we put on the table. Now we can start producing all new products directly. This also frees up time in our measuring room, as the measuring machine can handle additional controls that the gauges could not.”
Integration Improves Efficiency
The CMM is the first that the company installed as part of an automated cell, where it was connected to a lathe and a robot. Every detail was measured and the measuring data continuously sent from the measuring machine to the lathe, which then compensates within tolerance towards the nominal value.
There have been several benefits of integrating the CMM into the production line; one being that production time is quicker due to the new quality control system.
Team leader Johan Bäckstrӧm said that the quality of data they have now is improved compared to the data they used to receive. Another benefit is the speed, as two pieces can now be measured at once, doubling the time saving. As production time has been reduced by the CMM’s integration into the production line, it has increased the speed of the overall production.
A customised training program was also created for this particular production line and delivered training on site in Koping.
Cost Savings & Ease of Use
Saving on time also results in saving on costs, as it is easier to measure different parts by simply changing the program and fixtures, not the whole measuring process. Previously each time investment was made in a new gauge, the cost was approximately US$31,000. Now the saving on every new detail is over US$25,000 as they make a setting gauge at a much lower cost.
The company has many new projects requiring new measuring gauges, but this is no longer a problem as the system is able to adaptive.