LPG tanks – traceability in the Automotive Industry on the example of STAKO
It’s no secret that the automotive industry demands a unique approach to the MES class systems. Not only does it enable companies to standardize processes on a global scale, but it also facilitates the introduction of new products to production lines, therefore improving the entire manufacturing process.
However, one of the most significant challenges is traceability, which has a crucial impact on the MES implementation success. This particular use case details the way in which ANT approached the implementation of MES system to track and trace the production at STAKO.
STAKO – basic information about the company
STAKO manufactures more than 1000 tanks models for automotive LPG systems, including toroidal and cylindrical vessels. Once part of the Worthington Cylinders group, the largest U.S. pressure vessel manufacturer, the company now supplies a number of leading car manufacturers, including Ford, Fiat, and Renault.
At present, their production process consists of punching, stamping, spinning, welding, hydrostatic, and helium testing. However, the firm has made a firm pledge to develop and build the future of the STAKO brand based on innovative and environmentally friendly technological solutions. This is where MES class systems come in.
What are STAKO needs and goals?
The company’s needs and goals have been set out in accordance with the MES class system integration and cover several areas of the business.
For starters, STAKO requires real-time OEE and production monitoring via data acquisition from machines with various automation. Traceability, in order to validate tools and materials used during the manufacturing process, must also be borne in mind, as this will enable items to be serialized to single products.
Quality gates to confirm that an item can be moved to the next stage of the operation are also high on the priority list for the company. As this will provide official validation that all previous steps have been performed as originally planned.
It’s hoped that external customized systems will also be replaced with automated sending setpoints to the PLC to automatize the testing process. This will reduce error margins and help to speed up the process.
Another must-have for STAKO is the use of notifications and guidance for operators throughout the quality control process to meet the IATF requirements, as well as ensuring that operators are familiar with the newest version of the documentation.
And last but not least, the defects handling and automated SPC reports systems must be better managed via reworks in order to reduce company costs and avoidable waste issues.
Solutions that ANT has implemented in STAKO
One of the biggest aims of the project itself was to improve machine connectivity. This was successfully achieved through a multitude of machines control types.
- Trimming and stamping presses – integration with Siemens S7-400 PLCs by converters. ANT carried out the analysis of PLC programs by collecting process parameters that were impactful for STAKO.
- Welding Robots – integration with OPC UA.
- Spinning machines – signals duplication by using MOXA ioLogik with I/O inputs.
- Welding machines – dedicated integration by TCP (monitoring of wire speed, voltage, amperage, and other welding parameters).
- Hydrostatic testing machines – integration with PLCs. ANT developed process visualization with automated sending setpoints to the PLC (filling time, pressure, testing time, report, defects reporting).
- Cleaning testing stations – integration with machines. Linking the item with a visual testing record.
- Helium testing stations – dedicated interface with machine supplier (monitoring of helium pump times, helium background, process time, test results, leak value, Adixen model).
In addition to the above, every work center was equipped with an operator panel and barcode scanner. This now enables components to be scanned before operations, and the system collects data associated with operators, process parameters, and raw materials to ensure traceability.
The new system is also able to calculate in real-time the OEE and its factors: availability, performance, and quality, with production reports now generated automatically. What’s more, operators are guided step-by-step throughout production and quality processes by means of the ANT activities module, which offers many of our customers a great time management solution.
STAKO’s new automated system offers a multitude of benefits regarding IATF audits. This is because all production data and corresponding documentation are stored in one system and can be easily accessed from one central database whenever the need arises. Operators are also alerted in real-time when quality control is required due to the IATF 16949 norm. An example of this kind of notification is necessary machine inspection following ten minutes of downtime.
The MES system is also able to check which version of the documentation the operator is familiar with. Let’s say that after customers’ feedback, we changed the way we handle quality control. They will receive a notification informing them of the need to get to grips with the newest version. Once they get familiar with all the changes, the operator is able to confirm that they are aware of them using what is known as a proximity card.
The quality gates also help to facilitate the production process. After scanning a product or component, the system is now able to both verify it and provide feedback to the operator informing them of exactly how it should be used in the operation. What’s more, the system is able to access the applicable quality parameters and check the production processes remain within the established tolerances.
However, perhaps one of the most helpful solutions has to do with what is known as reworks management, a process that enables waste to be kept to a minimum. This, of course, has huge benefits in terms of the company’s environmental impact. On a practical level, this means that after scanning the barcode of the tank or item, the operator receives detailed information on which stage of the operation the product should be returned to. This not only helps with time management and also helps to get optimal use of the materials and hence, minimizes waste.
Benefits of traceability in the Automotive Industry
As you can see, there are a wide range of benefits that come with traceability in the automotive industry. These include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
- Elimination of dispatching tanks with errors (not all operations done). The work of ANT has helped to reduce this source of waste by 95%.
- Increasing the availability of machines by 15 minutes per shift. This has boosted productivity of each and every shift at the company.
- Quicker IATF audits by 15%. Not only does this benefit the auditors who are entrusted with the project, but it also helps operators to focus less time on activities that although essential, do not generate income for the company.
- Increasing the production volume by 2000 tanks per quarter. It goes without staying that more productivity means more profit, therefore bringing about huge benefits for the business.
If you are looking to implement improvements in your business and are looking for a proven solution for your industry, contact ANT Solutions.