By Sameer Gandhi:
The automotive industry in India, according to latest ‘Make in India’ reports, has been on a growth trajectory with impressive and sustained increase in production, sales and exports. With an average annual production of around 24 million vehicles and employment of over 29 million people, the sector is one of the largest in the world.
Pegged at around USD 93 billion, contributing 7.1 percent to India’s GDP and almost 49 percent to the nation’s manufacturing GDP, the sector has very well earned the distinction of ‘sunrise’ sector under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. All these indicate the importance of imbibing next-gen factory automation solutions to help the manufacturers scale up on the value chain and match up to the global standards.
The automotive industry demands assembly of innumerable and complex components which need quality checks at every step. Considering that one defective product can lead to recalls bringing financial loss, setbacks to the credibility of a brand and possibly risk to the safety of individuals, there is a strong need to ensure zero-defects manufacturing. Automation is critical to achieving this, and the same is highlighted in this story, the case study of a leading Indian manufacturer of thermal products for automotive applications.
The organisation is one of the frontrunners amongst the integrated manufacturing units in India producing key parts of auto air-conditioning systems for passenger vehicles, buses, trucks, railways, etc.
Driven by the desire to achieve enhanced quality and controlled productivity, it was in pursuit of an advanced automation solution for monitoring quality of the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioner (HVAC) units that it is producing. The need gained more significance owing to a recent major fire mishap and so re-implementation of the inspection solution was utmost important.
Omron, already empanelled as one of the automation providers with the customer and known for its forte in Sensing & Control + Think technology- enabled solutions, identified the need. The team, following the ‘Gemba’ (at the shop floor) approach, evaluated the site thoroughly and swiftly. Their aim was to advise a solution which not only took care of the immediate woes of the customer but also contributed towards creating an upgraded facility by adding value.
After the assessment, it was understood that the customer required a thorough quality check and monitoring at 40 inspection points for ensuring correct assembly of parts in the unit. The unit was making 50 variants for different models of cars with minute changes in the specifications. It needed a reduced cycle time and enough flexibility to ensure ease of programming while adding new models in the future.
Apart from the above mentioned requirements, the customer also had to coordinate with three different vendors for the different components used in the existing solution. Team Omron comprehended the challenges and put together a ‘one-stop / single-source’ solution designed to leverage the latest technological developments in automation technology to ensure it addressed not only the current issues but also the future dynamics which the team thought were going to be imminent in such a scenario. This led to deployment of a ‘Total Traceability Sysmac& Robot-based Quality Inspection Solution’ leveraging Omron’s wide basket of products that included PLC, robot, vision, safety and engineering capabilities.
The ‘Total Traceability Sysmac based Quality Inspection Solution’, comprising vision camera mounted on a six – axes inverted robot , not only inspects the quality but also captures images and stores these along with process parameters ensuring real time availability for the shop floor team for statistical analysis, quality control, quick identification of faulty parts, managing and tracing loss of components while processing from one plant to another and for deeper inspection and judgments – all of which the customer was unable to do with the older system. Empowered with Traceability, the final assembly inspection is now better equipped to tackle ‘recalls’ – which are an unfortunate reality in the automotive industry – by being able to trace back all key parts in the production chain .This exemplifies the utility of this technology in managing human errors and rejection escalations at the end user sites.
It is reaping benefits in the form of almost 50 percent improvement in productivity (cycle time reduced from 45 secs to 30 secs) with impeccable quality. The solution has scored high over all the key parameters among the existing competitive brands – in terms of delivering the desired timeliness, accuracy, reliability and productivity. Above all, being designed on a single source platform, it is showing exceptional results in saving on time while planning, commissioning and managing after-sales support.
As India moves ahead on the trajectory to be a front-runner as the next manufacturing hub, it becomes inevitable that human intelligence and machines work together in harmony to help manufacturers realise the global standards. Omron’s robotics solutions are a step in this direction. We’re helping the customers not just to ‘Make in India’ but to ‘Make World Class in India.’