Economic Production Lines Independent of Investment Power

Lean Production - The Future is Modular
Product Portfolio Excerpt (PresseBox) (Neustadt/Donau, ) Life cycles of electronics products are turning shorter than those of the machinery used to manufacture them. Therefore, electronics suppliers must be able to react quickly and without much effort to changed production requirements.

The current trend goes towards modular systems which can be retrofitted flexibly and which are built following the "lean production principle". This new approach completely replaces rigid and cost intensive large production lines. It is affordable also for smaller enterprises. Restructured lean three years ago, Scheugenpflug AG ventured down this path for the benefit of its customers. In this report, Mr. Hauslauer from Scheugenpflug's product management department, outlines how a lean-oriented modular system solves six common challenges of modern production.

"Some recurring requests of our customers had us thinking outside the box."

Nearly all renowned automotive and consumer product manufacturers these days have great influence on how electronics suppliers organise their production. Project planning should take no more than a few months at most, order quantities have to be flexibly adjustable and it must be possible in the shortest time to produce new models. Implementing design adaptations of the electronic components must be feasible any time and at short notice.

This is a difficult situation for suppliers, because most products' service life is down to only a few years. As a consequence, production lines are no longer planned "for ever". Instead, they must pay for themselves in the shortest possible time. Searching for ways to remain competitive in spite of these seemingly overwhelming requirements, a growing number of enterprises discover the methods of "lean production".

Word Definition Lean Production

"Lean production is a range of management techniques that aim to make business more efficient in its use of resources. This minimises waste, reduces costs, increases productivity and should expand margins." (http://www.bized.co.uk/...)

"Lean - Economic Efficiency Right Down to the Last Detail"

To be able to react more flexibly to market requirements, the lean production principle is now applied to production equipment itself. The solution are no longer large, permanently installed production lines, but standardised modular systems, the individual items of which can be combined in a flexible way. The resulting individual set-up is designed to eliminate the waste of resources and time as much as possible. Since the production line modules are themselves manufactured in volume production, they show a major advantage over custom systems. Thanks to their special interfaces they can be easily adapted to requirements and retrofitted or converted should the need arise due to newly emerging production requirements. This is particularly interesting for smaller enterprises: when initial production starts only the equipment needed at that time must be purchased. If the system needs expanding, the necessary module is added without having to discard existing machinery. Scheugenpflug AG lives this lean philosophy. Having switched to lean three years ago, Scheugenpflug AG keeps encountering the following six major challenges in customer requests.

"Six Production Challenges, One Solution"
Scalable Capacity


Small and medium-sized enterprises often face the problem that their financial resources are insufficient to purchase a production line which meets the requirements of quickly growing demand.

Lean production systems are designed to have the equipment modules relevant for production steps with a strong impact on cycle times added to the complete line as they are needed. As a result, an electronics manufacturer using such lean systems benefits from minimal investment costs and remains agile even when output increases. Small enterprises, who in this case would have to revert to manual production for reasons of costs, can use a lean system to set up a small fully or semi-automated production line with elevated output quality, repeatable accuracy and high process reliability.

Product Flexibility

As soon as an electronic assembly has been successfully introduced on the market and has established its market share, the next product models are already on the drawing board. Usually, this would mean to plan a whole new production line. Lean modular systems, however, allow the work steps identical for both models to be run on the existing system. To avoid bottlenecks, only the modules relevant for production steps with a strong impact on cycle times are added to the line. The special interfaces make it easy to add completely new manufacturing steps whenever they are needed.

Product Modification Before Production Start

The production line is being set up, the budget is nearly spent, and production start is close at hand. If it is necessary to adapt the design of the component so shortly before market introduction, this means a challenge not only in terms of deadlines. Changes of the product of this sort require critical modifications of manufacturing steps, which in turn means a different design of the production line. For traditional production lines this would result in radical and costly adaptations.

Not so for lean production lines. Their modular design allows short-term and situational redesign or replacement of individual production line modules without having to modify the complete system. Consequently, no large new investments are necessary.

Manufacturing a Product in Different Countries

International electronics manufacturers with production locations in different countries sometimes need the same production line several times. In Asia it is common to do simple tasks manually. In Europe, on the other hand, the same tasks are automated. With a modular system several identical production lines are built, which can then be customised as fully automated version or as manual work place, depending on where they are set up.

Redesign for After Market Production

If a product's life cycle approaches its end, demand slacks and output is reduced. With a modular system the parts of the equipment necessary to keep cycle times fast can be removed and integrated into a different production line. The result might be a fully automated production line reduced to a semi-automated manual work place, where a small lot is produced to keep enough spare parts on stock.

Reusability

If a product is discontinued, traditional production lines are usually depreciated and often discarded as a whole. Most machinery of a modular system can be reused for the next product generation or integrated in a completely different production set-up. This is becoming increasingly attractive, because product life cycles are turning shorter than those of production lines. Therefore, the procurement of large-scale production equipment is quickly getting uneconomical.

Rainer Haslauer, product manager at Scheugenpflug AG says: "I am convinced that both, our large and our small customers are best served in terms of economic and environmental efficiency when they go "lean".

"Lean Thinking - Our Know-How Goes Straight to Our Customers"

Taking the right modules and machines from a well-assorted product portfolio at the right time and putting them together turns out to be a double benefit. First, the invested amount is less and second, the retrofitting and reusability options of the system are more flexible.

An enterprise need not completely reinvent itself to change to lean production equipment. What matters most is the know-how and experience of the supplier of the production line. The guarantee for success lies in the design of the flexible system modules, with conservation of resources and efficiency being a matter of course. It is the hassle-free removal, replacement or retrofitting of these modules which makes it possible for an enterprise to work with economic efficiency during the complete life cycle of a product and to remain competitive. If the manufacturer of the lean production line is involved from the start, ideally as early as during the design stage of the electronic component, the way is paved for a perfectly economic production line, which can be adjusted easily for all future requirements.

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Scheugenpflug AG
Gewerbepark 23
D-93333 Neustadt/Donau
Maike Mauermann
Marketing
Tobias Reitmeier
Marketing / Medientechnik

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