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Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited
ATM Automation cure QA/production problem for Hi-Tech
ATM Automation cure QA/production problem for Hi-Tech
Hi-Tech of Blackburn had a production problem. ATM Automation, manufacturer of robotic and automated systems, came up with the answer, with capacity to spare, and provided ATM with the opportunity to complete its first installation of an automated system for a manufacturer of components for the medical industry.
The privately owned company, Hi-Tech of Blackburn in Lancashire, produces high specification components for manufacturers of pre-packaged medications.
A specific production line produces seals, via a hot injection moulded process, for the valves in aerosols containing inhalant medication for sufferers of asthma. The company had an existing production rate of 300,000 components per week, but the client required this to be doubled to 600,000 per week, with a stringent quality control on delivered components.
The client had introduced equipment which provided high speed assembly of the aerosol containers. In order to ensure maximum efficiency of this system, Hi-Tech's client required that all components received onto their assembly line were 100 per cent within specification. Therein lay the problem! With 300,000 seals coming off the assembly line each week, Hi-Tech's four dedicated QA inspectors were already at full stretch.
Hi-Tech's dilemma was to double production throughput, visually inspect all of the seals and still retain the client's confidence that delivered components were guaranteed to be within specification. Only increasing the number of inspectors to eight, with the attendant additional cost burden, or introducing an automated, computer controlled system would be able to cope with the greatly increased production rate and ensure consistency of operations.
Hi-Tech had read excellent reports of ATM's problem solving and support services for other clients. So the company invited ATM to produce an assessment report of how the production problems could be overcome. ATM came up with the answer!
ATM developed an automated, computer controlled, conveyor and inspection system, which not only guaranteed 100 per cent inspection of the components, but provided additional production capacity for potential future expansion.
The design and build contract was for the supply of a bowl feeder, vibrating board conveyor and computerised inspection and control system to present the components to a vision comparator, where the shape and parameters of the components are pre-programmed into the memory. Each individual component is aligned on a narrow conveyor, photographed and compared with a standard by the computer, to a tolerance of two-thousandths-of-an-inch. Damaged or out-of-specification parts are automatically rejected and the materials recovered for recycle. Components meeting the specification are automatically sent on to the packing department for despatch to the client.
The ATM system has produced winners all round. It has provided Hi-Tech with a rapid pay back on its investment as it has replaced the existing, labour intensive, system requiring four manual inspectors and obviated the need for four more. The installation has increased component throughput, from the original 300,000 per week to the required 600,000 per week, with the capacity to achieve a maximum production of 800,000 per week.
Hi-Tech's workforce has benefited from an improved working environment, with the bonus of the enhanced morale and motivation that this brings. The QA inspectors, previously working on this production line, have been redeployed within the factory. They are no longer restricted to the boring and monotonous inspection regime required for the demanding specification of these high production rate components. The alternative requirement to employ double the number of inspectors has been removed which has reduced unit production costs. This, in turn, retains or improves Hi-Tech's competitive edge and safeguards employment.
Because automated systems do not suffer from fatigue, or the need for regular job breaks to maintain concentration, this has been a major factor in the increase in production throughput and consistency of product quality.
Hi-Tech's client has also benefited as the components are now supplied as guaranteed to be 100 per cent within specification, enabling the benefits of high speed assembly of the finished product to be fully and confidently realised.
Hi Tech's 100 per cent inspection of aerosol "O" rings at 120 parts per minute, manufactured with ATM's robotic and automated systems.
Component manufacturers for most market sectors can achieve a competitive edge with a robotic or automated system to replace labour intensive activities. ATM's approach to working in partnership with their clients produces the best possible solution to production problems. Clients, such as Hi-Tech, are always impressed with the after sales and maintenance services provided by ATM as part of their comprehensive customer care policy.
The experience at Hi-Tech has demonstrated how careful planning and the strategic installation of automated systems can provide immediate benefits with the opportunity for an early pay back of the investment. Not only will automation systems speed up production and ensure quality control, thus reducing costs, they will also improve the working environment. Personnel who may otherwise be required to work at unpleasant, repetitive tasks, often in hot, dusty or otherwise hostile environs, can be redeployed to more suitable and productive effort elsewhere. This will have a beneficial effect on workforce morale and further add to production output, reduced costs and an improved competitive situation.
For further information contact Robert Hopper, ATM Automation Limited. Tel: 0116 277 3607.