Excerpted from Decomagazine 61
In our previous editions of decomagazine we presented the MultiSwiss machine in terms of its performance, design and the customer’s point of view. We continue the discovery of this product from behind the scenes : how is its production organised to ensure the combination of constant quality, short lead times, a very good price for the customer, while also recognising ecological concerns ? A meeting with Yvan Dominé, Assembly Manager at Tornos.
When we visited the MultiSwiss assembly, we were struck by the organisation and neatness prevailing in what is a genuine assembly line. The machines are mounted on carriages running on rails. There are 5 stages in the complete assembly of a MultiSwiss. Each stage takes just one day. If a continuous flow is ensured, every day a new machine will leave the assembly lines. As Mr. Dominé remarked : “From the outset, the machine was designed in line with the precepts of Lean Manufacturing, so we have been able to industrialise its assembly based on this principle. This provides production flexibility, enabling us to perfectly meet the requirements of our customers. If we work in 2 teams, we can produce 10 MultiSwiss machines per week without any problems.”
Major customer benefits
In theory the assembly methods are of little importance to the machine users, but if these methods ensure short lead times, a constant high quality and good prices, they provide maximum benefit. Furthermore, with less fixed capital, the company can invest more in research & development to provide ever more efficient solutions to its customers.
What were the design bases of this production optimisation ?
7 sources of improvement
“Our aim is to work on sources of waste,” Mr. Dominé told us. He explains : “The assembly of a MultiSwiss machine was divided into 3600 sequences of operations which we analysed for the purpose of optimisation, eliminating all so-called “non-added value” operations. Which means : downtime between operations, over-production and surplus stocks, unsuitable methods and processes, pointless movements and transport, and of course quality failures.” By working on all these points from the design stage, the company was able to achieve the objective of reducing the production time of a MultiSwiss by more than 75 % compared to other multi-spindle products ! A shortened production time also means a smaller floor space requirement.
And what about quality ?
If we talk about reducing the production time, we might wonder about the quality, but there is actually an increase in quality. As Mr. Dominé explained : “With a team of specialists, we sought out the best working methods and included checkpoints all along the production line. We drew up detailed procedures for all the work stations. Each assembler knows exactly what they have to do, and how. We demand great rigour from our personnel, and the rules which apply if problems being detected are well defined. Hence we are in perfect control of the production process, and can guarantee perfect quality of our products.”
Each stage of assembly is carried out “just in time”, and the specialists can concentrate wholly on their tasks. In practice, the machine arrives at its first assembly area at the same time as all the components required for this stage of assembly. All the tools and devices essential for this point are also on hand. The specialist has an assembly instruction sheet including all the important components, so that assembly can be performed under ideal conditions. Once this assembly stage is complete, the machine can proceed to the next station, where the machine currently at this second station will also be finished and ready to pass on to the next station (and so on to the end of the line).
What about for personnel ?
This work approach is fairly similar to the automotive industry, and may seem “inhuman” to some people, with these principles bringing to mind for some people visions of the Charlie Chaplin film “Modern Times”, since humans are used scientifically as targeted resources in each operation. Mr. Dominé told us : “Work specialisation does not detract from the merit or skills of our staff, quite the opposite. They are well informed about the tasks, and their working conditions are improved. The operations are optimised, enabling the work to be performed with perfect peace of mind. The work is tailored to each individual’s skills, and we also promote versatility. Our staff are key assets to our company, we are there to guide them and support them. They actively participate in improving quality by detecting problems and suggesting improvements. We strive to adapt the organisation to the tasks to be performed ; it should not impair the quality and efficiency, but boost them. Hence, within an approach of constant improvement, our staff can be proud of their work.”
The assembly of the MultiSwiss machine is broken down into 3600 processes, all of which have been timed and analysed for optimisation purposes. As Mr. Dominé remarked : “The aim was not to pressure added-value operations at the risk of reducing their quality, but to get rid of all “non- added value” operations, such as pointless movements and wasted time.” Once the process had been set up, a continuous improvement loop began. After the pilot run had been completed, nearly 700 processes were improved for a further 15 % productivity gain.
Fully integrated into the production flows
The machine assembly follows a pull system, i.e. an order-only basis. To ensure optimum use of the assembly lines, assembly is planned according to forecasts. Since each major stage takes just one day, there is maximum flexibility. In this way Tornos is guaranteed a minimum fixed capital (i.e. only producing machines that have been ordered).
Objectives achieved ?
“When we set up Lean Manufacturing our objectives were simple ; we wanted to control the quality and processes, and optimise efficiency (and therefore price), to ultimately eliminate whatever the customer does not pay for (the waste mentioned above). These two objectives have been achieved, and we are in a process of permanent improvement,” concluded Mr. Dominé.
In our Decomagazine 61 article “Responsible production – Blue Competence” on page 27, we cover aspects of sustainable development and energy savings that users can make by working with Tornos machines. But where does this come from ? The new MultiSwiss assembly line is fully in line with this mega-trend. Mr. Dominé told us : “With the optimisation of parts and machines flows, we have completely eradicated pointless movements and transport ; furthermore by adapting the workstations we have also eliminated redundancy. All these factors ultimately represent energy savings.” Since assembly requires a much smaller floor space, the ecological balance is very positive in this respect too.