How various item product lines made a comprehensive lean transformation far easier.

The Turck Group in Germany opened its Chinese subsidiary, Turck Tianjin Sensor Co., Ltd., over a decade ago. The plant in Tianjin manufactures a large number of industrial automation products – such as sensors, plug-in connectors and switches – for the Chinese and global markets. When ChuYuncheng was appointed Production Supervisor two years ago, his number one challenge was how best to introduce lean production methods in order to continuously improve production and increase added value as part of Turck’s global program to roll out lean production. The plant now offers many eye-opening examples of lean production in action. The company is using the MBBuilding Kit SystemProfile Tube System D30, the Work Bench System and linear technology from item to optimize production in Tianjin. Its collaboration with item has intensified over the past two years and, according to Chu Yuncheng, the success of these measures is largely down to the quality of the modular components.  

Rapid and Significant Increase in Added Value

The initial task when the lean transformation started in 2019 was to improve the first production line. “The plant was over ten years old at that point, so there was considerable scope for improvements – especially in the case of the production line for switches used in high-speed trains and new energy vehicles,” explains Chu Yuncheng. Numerous processes, including cable prefabrication, welding assembly, testing and packaging, were spread over 130 meters apart. Furthermore, with a length of just 1.20 meters, the work benches were far too small for storing materials while also carrying out various operations and inspections. Without work benches that were standardized yet flexible, it was also impossible to switch quickly between single-piece and mixed-model production. In addition to this, the plant’s organization and processes were so complicated that the team leaders had to go round and coordinate all the workpiece stations every day. The Work Bench System from item was used to create a comprehensive lean production package – with SystemMobiles, work bench interlinking, tool handling accessories and a system for supplying materials.  

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The switch production line was quickly optimized. The entire process – from design to installation and commissioning – took just a few months. The team responsible for planning used the intuitive, user-friendly item online tools. What Chu Yuncheng appreciates most about the item solutions is that they increase productivity and benefit from decidedly ergonomic design. The building kit systems from item represent an ideal starting point for industrial production applications. The flexible, lightweight Profile Tube System D30 was specifically designed for lean production, and the interlinking of customized work benches makes the end result even more ergonomicComplementary linear units support the flexible implementation of cost-effective automation. “The solutions from item ensure components from different product lines are compatible. We’re now also more flexible, which is vital for the production of several variants and small series,” explains ChuYuncheng. 

Numerous Examples of Lean Production in Action

Switching to lean production has optimized the production line in several respects. Centralizing processes specifically prevents inefficient activities and the resulting waste (Muda). It’s now possible, for example, to switch flexibly between single-piece and mixed-model production. Numerous examples of the effectiveness of lean production are in evidence here, including visual management, 5S, Poka Yoke and just-in-time (JIT). The end result is outstanding – the production line has achieved an output of 250 units per shift and the production cycle has been shortened from 1.7 to 1.5 days, which corresponds to an efficiency increase of 25 per cent. Two production modes (single-piece flow and mixed-model production) enable a production yield rate of 99.5 per cent.

Given the success of the exemplary lean production measures, the Turck plant in Tianjin set about creating a second production line based on the lean principle in August 2020. This line is used to make M12 plug-in connectors using the single-piece method. An extensive transformation has taken place based on an in-depth analysis of the cycle time for plug-in connectors and the production bottleneck. Using the Work Bench System from item, Turck rearranged the production line and also improved the assembly work benches. The aim was to optimize productivity and the production yield rate while also reducing the work in process (WIP). The production cycle for M12 plug-in connectors has already successfully been cut from five to 3.5 working days, and a further reduction to three days is expected in the medium term. The innovative screw connections of all item components lead to immediate improvements in production details. At the same time, the work in process has been reduced by around 15 per cent, which boosts the plant’s production capacity utilization. The production yield rate is now 99.98 per cent.

Ideal for Industry 4.0

Solutions from item – work benches, transport trolleys and special trolleys for steel mesh, to be more precise – are also being used on the newly built SMT production line for sensor boards. All the work benches being used benefit from an electrically height-adjustable design, which makes it comfortable for staff to work standing up. The benches can quickly be adjusted to the required height at the touch of a button. Constructions made using the various item building kit systems can also be found in the warehouse and quality inspection sections. Discussions about extending the collaboration between Turck and item are currently in progress. Operations Manager Shao Dongsheng, who is responsible for the plant, appreciates the numerous benefits offered by item. “As a key aspect of flexible production in line with the Industry 4.0 concept, the lean solutions are a big help to us when it comes to meeting the requirements of our customers, who expect customized products, numerous variants and small batch sizes. The lean solutions and high standards of item have proved highly beneficial, as have its insights into industrial automation,” he says.

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